During my cricketing days I’d never come anywhere close to scoring 75, but when I did so age-wise recently, my wife of 47 years was exuberant. “Hi! You’re 75 not out!” she gushed, giving me an affectionate peck on the cheek. “Well done!” And I quipped, “At 71 not out, you’re not trailing far behind either! Let’s set our sights on a century!” Such light-hearted banter marked the occasion.
75 years of existence is a significant — indeed, major — milestone in anyone’s life. Having survived three quarters of a Century, one looks forward to taking on what’s presumably one’s last quarter century, though whether one will live to be a centenarian (or even an octogenarian or nonagenarian for that matter) is debatable and highly improbable. Yet, as the poet rightly observed, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” And does it!
Having weathered no less than 75 summers, one views life with a maturity mellowed by enhanced (and often bitter) experience. Gone forever is the rashness of one’s younger days, the impetuosity of one’s actions, the derring-do that had once characterised one’s behaviour, the much-flaunted intrepidity that marked one’s attitude to life et al. All these traits are supplanted by a kindlier perspective of the world around one, the vicissitudes of life having beneficially blunted the arrogance and conceit of one’s younger days. Admittedly, there’s no better teacher than experience.
At 75, my levels of optimism are neither high nor low, having stabilised at the midway point. Yet, I tend to be as sanguine as Bernard Baruch, the former American statesman, who once memorably observed, “To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” In any case, I find that being pessimistic about anything doesn’t really help — apart, perhaps, from making one depressed. Neither does being fatalistic. On the other hand, I’ve learnt over the years that proactivity does give one some control over one’s life.
Inevitably, over the years I’ve had my fair share of geriatric health problems, several medical specialists in various disciplines having gleefully (and gainfully) given me the benefit of their expertise during my spells of indisposition. Thanks to them, I continue to soldier on with my life and hobbies, determined not to call it a day until the final long whistle! Regular physical exercise remains an indispensable part of my daily routine, aches and pains notwithstanding.
Nothing surprises me anymore, neither the treachery of a colleague I had trusted and respected nor the unswerving loyalty of a friend I had unwittingly estranged. I think I’ve experienced almost the entire gamut of surprises that life can spring on one — both pleasant and nasty, the latter far outnumbering the former!
It must be said that life hasn’t been overly kind to me, one who rose through the ranks by dint of sheer hard work. Thankfully, I’ve realised that cherished dream of every middle-class family — namely, to own a modest house — after much hardship, at the fag end of my career and mercifully without borrowing a rupee.
Of course, the fact that one’s best years are behind one doesn’t necessarily mean that one’s condemned to a life of vegetation. Far from it. One can still be productive and successful in one’s chosen field, whatever it may be. Take the case of Ruskin Bond, the popular 85-year-old writer, who is still fairly prolific and bonding closely with his readers. And, of course, one can’t ever forget the late Khushwant Singh, that doughty old warrior, who kept writing till the very end.
Over the years, I’ve learnt, sometimes to my dismay, that the marked tendency (or rather, weakness) of the elderly to dish out unsolicited advice to the young is often disliked if not resented outright by them. Apparently, youngsters have their own ‘instant’ solutions and remedies for all their problems and difficulties and don’t need the sane advice of a wheezy old patriarch! Maybe we elders should consider ourselves lucky that the younger generation doesn’t throw Francois de La Rochefoucauld’s stinging wisecrack at us: “Good advice is something a man gives when he’s too old to set a bad example!” However, I’m certain that young people woefully lack the wisdom that we oldies have accumulated, a wisdom born of decades of experience.
Wisecracks and quips do bring much cheer into the life of an old fossil like me. I have quite a collection of these, to which I beneficially turn whenever I’m down in the dumps. The irrepressible Mark Twain’s utterances are guaranteed chuckle-generators. Take this naughty but factual observation of his for example, directed obviously at the elderly: “The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy oneself without the chance; the second half consists of the chance without the capacity.” There’s also this encapsulated gem from Kathleen Norris, the American novelist, for those struggling to cope with life: “Life is easier to face than you’d think. All that’s necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable and bear the intolerable.” And I personally feel there’s no better definition of a diplomat than poet Robert Frost’s: “One who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never her age.” Wit is a sure winner and mood-enhancer.
“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about,” remarked Oscar Wilde tongue-in-cheek (or, rather, tongue-in-check, for once!). So, let’s talk lightly about it. And, as far as I’m concerned, no one does that better than the late Mario Miranda through his inimitable and hilarious cartoons of everyday life. To me, nothing is more satisfying than to relax with a compilation of his rib-ticklers and chuckle for all I’m worth.
I’ve always regarded humour and wit as the spice of life — indeed, as a lifeline in times of adversity — right from the first flush of youth to my sunset years. There’s just nothing like a hearty, belly-shaking guffaw to make one feel good when the chips are down. It’s perhaps the only proven panacea for all our ills, real or fancied.
And, bolstered by my innate optimism, I believe the best years of my life are yet to come.
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