“When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.”-Victor Hugo
Every morning as I enter the Nehru Park located in the Diplomatic area of Delhi , I get to meet the same set of familiar faces. Some are like me, who prefer to stroll or go in for their leisure walk on the cemented track, and others unlike me who run religiously on the dusty joggers track and sweat it out without looking here and there.
As I move further , the gym area is buzzing with youngsters, children, uncles and aunties, busy lifting weights and doing cardio exercises, an old lady in her Seventies, draped in a Saree and wearing sneakers can be seen using all the equipments with all enthusiasm and hundred percent participation , no demarcation on the basis of age is there, as age no bar , all equally participate, but then suddenly the Kachnar , Gulmohar and Silver-oak trees attract my attention, as they are housing hundreds of parakeets , crows and the squirrels who busily move like the chipmunks and greedily feed on the food kept in abundance by the walkers and ad mist these trees are placed various benches where birds and love-birds are perching and pecking, well I in no mood of moral policing so i move ahead to breathe in clean, fresh air and again lost in my thoughts, when suddenly the loud roaring laughter disrupts my thought process, in the lawn area, with all the greenery and peace, people practice yoga , young and old with their loud laughter and claps make the atmosphere lively. On the other side of the lawn the karate-kids all dressed up in their white attires but different coloured waist belts practice their moves with precision. This world of hustling and bustling people walking back and forth is not crowed but serene.
The whole of the sports gang comprising young girls and boys , do various exercises diligently after the warm up, as guided by their coach and reminds me of the movie starring Priyanka Chopra ‘ Mary Kom.’ The statue of IIyichLenin becomes the source of amusement for many thus resulting in selfie-session for many, and few who know the reason of its installing it their, look at it as an symbol and embodiment of history and knowledge.
As I walk across this 2.5 kilometre track I meet and see people from various walks and strata of lives. Some from far, some from near , some young, some old, some just chatting and lazing around on the benches, some lonely and some in herds. But one thing which grabs my attention every day is the two benches, well this is the only place in the park which has two benches facing each other under the banyan tree accommodating them, yes it is here where they meet every day, the Oldie-Gang . Yes this is what I have named them, the gentlemen in their late sixties and beyond are in 8 to 10 in number, some in salt-pepper look, some with receding hair lines and others keeping pace with the latest happenings with their jet black dyed hair, they are strangers to me but still i believe them to be true and rare example of aging gracefully and successfully. Each day when I enter the park i make it a point to stand near the banyan tree and attain enlightenment like Buddha by listening to their conversations, noisily discussing the unfolding situations all round the world, which ranges from politics to Google baba ( as they say so), to pulling each other’s leg. Listening them talk I feel relaxed and at ease, i feel growing old is not that bad if you have a gang around . The oldie-gang has made humour its weapon to deal with gray-area topics, they just laugh it out loud despite of aching backs, joints, hair loss and dentures. The other day i was mesmerised by one of the gang members humming the song by the Beatles, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I ‘m 64” discussing about their better halves. Some in between, started feeding the crows and squirrels with the grains they carried from their homes and discussing how Gandhiji launched the final push for Quit India movement when he was 63 and comparing it todays politicians mockingly, as they never grow old or retire. This is their daily half an hour ritual before leaving for their respective destinations which they perform with with full vigour and zeal, making us the younger generations to learn from them to imbibe and follow their footsteps. They are so full of life, they have converted their sunset years to inspiring old years. There are only few people who leave an impression or impact on our lives, and yes they are the ones in my life.
Well, no one likes to be addressed as old man or old woman, we keep changing our definition of being old, as we grow old, when I was a teenager, thirty ( 30) for me was middle-aged but now in my thirties i believe myself in prime of life, but i guess i will think the same when i grow 40 or 50 for that matter. Aging is not a very talked about subject except for the anti-aging creams and death.
Keeping humor aside, aging is a sobering effect, but every individual ages differently depending on the various factors .The scary part for me associated with growing old is the markers attached with it, that is, greying of hair, memory loss, loneliness,
. Till now i thought like many others, that getting old was for the old people, but sooner or later we all have to deal with it, but seeing the oldie-gang so hail and hearty i just want to be like them, long live the oldie-gang, lets not dread the old age.
Watching them I truly believe in this line by GLENDA JACKSON “I look forward to growing old and wise and audacious.”