Aging is a necessary and an inevitable evil. Terming it evil may just be a matter of perception but the universal fact remains that getting old is not what you and I want, yet we will do so against all our good intentions and will. I was browsing through some family pictures of a recent engagement ceremony thanks to the powerful online connectivity of the twenty first century. The images of some of my aunts and cousins just made me stop for an extra moment in a poignant way as I flipped through the pictures one after another.
We try to visit our family and home town almost every year. But these 2 week trips to India are not the same as having our feet rooted there and living there. I still carry memories of my childhood with me – of the many short & livid moments that filled my life in my home town as I grew up, till I was 17. Even though I spent 8 more years in India after leaving for college, those memories, events and images from those rooted 17 years are what I have in my mind when I think of someone in the family or some place around my town. It is funny sometimes to actually try to equate the current reality with my memory – some of my cousins in my instant and colorful memories were as old as I am today. It does not matter. And that is why when I flipped from one picture to another and as I saw some wrinkled skins here and some gray hair there, some pale faces here and some shrunken cheeks there, some drooped shoulders here and some dark eye circles there, these younger and colorful images of the same people came rushing to my virtual vision. I wanted them all to remain the same yet what is now is what I do not want…Then as I stared at some faces and some familiar grimaces & smiles (in the pictures), I felt sorry for them. I do not know why.
A few minutes later, I was done with viewing the online album. Droplets of those pensive thoughts pervaded through my mind as I continued with my day’s work. Later that evening, when my mind was unburdened with the spreadsheets and decision points at work, I got back to my memory lane jog.
Wait a minute.. Why should I feel sorry? By the same token, I am sure the younger members of the family could have a similar image of me and should justifiably feel sorry for me for having grown older. May be they do and that’s not for me to guess. But do I really need that empathy just for growing up? If growing old is part of everyone’s life, why should I feel sorry for someone who is older than me and for being older than what I want them to be? Am I being arrogant and snobbish & hence my empathy for them? I don’t think so as those two qualities don’t result in empathy. So am I being reluctant and concerned? Probably a little bit of these two.
Now the “age old” question – Can we do anything about aging? Of course there are age old answers for this. Everyone talks about why aging as we think is not bad at all, what matters is your physiological age and not your chronological age, etc. So my question really is – Can we do anything about our sensitivity to aging?
Philosophically, it is possible to be sensitive to the problems associated with aging and not be sensitive to the actual process of aging itself. Is it practical? We know the skin has to loosen, we know the eyes have to lose their luster and we know senility is just one more step towards the ultimate. Still, how can we conquer that sensitivity?
As such thoughts rubble through my mind in the middle of some waving silence, I know what and how I felt when I saw those pictures, was just a real human moment. The care, the tenderness, the cherished memories and the way all of them came together to create a poignant moment actuating the humanness in me is beyond the boundaries of the philosophical containers I may try to build around them. Try hard or not, you have to grow with your age – You have to believe in capturing good memories from all the ages.
* Catabiosis is the normal process of aging of cells.