Recently I was reading this post about the mid-life travails of salaryman. This is my take on the subject.
I was sitting in the cafeteria of my hospital with a younger colleague of mine, sipping a cappuccino, when all of a sudden a wild gleam shone in his sleepy eyes. I recognized the look and turned my head to look in the direction in which he was staring mesmerized. And sure enough I saw a stunner walk into the café, the sort of person whom you wonder how the talent scouts of bollywood had missed. There was a swoosh of long, dark hair, a flowing wave of curves and a general impression of soft cream and smooth silk – you get the picture I believe. I watched her take her seat, and turning back to my coffee, I said appreciatively:
“What a smasher eh?”
I looked up a moment later and saw the changed expression on my young friend’s face.
“What?” I said in frank puzzlement. “I thought you found her attractive too.”
“Its not her, its you.” He replied.
“Me? You find me attractive? Are you, uh, a little different?”
“No, I mean what you said. I’d never expected that from you.”
“What I said? About that lady’s attractiveness, you mean?” He nodded. “Hey, I only complimented her in a civilized accepted manner of speaking. I didn’t wolf-whistle or anything.”
“Yeah, but you got to consider your age.”
“My age!” This time I was truly aghast. “Do you think you young colt that I’m so old that all my glands have withered away?”
He paused as if considering the possibility.
“Guess not, but it still feels like opening ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and finding pornography inside. You know, like you approach the book with a sense of reverence and so are shocked by what you find inside.”
And this was how that whippersnapper, only about ten years younger than me expected me to behave; like an ancient, venerable tome.
That is not however how my chief sees me (he himself pronounces it as cheap, one of the rare instances of genuine self-appraisal by the dotard, albeit unintentional). A few days after this incident I was a little late to arrive at the hospital. As I was furtively slinking in, sure enough I saw the chief standing right at the foot of the stairs. As he saw me he lifted his wrist upto his face and very conspicuously looked into his watch.
“Good morning chief.” I smiled a radiant, affable smile.
He grunted in reply.
“Just happened to oversleep a bit today.” I offered, still bright and cheerful.
He repeated the grunt and believing my charm to have carried the day, I was about to escape, when the torrent began:
“This is the problem with young people today. No energy, no drive, no enthusiasm for the job. The fire of youth should keep you awake at night, and make you get up early, my boy. And if you go to a park and exercise early in the morning, you will come to work on time and be fresh the whole day. But young people today are too lazy to exercise. I’ll bet you can’t even touch your toes.”
“Of course I can.” I said a bit stiffly. I actually can, for about half a second.
“Perhaps, perhaps!” He conceded, then took off on another of his pet themes. “But I tell you, these are hard times. What with the recession and new hospitals sprouting like warts all over the city, young people need to work much harder. Its not enough to just know our jobs, no sir. We have to learn to sail ourselves.”
“Nice sport.” I said.
“Eh, what?” The oldie had lost his bearings.
“Yachting, nice sport to pick up.” I said, with a disarming smile.
He looked at me as if I had gone completely mad.
“What are you talking about?” He said wildly.
“You said we must learn to sail. So I said it’s a good sport, yachting.” I clarified.
“No, no, no.” He shook his head irritably. “I said we must learn to sail ourselves, S-E-L-L, sail.”
The old boy certainly speaks the Queen’s English – not the British Queen’s though.
The point that I’m trying to make here though, is that people my age are caught up in a sort of mental rut, where we are not sure what we should think, read, watch, speak, eat or wear. On the one hand there is this young forever theory, but if I take them at their word and put on a pair of jeans and a body-hugging T-shirt, I feel like an overstuffed gunny bag strangled around the middle by a tight string. I look in the mirror and see a fleck of grey (a sea of grey to be more truthful); I paint it jet black, go to the department store, and the guy at the counter still calls me uncle. It’s a point of honour with me never to buy anything from stores who have such ill-mannered young pups at the sales counter.
Then on the other hand there are those who believe that we middlers should be doing nothing except spending all our waking hours – except what we require for the functions of digestion, excretion and reproduction (that is what it was originally meant for) – in the process of amassing wealth for ourselves and our progeny. Any other pleasurable activity such as blogging, or eve-gazing is considered shameful by this school of thought.
The last word on the matter may have been said by my wife though. Seeing me one day in all my glory, bulging out at the seams, threatening to spill out my contents on the floor, she gave me a disgusted kind of look and said:
“I think you should get in shape now.”
So the next day she kicked me out of bed before the sun is up and bundled me out of the house. I trundled through my first round, and then in a surge of enthusiasm, I ran round the park six more times. I came back home and collapsed on the sofa. The next day I felt so tired, I couldn’t go to work. In fact I couldn’t go to work for another couple of days. As I lay groaning on the bed, my wife came with a cup of coffee and a Combiflam, sat down besides me, and said:
“You should take it easy at your age, dear – slow and easy.”
So that I believe is the mantra for people like me. We may be caught up in the doldrums of our life, where the winds are subdued and there is not too much excitement to be found; but yet the journey of life can be enjoyed – provided we take it slow and easy, accepting that the days of supple, carefree youth are behind us, but also knowing that the days of Alzheimer’s are still far away.