Sunday, 18 May 2008

84 Years Young!

I almost missed it.
My neighbour Mr Sahasrabhojane, IPS (Retd), mentioned about his not being able to attend the meeting of the Senior Citizens’ Club.

I was just rusting for the past two years i.e. ever since I retired. Cursing myself for not being able to adjust to the life of ‘not-any-more-needed’. Not that I did not get any offers. Some offers came through the Senior Executive Forum of the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture where I was also a member. The Symbiosis Institute of Business Management offered me to be one of their consultants which I have accepted. But I was not very sure whether I would be feeling comfortable working for someone especially after being the regional head of the major office of the Bank. Hence the solitude.

There were articles in the newspapers about the Senior Citizens Club. I wanted to join them but did not know how to approach them. Thus when my neighbour mentioned about the Senior Citizens Club, I became excited. I had requested him to explain its activities, its membership details, location etc. But unfortunately his response was luke-warm. I did not know why. But he said that the next meeting fell on that Saturday and he would take me if I was interested. It was more than enough for me.

I went to the place where the meeting was held. It was a pure shock. They were all very old, totally bald headed, wearing thick specs, and a few covered in sweaters and woollen caps. I called my wife and told her that it was not the place for us as these people were very old. She said we were also old. And that made me thinking. Yes I might think that I was still young; but in others view I was also old just as any of them. After all I am 62 now. I thought I was still young compared to many of them. My neighbour introduced me to a few people and the committee members. They seemed to welcome me.

The deliberations started. A young man who was chosen by the Times of India as a Lead India Member was the guest speaker and he spoke about his views on the slum clearance scheme of the Maharashtra Government. Someone was celebrating her marriage anniversary and distributed sweets and snacks. Hot teas was served in clean cups. Slowly I started liking the atmosphere.

They announced a picnic on the next Sunday to a nearby Resort; a bus would take them at 8.00 a.m.; tea, breakfast, lunch and evening tea would be served and there would be a lot of games etc. I gave our names for the picnic.

My neighbour, his wife, and we left our home around 7.30 a.m. and walked to the spot where the bus would be waiting. He walked slowly. I cursed myself that in his company I could walk fast. It dawned on me that he was 80 years old. He was the Commissioner of Police.

We arrived at the resort and the activities commenced. The Convenor, Mr Upadhyaya. Assisted by his wife from a distance, he conducted the get-together very efficiently and nicely. He was looking quite young. But someone said he was 84. A Gujarati married a Tamilian lady fifty-five years back. They were the founder-members of the club. I asked Mr Upadhyaya how he was looking so young. He just smiled and did not have any answer. So I probed about his other activities. He was associated with old age homes, orphaned children, physically challenged children, persons of incurable diseases, arranging welfare activities, picnics, camps, food, monitory support for them and much more. The elixir for his ever youthfulness!

The treasurer, Mr Vakhi assisted by his wife, conducted the game of housie. He was very witty with his stock of jokes and well-timed comments. Very healthy and very active. I thought he would be of my age. But he was already a graduate when I had not even entered into the primary school. He was a Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force and now 82.

One Mr Zaveri, a tall handsome man, lived, studied and ran his own business in New Zealand had returned to his original native place Pune for settling at his old age. He was very healthy and quite active. He was 79.

There was a homeopathy doctor who wanted to become my friend. He continuously spoke of the wonders of the homeopathy medicines and wanted to show his clinic to me. He was a bit short of hearing. He was 84.

My wife became a hit as she was the only lady from Tamil Nadu who could prepare nice soft iddlies and well-versed in crochet, embroidery, knitting etc. Many wanted to become her students.

There were quite a few others – men and women - from Bengal, Gujarat, UP, Andhra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu apart from Maharashtra. There were widowers, single women, some living alone and some living with the grand children. They had retired from Geological Survey of India, Artillery Ammunition Factory, own business,Tata Motors, Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and others. Many of them were in the age group of 75 to 85. Very active and very much enthusiastic about living a full life.

Compared to their age, I was the youngest.
But I felt I was the oldest in the group.

- P.Aravind
(An edited version of this article was published in the February 2008 issue of "Dignity Dialogue" a monthly magazine brought out by Dignity Foundation, Mumbai.)

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