LET’S DELETE THE CURSE

Each child cries to go to school,
Wants to study for future goal.
Parents are circumstances-bound,
Not a single way can be found.

Though the situations are bit worse,
Cries of stomach shows time coarse.
He never stops himself from dreaming,
nor left behind from the new beginning.

Starts working for his daily chore,
To connect with his painful hunger.
At the tender age, starts labouring,
As a bread earner, the duty is carrying.

Age of study,dance, drama and dreams,
He is cleaning the dirty leftover utensils.
The hunger of the poor’s life is so awful,
Child labour starts like this, there’s no rule.

It should be now stopped by the society,
Little child is tortured all time,it’s the reality.
Enter to the world of education and liberation,
Erase the feel of suppression & add motivation.

Child labour is a curse, but the child is a gift,
Let’s delete the curse and give children a little up shift.
Make each child be adored like our own,
Give them wings, knowing the future unknown.

WHY DO I LOOK UNREASONABLY YOUNG?

In 2000, I began to work. I was 24 then. My aunt’s colleague visited our house and when my aunt introduced me to her, she spoke nicely and asked, “Are you in 12th class?” And my aunt clarified by saying that, I finished my Post Graduation and almost after a year he has got a job locally, in Cuttack. The lady was amazed. “You don’t look like you are 24.”

I was a 34 years old man then when there were a couple of guests in our office. My boss and my surnames are the same. When I introduced myself, one of them got too excited and asked, “Oh, so you are Mr. Patra’s 17 years old son?”

I shook my head with a grin and said, “No Sir, I am 17 years older than Mr. Patra’s 17 years old son.” And we all had a good laugh. He further commented, “Chiradeep, you seriously don’t look like 34 at all”. And I agreed to him wholeheartedly.

My sisters were always queried whether I am their younger brother or what… And the youngest one replies, “Oh no, he is 11 years older to me…” And the other sister replies, “He is 6 years older than me.”

Trust me, it’s a blessing in my case – I look much younger to my age. Nilla, my co-writer here says, “Chiradeep, you have a baby face”. And I am lean and thin because of my health conditions. I never grew fat or chubby with a paunch like other men.

While most people worry about how bad or old or fat, they are looking with every passing year, I keep admiring myself for every additional inch that I put on and how handsome I am looking at every passing day. So to speak, ageing has always been a boon for me instead of a bane.   

There is another psychological factor that works here while I transition to my gray-hair-stage. And that is, when most people concern about ageing, I worry about looking younger unreasonably at a certain age which is a severe disadvantage for me as people do take me for granted a lot of time thinking I am not old enough in certain matters (not for all the matters though).

But there’s a serious question that popped up in my mind in regards to my unreasonable younger look – “What makes me look younger to my age?”

I used to think that my lean and thin body structure makes me look younger but I realized there are many old looking men who are lean and thin like me. So, the physique of a person is a partial truth with respect to looking young. I understand some are born with a younger look and I praise God for bestowing me the same. But I feel there are three more very important factors that make me look younger and will definitely help others to look young as well.

Smile always: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.” A joyful heart always brings a smile to our faces and the reason behind a joyful heart is accepting life’s problems wholeheartedly. And I know how I have lived my life; I accepted every difficulty with a smile and it became easier for me to smile and look younger. We need to remember, the curve on our lips, erases the wrinkles on our skin. An older person smiles lesser to maintain gravity but a young person usually smiles without caring about maintaining that so-called personality.

Stress-free lifestyle: “But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” And when the spirit is broken, we don’t feel young anymore but we feel tired, weak and old. So, it is important to lead a stress-free life. Do you know why everyone in the world today is so stressed? It is all because of the rat race and the unnecessary competition that we get engaged in every aspect of our lives. Why fret about something on which we have no control? Why to stress when we can simply do what is possible on our part?

Sleep well: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for He grants sleep to those he loves.” And He loves those who trust in Him. Impractical, is it? I have been doing this amidst all my pain and suffering and still sleeping well. But sleeping well doesn’t mean sleep all the time and spending in laziness. It means neither too much nor too less sleep but proper sleep. And proper sleep always makes us happy, less grumpy, stress-free and makes us feel rejuvenated.

For the last two-three years have really sucked off all my agility and youthfulness from my very being. Even a man like me has started to feel old. I stopped smiling; I have been spending sleepless nights because of carrying heavy stress and life’s burden that I can’t really help it. But this year in 2021, I promised myself to get back to my original streak. I want to follow what I have been doing all through my life to look unreasonably young. I don’t want to be generic but would love to be different and special. Of course, with the grace of God.   

In closing, I pray the same prayer as the Psalmist prays in the Bible –

“Now that I am old and my hair is gray, don’t leave me, God. I must tell the next generation about your power and greatness. God, your goodness reaches far above the skies. You have done wonderful things. God, there is no one like you.”

Stay blessed!

WARDROBE-GING

She always dresses up as a behenji…

Hey gal, c’mon, be a sport! Dress up in brighter shades! You are young . . . if not now, when?

Here comes Babu moshai! He always comes dressed to college as if he is attending a job interview! Chill dude! Be cool!

Ever heard such remarks?

You guessed it right – attires define looks and looks define age. We may argue vehemently in opposition but cannot deny the stereotypic perceptions of society (which includes all of us too, by the way).

My mother’s generation wore saree when they transitioned from school to college. It was compulsory! This was the time between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Some schools had the girls wear sarees in Grade 9 and 10 as well. The percentage of female literacy was abysmally low, then. To be able to complete schooling and enrol in colleges was not a privilege all girls were blessed with (some still aren’t even now). No doubt, girls were married off as early as fourteen! And so, they were categorically reminded that they were big now – of marriageable age – hence they need to dress and behave like ‘women’, not as carefree ‘girls’ any more.

This, in my opinion, was essentially a social transition from teenage to adulthood minus adolescence – a taught and learnt consciousness that ‘you are no longer a girl now, but a woman and have to dress up accordingly’. Thinking of it today, I fail to imagine how the psychological transition would have been! How would it have felt to skip one stage of life (as delineated today), without even having any inkling to it!

In this day and age, with the market entering almost literally into our wardrobes, the dressing sense of boys and girls, men and women have drastically broadened and are no longer socially definitive as earlier (though there are exceptions). But, I must say the community that one lives, moves and operates in, plays a vital role in defining one’s attire and consequently one’s social age.

I am presently stationed in rural India – a place which is essentially a cake of conservatism topped with the frosting of modernism. I dress up in traditional Indian salwar-kurtas to work. And yes, not to miss the dupattas!! While within the comforts of my residential quarters, I laze around in T-shirts and trousers or other similar comfy casuals. Two seven-year-olds of neighbor families often visit me and address me as ‘Didi’. As lockdown ended in June last year, a neighbor guy got married and brought home his newly wedded wife who remained draped in beautiful sarees with her head covered all the time. These kids duly addressed her as ‘aunty’, much to my amusement (both the husband (who though in his late twenties has started balding) and wife are much younger to me in age and are promptly addressed as ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty’ and I am called ‘Didi’). You can well understand why!!

Well, I don’t know what the couple feels, but I certainly am amused each time the kids call us out loud!!

A friend narrated this hilarious incident a couple of months back in which her five-year-old daughter declared before guests once, that she would organize her mother’s marriage in a grand way. After the round of laughter died down, her mother (my friend) tried explaining to her that she (my friend) is married to her (my friend’s daughter) father already. The kiddo refused to accept that her mother is married, citing the reason that married women wear sarees (just as her grannies do), but she has hardly seen her mom wear sarees!!

Our attire defines our age, much more than we can think of. But yes, this applies more to women than to men. Though we don’t have many dhoti-clad men in India now, we would not see as many aged men with designer denims as youngsters too! But if we do come across a few such men, it would do nothing to define ageing in men. Visible ageing in younger men is usually evident from receding foliage on the head or a paunch or by strands of grey hair.  

Women often shift to shades of pastels as they age or when they lose their husbands or if they are separated from their husbands (this has got to do more with a latent or even at times manifest societal compulsion than with one’s personal feelings). I had this schoolmate who had lost her father as a toddler. Her mother dropped her and picked her up from school every day. She used to be attired in bright coloured sarees with her usual make-up on. Once I overheard someone remark ‘Look how ABC’s mother dresses up even though she is a widow; it would unnecessarily draw the attention of men’. I was a 15-year old then and could very well understand what they meant. Somehow, I felt a supportive heart within me towards my friend’s mother that day!

Attire and marital status have the potential to lessen the social age of an ageing individual or age a relatively younger person. No matter how we see ourselves as the years pass by or how others see us, keeping the soul and spirit young and agile beats the fragility of the body. 

“Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like
curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” 

Albert Einstein

GROWING OLD VS GETTING WISER: MY TAKE ON AGEING

I once wrote an article on my birthday about my five gray hair. Yep. Five! I fretted all over the post about how it shocked me and how I was trying (‘trying’ being the operative word here) to take it positively. Fast forward to now, I’ve lost count of how many gray hair I have. I care more of course, but I can’t snip at a fact of life with a pair of scissors. So, I’ve given up on cutting them off. Why bother when it has to happen, right?

Does it make me feel old? Of course, but I would be stupid to believe that I will never age and I am not stupid. I should thank my five feet nothing height for the times when I get mistaken for a twenty-something but that doesn’t happen often, I assure you. There are other things about me that give away my real age. When you have a child who hovers around you, it automatically earns you the moniker of ‘Aunty’ in India. So does the propensity of the body to gain weight and look softer around the edges as we age. I am quite adept at looking soft around the edges, you see. I’ve given up on wearing clingy clothes in exchange for the more accommodative empire waists and peasant tops. I’m a bona fide Aunty now, no matter how many filters I use to take my selfies, and I am just fine with it.

I read somewhere, middle age is when the broadness of the mind and the narrowness of the waist change places. If that’s the case I’m heading in the right direction, except I feel smarter. It feels good to know that I’ve got something right in my thirty-five years of existence!

So, what is it that makes me feel old?

I have crow’s feet on the sides of my eyes, laugh lines, gray hair sprouting here and there, a receding hairline and an increasing waistline. All of them bother me, but the ONE thing that makes me feel my age is when my body doesn’t keep up with the younger person within me. When I hit the treadmill, I can’t go from level 3 to 6 in under five minutes anymore. I have to amble along for at least ten now or risk an injury. When my daughter insists I race her, I can’t win anyway because my heart threatens to jump out of my chest if I try too hard. Late-nights are OK only if I’m in a prone position, parked in front of a screen. Coffee is a MUST to carry on through the day. Parties that go well into the night are a no, no. In fact ALL late-nights in my life now are only because I have work to do. An evening hog-fest over chaat WILL induce diarrhoea in the morning. Don’t even get me started on sickness. I have always hated being sick but have only realized in the last three years that recovering takes longer and it’s frustrating that I can’t just shrug off a bout of the sniffles with some pills. I actually need TLC now.

And as if that isn’t enough, there will always be someone who will rub it in your face –

“Arey, pehchana nahin aapko. Bhari-bhari lag rahin hain na, isliye.”

(Sorry, didn’t recognize you because you’ve ‘filled up’).

According to Google, middle age starts somewhere around forty-five. I feel I am already in my middle ages because I’ve slowed myself down in the last few years. It has been a deliberate attempt because I have figured out that there is no point fighting against it. My body demands more care and I’m happy to oblige. I don’t think it’s right to call it growing older. I call it getting wiser.

I bet you’re thinking, she’s aging faster than her real age. So what? My theory about aging is –

If your body can’t do it, don’t force it… unless your physiotherapist says so.

Ageing happens not just in the body but in the mind too. But that’s the beauty of ageing – your body gets frailer but your mind gets sharper. But there are some old souls who have never been young… like me. At twenty, I did things that people much older than me did. Even now, I don’t like to waste time kidding myself that thirty is the new twenty, because it is not. I quite like how better-equipped I am now than when I was in my twenties.

The way I see it, we start ageing the moment we are born. But it’s how wise we are that makes the process of growing old worth it. While middle age does not mean that one slows down, it is definitely a time to wisen up and make some decisions about the future. By forty no one can just sit around waiting for life to happen. You have to take matters in your own hands, be it about health, or family, or career or about one’s life in general. The best thing about ageing is that it filters out the unnecessary in your life and reveals that which matters the most to you. By forty, most have figured out what they want to do in life, and if you haven’t, you’re getting there, don’t worry. That’s what the thirties are about.

This is the best thing that has happened to me since I turned the better side of thirty. I have understood that it’s not about looks but what lies within you. That show-off is a waste of time. That I can’t be responsible for everyone in my life. I can’t be a superwoman and tackle too many things in one go. I can’t please everyone and I most certainly should not try to either because I exist not to please other people, but to live for myself.  

Ageing teaches you to conserve your energy and resources and utilize them for things that should matter. An older person will seldom waste energy on showing off his moves on the dancefloor, but will expend energy in playing with his children. An aged person may not spend time party-hopping, but will spend a weekend with close friends instead. There is nothing wrong with showing-off or party-hopping (unless you’re a politician too). There is just no need for it after a point in life. When you realize that, that’s called being wiser, not ageing.     

Of course, ageing brings its own problems, mostly health-related, but it equips you to handle these issues better because now you’re armed with experience. Life comes with everything in a balance. If youth brings energy, it is retarded by lack of knowledge; whereas the converse is true for old age. If not for this balance, the young would trump the old every time and there would be no need for the old in the cycle of life. It’s all about give and take. The elderly give the young guidance in return for their support.

I won’t give you advice on how to tackle ageing. It’s your own journey. What makes you wiser may make someone else stupid. This post wasn’t meant to preach anyway, but to tell you what I feel about ageing. I will conclude with this – I can’t say now how I will feel once I am older but one thing is for sure, I’ll be a lot smarter than I am right now, and in my book, that is more valuable than an array of make-up on the dressing table.  

MY STORY EVEN AFTER FOUR MORE DECADES

Aging? Why am I even writing about it..? Haven’t experienced it yet. I mean this is something that affects the older generation..  Not me..  I have completed only four decades on this earth a couple of years ago.. What do I know about ageing…?

Uh oh…  Don’t look at me like that..  I haven’t put on weight.  No no no..  I have just smoothly transitioned from medium to large to XL to XXL…  That’s the basic growth of a human being. 😊  Just yesterday we had a Saree day in our office.  Why these people come up with impromptu Saree plans?  Don’t you know how much effort goes into wearing a Saree? The first thing that comes to my mind is which blouse will I fit into…  Deep in thought, I was mulling over this issue when the WhatsApp University provided me with an answer…  God bless those people who keep forwarding random messages.  You never know which one will hit a home run. 

So here goes the gyan… (piece of advice) 

Ladies
You don’t have to fit into the blouse,
The blouse has to fit you..
And if it doesn’t get a tailor; not a dietician 😀

Well then I am definitely prospering from all sides but I am surely not ageing or putting on weight.. 

Next thing I know you will point to my crowning glory…  Now understand the streak of white in my beautiful hair shows a sign of maturity beyond my age. I mean people take you seriously if a little white is showing in your hair. You are not considered frivolous.

And smart that I am, I take a little help from Loreal and ensure that only a little white is visible. The stubborn white roots that keep showing up are beautifully hidden under the dark brown hair colour. Who can make out the difference? No one I am sure.

Now I know you are feeling jealous. I agree that the lady in the beauty parlor keeps reminding me to get regular facials. But that is not because of any lines showing up on my face. No you got it all wrong. It’s because she wants more business from me. Its economics not aging. Got it?

I found a gem of a poem on the Internet. It was by Wanda B. Goines of Cave Junction, Oregon. She was a beloved mother to eight children, grandmother to 15, and great-grandmother of four. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 92. Her poem was actually forwarded to me by some kind soul. And this is going to be my story even after four more decades…

I looked in the mirror and what did I see,
But a little old lady peering back at me,
With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair,
And I ask my reflection How did you get there?
You once were straight and vigorous, and now you are stooped and weak,
When I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique.
My reflection’s eyes twinkled as she solemnly replied
You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside.
A living gem and precious, of unimagined worth
Unique and true the real you, the only you on Earth.
The years that spoil your gift-wrap with other things more cruel
Should purify and strengthen and polish up that jewel
So focus your attention on the inside not the out.
On being kinder, wiser more content and more devout
Then when your gift wrap is stripped away, your jewel will be set free,
To radiate God’s glory through all eternity.

Underneath I have attached the video link of the poem recited by her… Watch and Enjoy. Thanks!

AM I AGEING?

This is often a question almost every middle-aged man or woman asks. Am I ageing? Is my skin getting dull? Am I losing hair? Am I gaining (or losing) weight? Are my energy levels the same? Yes, it is obvious. I ask those questions too but very careful not to fall into the abyss of anti-ageing scam. 

I could never understand somebody would want to reverse the process of ageing or would want to look like a young adult all of their lives. Of course, it makes sense to ensure that one is living a healthy life but it is definitely not recommended to use all sort of chemicals and surgeries in order to look younger. 

Recently, I read a random article about the clothes that a woman should not wear after she turns 40. I am not sure why somebody would write an article of that kind. Why is it awkward for a 45-year-old woman to wear ripped jeans (for example) or polka dots maxi dress (maybe)? Probably because they are considered age inappropriate. But again the problem is that our Media is very youth-oriented. The models that dress up (in any media) for any kind of fashion are often young 20’s something girls with size zero Barbie doll figures. None of the media really shows up models of different ages that are dressed up in “age appropriate” dresses. How would a 40-year-old woman who is of a certain structure decide what suits her body? How would she find out if her experiments with a different kind of fashion are working or not? 

Ageing is a biological process that needs to be respected. Fighting ageing is like fighting time – it will always be a lost battle. If you only wear confidence, your wisdom and your experience on your face – you will look graceful. 

Don’t be scared of ageing, instead embrace ageing. Take up your hobbies and passions that you never had time for in your younger years. There are something’s that you can never find time for till you are 40. One of my dear friends took up learning Bharatnatyam at 44 along with a 10-year-old daughter and now is performing across multiple forums in South India. My Mother in law who is nearing 60 beat me and came first in a 5k marathon. My dad bought a geared cycle at his 70th birthday and starting cycling a few kilometres every morning. 

Such people embrace their age and make sure that they make most of the time that they have. They don’t try to anti-age, they only embrace their age and indeed they age gracefully. 

UNCLES AND AUNTIES – THE ‘RESPECT’ FACTOR

“I think we all want to get older—we just want to age well.

Continuing from the whole ‘Aunty’ & ‘Uncle’ take from yesterday’s article – I’m not gonna lie – I’ve had my share of being called ‘Uncle’ myself BUT let’s be honest here, (I’ve been called out by much younger boys and girls – more like half my age) it actually made me feel that I have grown up, and that there exists people who are younger to me…

The thing is:

You get actually get work done when people actually think you’ve reached the Uncle-Aunty phase, like have someone offer you a seat in public transport or come up to you for advice or simply look up to you as their role-model. I’ve had these privileges, I’m not complaining and I haven’t even touched 40 as yet!

However, in India it isn’t so much about ‘age’ when we talk about transitioning to the next level, its just that with age – we take up more responsibility, find ourselves in mature relationships, earn money to sustain ourselves and with the stress that comes along with the above three factors, we tend to look different – either not looking after ourselves health wise due to lack of time or because we have more important priorities to life than beauty.

Of course, when we talk about men, beauty doesn’t necessarily play much of a role – while we still have thick levels of hair (on our head of course) and a minus-paunch body, we’re good to conquer the world. Any other look besides that… and life gets tough. The Bollywood movie ‘Bala’ immediately comes to my mind, that was such a relatable movie on so many counts.

“There are many theories of aging. My theory is I’m more awesome.”

Life has its own way of showing us, how we evolve and transition from one phase to another. We tend to look back at the one we’ve passed, more than looking forward to the one we are transitioning into. At the age we find ourselves now, it is probably the age where-in all the magic happens. We’re slotted right in the middle, we aren’t young enough to live the carefree life nor are we old for lives to be dictated by medication.

We are embarked on a wonderful journey of life, Yes! They’ll be the ups, the odd down’s .. but that’s life’s way of carving an individual out into the amazing people we turn out to be going ahead, changing, transforming and transitioning ourselves, getting ourselves ready.. to what’s coming next!

While living in India – the Uncle and Aunty culture is well rolled out in the DNA of every growing child, so, the next time, we’re are called out by that ‘tag’ – be proud that we’ve grown out from that young adult phase into a mature human being, and that a child is actually showing/giving us the respect, WE deserve in the first place, and if we’re lucky enough… returning home from a tired day at work or from the market place with a heavy bag of groceries and the sweet boy from the building asks you:

Aunty, can I help you carry your bag?

Go ahead and accept the generous offer, you might as well take it – such offers don’t come out too often from today’s children.