Saturday, February 11, 2006

Life at 80

I’ve heard that women often go mad when their kids grow up and they have no one to yell at any more. Well to be honest I haven’t actually heard anything like this but I’m sure it’s pretty common. Here, for instance, is what happened to me as my youngest one’s 18th birthday hurtled towards us, giddy and relentless: I turned 80, and my arms suddenly became too short.
First the arms. For years I’d held book in hand while reading. Then one fateful day, with no warning, I found that my arms had shrunk. They were just too close to my face, the words were all fuzzy, and I simply couldn’t read.
As for the business of 80 – it was a rare and wonderful accomplishment. I’d hovered below this significant benchmark for months, waiting, anticipating, as does one for headlines about the Sensex.
Finally, one morning, Sensexily, I crossed the psychological barrier forever. I did attempt some teetering, shifting center of gravity from side to side, but the needle stayed firm, and there was nothing between me and the carpet but my bath towel and that would have been a horrid sight for the cleaning lady, so nothing for it but step off the scale and admit it. I was now in my 80s and that was that, might as well brazen it out and pretend that this was exactly what I had been intending, bring on the samosas please and I’ll just have another two (or six) jalebis while we’re here.
Out of the window forever went the pompously named General Motors, the degenerate sounding South Beach, the holier-than-thou Fit For Life, and the rest. The weak and puny were welcome to their gym schedules. I had more serious business - lying in bed with a book, flexing that rapidly shrinking arm into an enormous foil bag and rattling large handfuls into my mouth. Of course everyone knows that pretending thin women look better is nothing but low propaganda by men who want to keep all the food for themselves – of course.
And it so happens that, being a woman of remarkable substance with karma rapidly coming to fruition, I have endured monthly felonies – a drunk driver, a forged cheque, a jewellery heist, and finally, on the first day of the new year, a hacking crime that crippled my office for 3 days.
Poetic justice, some will mock: for years I bossily insisted that we work on the first of January, virtuously demanding that we begin with gusto and ambition rather than lolling about bleary eyed and hung over. Instead, we struggled and cursed and I finally headed off (never one to miss a chance of cozying shamelessly up to officials in high positions) to my dear friends the police where I learnt to my dismay that this was not really a cyber crime, which would have been a super notch on my belt of serial victim-hood, but merely the plain or garden variety of extortion.
Later, the 18th birthday came and went, with noisy celebration by friends of the concerned party, and weary cheer from the exhausted family. Weary for the years of turmoil past, and cheer at the sighting of a white dove, holding promise of a calm phase ahead. I renewed my commitment to the stitching group and hanging out with the girls, exchanging recipes and such. I even relinquished hold (a little) on the kitchen where my ISO 9001:2000 habits had caused hardened crooks (I mean cooks) to run shrieking in exasperation. To be frank, we were just a short step away from blaring instructions on megaphones and frog-marching miscreants into long shower rooms with tall chimneys, but now the winds have signaled change towards less troubled waters, about which more another time.
first appeared as Geriatricks! in Times of India, Pune on 10 Feb 2006

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