Coming full circle


Coming full circle

Every time i teach The Seven Ages of Man by Shakespeare to my students, I feel a tremor in my body — an inadvertent mist blurs my eyes — and I experience an emotional turbulence that is deeply spiritual. Reading classical poetry has always been a meditative experience to me.

By Asha Iyer Kumar

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Published: Fri 26 Apr 2013, 1:11 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:50 AM

The verses that hold a mirror up to life and its vicissitudes affect me profoundly, and sometimes they push me into pensive contemplation like it invariably happens with The Seven Ages.

Every time I read this gem from the greatest of Bards, I witness the bioscope of my life roll behind my eyes, unravelling the obvious as if they were great mysteries. The intense emotions that this succinct chronicle of human life evokes are the same as the ones that I experience when I am in the company of old people. Trapped between their eagerness to quit life and death’s reluctance to embrace them, I see them as representations of my own future (should life allow me that long a lease). They remind me of a quake-ravaged town, once blithe and buzzing, now reduced to a stub of tenuous yet defiant relics.

It is not easy — neither for them nor for those around them — to cope with the time wrought inadequacies that afflict them and gradually turn them into pale shadows of their vivacious past. To those of us straddling the middle age and already pounded to pulp by modernity, having old people in our lives is becoming a vexing proposition. Yes, let us squirm in our seats at this caustic statement that we know is true, but will never for the life of us admit. We woefully share stories of senile persecution at home with friends and colleagues, giving pictorial details of the old folks’ imbecility and singing paeans to our endurance. Yet we refuse to accept at the confessional of our conscience that they have indeed become intrusive and irrelevant. God bless us!

Living with old people brings with it heaps of difficulties and truckloads of predicaments. There will be innumerable instances of disconnect that can push the limits of our patience, but they aren’t the only ones to have given us trying times. Didn’t our young ones do it at one time and did we whine then? Tantrums, obstinacy, weird demands — which of these didn’t they hassle us with? Shouldn’t the unconditional love that defined our parenthood hold good when we take our old folks into our fold?

Someday, we shall all be there too. If you thought you were prudent enough now to make flawless blue prints for your old age by learning from their behavioural inconsistencies, think again. Will our dwindling resources and floundering mental faculties enable sound reasoning and rational thinking then? Can a mouldering body bolster a buoyant attitude? If we feel harassed by their expectations of us to be their ‘extended limbs’ as someone recently put it, let’s take this as time for reciprocation.

The people we are talking of as ‘infirm’ today were people of immense worth in their prime. The geriatric frustration at losing their ability to synergise their diminishing powers cannot be stressed enough. The impatience to reclaim their due place in the changing contexts of our lives drives them to commit bizarre acts of self-assertion that we view as ‘childish’ and insufferable.

A long view of our old people would represent a revolting mob pitted against their robust wards. Zoom in your view, and you will see a nursery of aged infants — ‘sans teeth, san eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

There is no anti-aging treatment that can defend any of us against this eventuality. It’s a humbling thought that can help us accept the angst-ridden presence of old people in our lives with less distaste and more empathy.

Asha Iyer Kumar in a freelance journalist based in Dubai

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