Do we notice the imperceptible changes taking place around us? Mostly not; unless compelled to do so.
The most common culprit of almost imperceptible change is age. “Why do you wheeze when you climb stairs for just two floor?” My daughter asked me last week. I passed it off as a toll taken by age; though the reality is that this weakness is an old one and remained unnoticed.
Most resist the external symptoms of time and related wear & tear. A thumb rule is that the older a person is, the more time taken for formal dressing. So there is a calculated effort to impress- bright colors, branded shirts/pants, hair waved back carefully. Sometimes I wonder, whether the person is comfortable in the role being enacted (for the sake of family). Why not let go and be what you actually are? But then, do many of us know ourselves well to decide to be as and what we are?
God, with His sense of irony, has made human beings attach undue importance to parts of body which have limited utility. Hairs on the head is a classic example of a decorative object. It does not serve any great purpose (unlike hands or legs). But the impact a great hair style has on the subject and his/her viewer cannot be measured. So we find youngsters staring hard at mirror for long periods, patting their hair, men keeping tufts (meant originally only for certain purposes) like women, old men and women dyeing their imperfectly to evade the toll of time and all sorts of odd behavior if examined in the light of reason.
When I was a young boy (several decades back) only school boys and domestic men servants (who washed clothes, vessels, cars etc.) wore half pants in Mumbai. Now of course, it is a fashion statement to wear half pants and odd sized pants on all occasions (except job interview) and thereby attempt to belong to another age group. So, when I wear a shorts (called half pant in the past) to the gym, I have an uneasy feeling that someone would call me to wash their car.
The real changes take place in our sub-conscious and then trickle down to external visibility. This is noticed only if we meet the person after a reasonable gap. Mentally we slow down- that is reduce the pace at which we want to live hereafter. We see this around us but do not observe. We want less surprises- less changes – expected or unexpected. Life has to be same from yesterday to today. But God and the world around us have a gleeful pleasure in altering our well laid down plans. So we find sedentary grandparents rushing off to USA/Gulf countries for a new career in babysitting (most probably no one sits, the baby runs around and we run after it continuously till our legs pain).
Did our parents sit back and ponder over their errors of omissions and commission? Did they even admit it to themselves? My son reminded me recently in non-judgmental manner of the instances when I beat him during his childhood. Did I beat him? Yes, I did. For what reasons? I do not remember. Do I regret it now? Yes. But when I look at my daughter trying to tame my grandson (unsuccessfully at times) by oral requests and then resorting some small corporal punishments, I realize that these are inevitable and cannot be examined by hindsight
Do we lose our ambitions, zest and enthusiasm with age? I would say they become more tempered. The goal posts change. Survival up to the goal post becomes more important than running past it. Some unexpected past time or interest catches serious attention. So it could a social or a religious organization in which there is some lurking desire to play a more prominent role. I have seen several large institutions run by persons most of whom had retired from gainful occupations long back justifying to this logic.
But what is most important in all this is identifying what our heart really seeks- what is it that would give us great happiness. This is the most difficult part of life at any juncture. Long but aimless life serves little or no purpose. At each juncture of life, knowing what we want to achieve in our career, what we enjoy doing in our spare time, what relationships to invest in to make our life more beautiful is vital. This is more easily said than done.
I envy today’s youth some of whom are clear eyed to give up easy choices and seek for what they really want. India has given choices which did not exist some decades back. But whether they are able to achieve a balance between their material success and mental happiness is a moot point. This perhaps applies to youth and younger generation in any point of time- yesterday , today or tomorrow.
So next time I visit the nearby shopping mall, I will take the plunge and buy the black shirt with stripes displayed at Zodiac shop. My family’s puritanical views on wearing such garments can take a back seat.
I will look handsome in that shirt….. or rather as handsome as I looked some decades back.