So, I recently came back from spending a month in India. It was my annual trip back home – spend some time with my parents, visit relatives, live in a place where people look like me, speak like me, advertisements are in a language I know, listen to the radio in my native language and so on and so forth. I have been going to India almost every year since I left home, and the trips have been usually the same, except this time something changed. I guess the changes were happening gradually, but now it is very apparent. What change am I talking about?
Growing old – yes, the inevitable fact and truth in all our lives that we are growing old every second, every minute, every hour from the time we are born. And we celebrate getting older every year on our birthday as well. Maybe it is because I am growing old or the people around me are growing old – this topic came up a lot on my trip. When you look at family albums, you realize that more and more people are just that – a photo.
As people grow old, one thing that happens is that people they know start dying – a spouse, mother, father, sister etc. And with that comes loneliness. The thing about relationships is that we never notice how much we miss the other person until they are gone. And suddenly, the chair in the house where that person sat every day is empty. The usual bickering about milk in tea is not happening. You realize the importance of companionship – what you took for granted. You are looking to talk to somebody to fill the void. You start missing people, and memories become essential.
The other thing that happens as you grow old is old age, and with that come the usual body pains, ailments etc. It is inevitable. You may have led a healthy life, but the fact of the matter is the energy of youth is no longer there. And that means all of a sudden you are talking about medicines, home remedies, doctor visits or talking about what is wrong with your body today. The activities you did before like hiking, reading books or watching TV become less because you cannot hear or your eyes are not working properly etc.
And in some cases, as people grow old, they become more rigid and flexible. Their routines become a source of ‘what they can control’, and they get attached to it. That means you have to do what they want; you have to let them be right all the time. You have to allow them to rant about their feelings and not invalidate them. Now, of course, some people age gracefully. Their faces start shining more because there is less of them, and the light can shine through. The most important thing here is the awareness that old age is inevitable and whatever comes with it has to be accepted with grace.
I realized that the scales have shifted – now, going back home is less about me and more about my parents. It is not about what is my problem but what is bothering them. And this shift was happening gradually, and it took time to adjust. Because your parents have listened to you all your life and when you return home, there is an inbuilt assumption that my problems are the most important ones. Now it’s the other way around, and this realization is frustrating because it is not about me anymore. And the growing realization that this will happen to me too!
How are you dealing with getting old?