Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The autumn of life.

After reading my last post, a friend gave me a feedback about it that, as soon as she finished reading the second paragraph and got started with the third, she expected it to be a continuation of the second. And then she suggested that I could write an entire post on that particular topic that was discussed in the second paragraph - senility.

Senility /sɪˈnɪlɪti/ (defined as a characteristic of or caused by old age) or simply old age as we know, is an inexorable phenomenon that will occur to every one of us. I, approaching my mid-twenties, find myself in a very awkward situation. This is a gradual shift from kids beginning to call you 'Uncle' or 'Aunty' from 'Anna/Bhaiya' or 'Akka/Didi'. I discern my parents ageing. I see a clear shift from how I saw my parents as a kid - their youthfulness, energy and enthusiasm is declining. I need to consider them equal to me and need to rely on them less often. Whenever I needed any suggestions or solutions as a kid, I looked up to them for help, but now, they look up to me for the same. I find it very odd to address older people with their names. The kid inside me still wants me to address them as 'Uncle' or 'Aunty'. These are some of the stuff I need to deal with on a daily basis.

My first experience with perceiving the magnitude of senility began at a very early age of eight. I still remember that day clearly - the 8th of September, 1999 - The day India lost to West Indies on the finals of Coca Cola cup. Every evening, my dad used to teach Vishnusahasranamam to me and about five more friends. That day, we had been keenly watching the match all day, and also while my dad was teaching. I used to watch cricket with a lot of passion and the match ended with India's defeat while my dad's teaching session was still going on. At about the same time, a neighbour suddenly barged into our house and informed us of his mother's death, and that he was immediately leaving for Chennai along with his family. While all the other kids were still sitting, I immediately got up and ran to the bedroom. I threw myself on the bed and started crying loudly. Everyone ran inside and started consoling me by telling that India will win the next series and there was no need to worry. But that wasn't of any concern to me. What made me sad was the news that the neighbor brought. I started wondering what would happen when we grow old and start losing our loved ones one at a time. The very thought of it made me cry.

About one year later, I watched The Lion King movie. If you have watched it, there's this scene in which Mufasa tells his son Simba, "A king's time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king". To me, it translated into "Your parents will not be there to guide you forever. One day, their time will end like the setting sun, and you will be on your own". Maybe these movies and their dialogues are made in a way to kindle such thoughts in kids?

Apart from seeing others grow old, what I'm more apprehensive about is seeing myself getting older. I hope I can somehow survive through my twenties till my sixties without much dependency on others. What frightens me the most is the period after sixties (if I make it that far) till my death. I wonder what kind of memories I would hold. Home, school, childhood, college and work - also everything that I ever stood or fought for - I wonder how much all that would matter. If you have watched The Godfather trilogy, it tells the tale of Michael Corleone, his life and the people around him. We tend to develop a bond with the characters as we progress watching the three movies. The third movie ends with Michael as an old man, sitting alone in his garden, about to die and no one around with him. There's also a short flashback where he thinks about the people he has lost in his life. Next, he slumps over in his chair, falls sideways to the ground, and dies alone, with only his dog present beside him. That made me wonder "Who would be with us when we are about to die? What thoughts would run in our minds when that time comes?" Maybe we just need to find it out for ourselves, impromptu.

I understand that having a 'successful old age' depends on the foundation you lay and how you build your life till that point. That is a very generalized statement to quote, but taking a cue from my previous post, I feel it is very necessary to 'optimize' our lives by making the best decisions with the limited resources of time, money and energy we have, while maximizing the gains. In my opinion, that is the secret recipe to have a regret-free senile life. I hope I would see only happiness and a feeling of satisfaction of having lived a every eventful life when I look back. As Shakespeare wrote in his play As You Like It (an excerpt of which is the poem The Seven Ages of Man) - "Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." The last part of that line - "Sans Everything" - seems to be the toughest thing. Deprived of energy, abilities to walk, talk, hear or see, and no people to share our feelings with, this part of our lives would feel like a curse. 

Since a very early age, I have played such video games which would have multiple ways of finishing the game. I would save the game regularly at checkpoints and explore all the areas in the game so that I leave no stone unturned. If there are multiple endings in the story of the game, I would play it again and again to see how differently it would end each time. This made me wonder if we would look back at our lives and wish that we could have lived it in a completely different way altogether, if we had made different choices and decisions at various points in our lives.

I call old age as the 'autumn of life' because our lives are like the leaves of a tree. We're born in spring and our lives end like the withered leaves during autumn, after which the next generation takes over. Perhaps the best thing that we could hope for is not to be one of the last leaves to fall off the tree!