Monday, 10 June 2013

Am I Old? No! I am only Eighty Two!

“How old are you Mr.Sethi?”
Asked one of my present neighbors, an ex. Army officer, Major Yadav, (Incidentally Gurgaon is full of retired Army & Police Officers, all “Yadavs”) who often meet me in the morning in the nearby garden. He is taller than I am; mostly thin grey hair (most old Haryana men have salt/pepper beards & hair), but walks straight like a ramrod. He, himself is about 74 years. Whereas, I, 82 years-going on to 83, still having black hair (not dyed) don’t look my age.

He was little surprised and started calling me “Old young man”.
That’s how I am now known as in my neighborhood in Gurgaon. The disadvantage is that neither the young people take me as their age group (Hello Uncle!) nor do I fit into the senior citizen category. Not having white hair, carrying a stick, or a slow walk.
  
I WALK & WALK ALONE IN THE MORNING.
After having spent almost six years in London Circa 1958-1965, and another over 33 years in Mumbai, my wife and I moved, permanently to Gurgaon on the X-Mas day (25 December, 1999) into a nice new home built by our son. At the age of 70, to lead a RETIRED LIFE! Having worked for almost 50 years, leading an active working  and social life, I felt little uncomfortable and disjointed, initially- doing nothing, twiddling ones thumbs and just waiting for the day to come to an end, thanking God, and looking forward to the next day, hopefully!

Initially, being in a new house of your own—away from the small company apartments in Mumbai, and being close to ones relations in Delhi, it felt like home-coming. My wife and I belonged to Delhi, and had studied in Delhi University before getting married and going off to London. It built up the excitement of meeting new neighbors, meeting close relations whom we hadn’t met for years (including my own brothers & sisters and my wife’s family) setting –up new home (with old furniture) and exploring Gurgaon in the new millennium-year 2000.And having quality time, for the first time with our elder son, our daughter-in-law and our grand-daughter, who had moved from a rented place in Defense Colony to upstairs in the new House. They were working and had settled in Delhi, while both of us, my wife and I, were in Mumbai all by ourselves.. (My other younger son had settled in USA, never to come back)

BUT SOON THE BOREDOM OF DOING NOTHING became unsettling, and one had to find ways & ways of keeping busy to be fit both mentally and physical and not become victim of frustration (which was a possibility). At the active age of 70, with the life span going up to almost 90, one had to find ways of keeping ones heart, body and mind in perfect working conditions during retirement.

MY ROUTINE: - Morning Walk!  Right from day One in Gurgaon, I pledged that morning walk-swift walk-is going to be priority number 1. And, come rain or shine, I have (touch wood), never-yes, never- missed a day on this pledge for last 13 years.  Even when we go to any hill station for holidays, I never miss my morning walks (Read my blogs on Mussoorie inside out, Revisiting Mukteshwar at  www.ghumakkar.com ). Our Area Park in Gurgaon is quite big and has a pakka and a rough jogging track running along the National Delhi-Jaipur Highway No.8. The track round is about 6km; and it is about 1km each way from our house to the park. I try to leave my home around 5.30 in the morning, take 10 minutes to reach the Citizen Park, which normally is full by that time of the morning. Most of the walkers, more young than the old people, are all swift walkers. I make two rounds of that track in 54 minutes! Following the Reebok way—swing your arms, arch your feet, chin parallel to the ground, stomach in, look straight 10 yards ahead, and walk swiftly. And 12 minutes of some exercises to keep stomach flat.

I have few friends (younger by 10 years), BUT I WALK AND WALK ALONE IN THE PARK TO KEEP TO MY  RHYTHM OF WALKING. I DO IT AS AN EXERCISE. I have never been a group walker, though most of the people prefer to walk with a group of friends. There is a group of about 13 people from our area, all white hair, carrying sticks/batons, old retired gentlemen, on a leisurely stroll every morning. But too slow for me. Moreover, I find that all these retired government officers are always talking about their old office, their delayed pensions and their cracking bones etc. I have no pension to talk about. I have no answer when I am asked which department I retired from, not ever being a government servant.


WHAT I MISS is my participation in the Annual Delhi Half Marathon. As Part of my “keeping- Fit” pledge during my retired life, I had started participating every year, in the senior citizen class, in the Delhi Half Marathon till my car accident, few years back, while going for the Marathon (You can see my blog “Are you alive to being alive?” about it on www.speakingtree.in ). Writing blogs is another activity which keeps me mentally busy and alert.


At Annual Delhi Half Marathon
GARDENING FOR EMOTIONAL & PHYSICAL FITNESS.
We have two small patches of lawn in front, as a part of our house; and a large patch at the back where my wife grows vegetables for everyday use plus papayas and Guavas, depending on the season. Front lawn has miniature oranges, flowers, foliage and Kadam Tree and Tulsi plant. It now attracts butterflies, squirrels bulbuls and common sparrows. It’s wonderful to see these creatures build their nests on palm plant and greens. It’s a great way to keep oneself miles away from boredom. And you are, at the same time, helping the environment- a small contribution, but a contribution, no doubt. Try it.

WRITE BLOGS FOR YOURSELF - USE YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE, MEMORIES, INTERESTING EVENTS - TO KEEP AWAY FROM BECOMING SENILE AT YOUNG OLD AGE.
I do that, off & on! One to keep myself mentally occupied, keep my memory alive and not become senile and forgetful. It also leaves a little history for your children to learn about your inner self. Now a days, with Google being there, your writing gets noticed by the global audiences. I give you an example-

One of my blogs about my memories of the place of birth, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad in Pakistan) was posted on the web www.indiaofthepast.org. Would you believe that I got mails from Canada, USA, Pakistan from people who were in my class and school, and knew our family closely. My nieces & nephews, living in USA (who I have never met) were thrilled to know their family background and me. They have become good friends and we are regularly in touch. It gives such an emotional satisfaction to build lasting relationship, between the young and the old.

Similarily, my other blog, on the same web page is about my college days in Delhi, titled “DELHI -
MEMORIES OF ‘50” created a lot of correspondence from the people who were regulars in the India Coffee House those days, including the ex Prime Minister, late I.K.Gujral.
Whenever I come back from a holiday, I write about our trip and post it. It helps other people who want to visit those places, plus it becomes a record for the family and children. For inspiration, you can read my posts about Shimla “DOING NOTHING IN FAGU”, “MUKTESHWAR REVISTED”, “INSIDE OUT MUSSOORIE” & “VISIT TO HOLY CITY BY THE WANDERING MIND” on the website www.ghumakkar.com 

Idea is just to write, put your thoughts down; right or wrong, corrections can be done afterwards. JUST KEEP CLICKING YOUR KEYBOARD. Soon you will get it right.
Computer and Internet offers such a relief to us retired people to keep us away from deathly boredom and mental inactivity - as long as you don’t misuse it. My father, an advocate in Lyallpur, quite young after partition, just about 65, when came to Delhi as a refugee, had nothing to do. It’s the sheer boredom of doing nothing that killed him. Our generation is lucky we have so many other modern avenues to keep ourselves busy and young.

FORM A HABIT OF READING BOOKS - WIDENS YOUR HORIZON & KEEPS YOUR BRAIN ALERT.
I am not much of a TV watcher and I am certainly not a “Couch Potato”. I prefer to read books which I normally purchase on the net, quite regularly. My preference and liking is for historical novels, biographies- both Indian and foreign. I have recently finished a book named “The Twentieth Wife” by Indu Sunaresan. It is about Mehrunnisa - one of India’s most legendry empress- Jahangir’s twentieth wife. I think you should find what you like and buy your own books, if you really want to make a serious reading habit. Book reading for people with lot of time at their hand is a must to have a purposeful life, and not feel frustrated in old age. My last reading was the, now popular “Shiva Trilogy”, and “Krishna’s Key”. Over the 13 years of retirement, I have collected a good library of mine (now I need a good book shelf). Cultivate this good habit.


MY GREAT LOVE IS AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN SINCE 50s - THE URDU POETRY & MUSIC.
First of all, because I was born in Undivided India, when Urdu was the court language, and essential in all schools along with Hindi. We learnt Urdu from class one. But love of Urdu poetry & music came after partition, in Delhi of 50. Delhi, at that time, with the patronage of Pt.Nehru, used to be the hub of cultural hyperactivity. Three day Urdu Mushaira in memory of Sir Shankerlal at Chelmsford Club, and three day classical music function at Constitution Club were the annual highlights of old Delhi. These functions used to last whole nights—and no one used to walk out till the end. We, the students, used to memorize every poem of Jigar & josh (Nehru’s favorite - who later went away to Pakistan). That love has lasted till today. One was lucky to have heard the great poets and listened to some of the greatest music maestros of India. Long dead & gone!

Whenever I feel little down in life, I take out an Urdu poetry book, from my collection—consisting of Iqbal, Ghalib, Mir, Majas Faiz et-all, and read the appropriate poem to keep my mental balance. Now that the Urdu poetry books are available in Hindi & Roman Urdu, try reading them loud and see you will be on seventh heaven. If you don’t want to buy books, go to any website for Urdu poetry through google and read any poet you like. Google is a treasure trove.

As I said, our generation is lucky to have the Internet & Google.
No death by boredom or old age.

My recipe  for old age and for retired people is- physical activity; write blogs or your daily dairy, anything just write; buy and read books (don’t lend them, make your library); do gardening anywhere, if you don’t have open place; listen to music loud (if no one else has an objection!). My favorite old film songs are- Dev Anand movie JAAL "Yeh Raat Yeh chandni phir kahan, sun jaa dil ki dastaan” & Kishore Kumar’s “Mere mahboob kayamat ho gi..”. My other love is Jazz, old Jazz.

AND read poetry—any you like—Punjabi (Amrita Pritam), English or Urdu or Hindi. But do read.
We, old retired people are lucky that we have enough time to sit and dream and enjoy, unlike busy bees today, but don’t just sit and twiddle your thumbs.

I am, at the end, reminded of a recent short incident. My wife and I, after doing our monthly shopping with fully loaded trolley, at the Needs Store at DLF Gurgaon, stood behind an old well dressed Sardarji with a single item of baked beans tin in his hand patiently waiting for his turn. Being the first of the month, the queue was pretty long with customers and their overloaded trolleys. I asked “Sardar sahib, why are you wasting your time, standing in this long queue for just one item- why don’t you buy one item from a small shop at Galleria?”

You know what he replied? (stretching his all) “Well I have all the time in life".
Not a way to go through old age.

Yes, one does sometime feel that we are wasting our time (still being active & agile) not being gainfully employed. May be time will come when someone will RESERVE jobs for the “young old”, beyond the retiring age of 65, especially when the life span is touching 90!




Submitted by Mr. Jatinder Sethi, Gurgaon