Friday, 26 March 2010

On getting old

I find that as I get older, I spend more time in front of my mirror than when I used to be younger. This is contrary to what we have been told since time immemorial. “ angam gallitam palitam mundam dasanavihinam játam tundam" (Strength has left the old man's body; his head has become bald, his gums toothless and leaning on crutches) warned the great sage and scholar Adi Shankara, who made a surprisingly lucid portrait of old age for someone who had never been through a mid life crisis let alone feel the despair of an ageing body. Age-old wisdom tells you that you must spend your life from now on thinking of higher things- they knew what they were talking about, best is not looking down at your sagging body where breasts seem to gravitate towards the belly.

Living without mirrors and the complexes related to it is easier said than done since society requires that you stop ageing and any disregard for appearance is immediately diagnosed with a terrifying certainty as “Depression”. Doctors are ready with pencils poised to delegate all responsibility to Prozac, the mother of all medications. The verdict is clear-if you look old, it is your fault and God forbid you from getting fat, since fatness is equated to weakness of mind- this time for food. A starvation routine is prescribed with not more than three raisins for lunch and “drink at least 2 litres of water per day” says the dietician washing her hands of all responsibility for my weight.

“I will drink this water only when I am thirsty”, I tell my husband who is now my official water bearer.

“ Why don’t you drink it all in one go right away in the morning –then you don’t have to think about it for the whole day”.

“What a good idea! But coffee is water too “ I say, pouring myself a generous mug of the nice Arabica decoction.

“Coffee is bad for acidity mom” says my son, whose knowledge of medicine is limited to taking revenge on me for making him eat his “veggies” as he calls them.

“Don’t talk back! “ I say desperately to somehow close the discussion.

Several weeks pass by and I continue to drink my daily two litres and in the process make frequent trips to the womens. Not bad in terms of exercise if the toilet was at the top of a hill for example but in my case there is no effect on my weight. I continue to starve that only made me bad tempered. A web site declared that jumping up and down to bad music the first thing in the morning would somehow miraculously make your body like that of Claudia Schiffer and they even guaranteed success by showing several fat males and females looking confident and self assured after having jumped up and down several times a day they claimed.

I give it a try and end up being not only drowsy from lack of sleep but in bad humor-not surprising if you start your day doing something as stupid as that. “All this jumping is for fleas and goats” I say to myself as I prepare to stay in bed just enjoying the nice morning sunshine when I didn’t have to jump.

Even plump people can look good with a good hair do, I reassure myself. A bad hair style made even Einstein look stupid didn’t it? So armed with my check book I head to the nearby hair dresser where I find several grand mothers colouring their curls violet and reading Paris –Match while discussing the latest exploits of the first lady. The old lady next to me was having her hair colored in several different shades making it look like the feathers of a cock. She seemed blissfully unaware of the effect it was having on the rest of us.

While I was enjoying the bliss of having warm soapy water that tickled my scalp and the feel of the soft hands on my head,

“Your hair looks all dry and anaemic, happens if you don’t nourish it correctly” says the hair dresser making a totally unsolicited expert comment and comfortably taking the upper hand of things.

“But hair is just keratin or some such thing, can it actually be anaemic” protests my scientific mind but I wisely murmur something to the tune of “Really? Perhaps I should have cut it earlier”.
“Your hair seems to be splitting right from the top, where should I cut it?”
In the end it seemed like a relief to write a cheque- at least there I had the last word.

“My next hair styling is going to be at Thirupathi” I promise to myself making a quick prayer.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

To be or not to be on time

As a rule, I try to be as punctual as possible for all my appointments but I am wondering whether I should start the late comer act. Generally you think that if you are punctual, it means that you take your rendezvous seriously and you are ready to give it the priority it deserves. It might be astonishing to hear that punctual people are not always the most liked. “Punctuality is the thief of time” declared Oscar Wilde in desperate anger. May be he turned up on time for a dinner and didn’t get food until the last guest arrived. “Punctuality is the virtue of the bored “said another equally popular satirist Evelyn Waugh. I know a person who said in a disarming manner, “I had to be there at five and I started out punctually at five” and so on. So I have decided that I should perhaps give myself airs and be just a little bit late from now on. I will tell you why.

The most important reason is that punctuality is no longer in. It belongs to the colonial imperial times when watches were the most popular Christmas or birthday presents. Today, if you are on time, this means that you have had nothing to do the whole day except waiting to be on time and that would never do. Being late for everything is the hall mark of youth or youthfulness if I may say so. It goes without saying that only grand mothers (this includes grand fathers but as a rule, they have far lesser appointments than grandmothers) are too soon for all appointments and end up waiting long boring hours at doctors' offices, airports and railway stations which is all very good for publishers of useless journals, super expensive airport coffee shops and an excellent source of income for paid toilets in railway stations.

Even the swiss, for whom punctuality is a national obsession, have started to give in. Of course, no self respecting French would dream of appearing on the dot for any important event. I have seen guests who don’t think twice about turning up two hours late for a dinner appointment and others who come in earlier than needed and are made to drink beer and eat chips thus putting them in a thoroughly bad mood. So when the late arrival turns up, fresh as mint (or daisy if you like) having spent precious hours on an invigorating shower, fresh make up (or a shave as the case may be) the early arrivals can only simply stare at the insolence of it, too bogged down by the code of polite behaviour to give vent to their frustration. “I am so sorry I kept you all waiting” gushes the late arriver not meaning it for a single moment “not at all” murmur the disgruntled hungry crowd and mutter politely. A chilly atmosphere sets in but thankfully at this point, the entrée is served and everyone is happy.

So from now on, the era of looking at the watch every twenty seconds and craning my neck in eight different directions is past. As they say, an early bird catches the worm but I say it is the early worm that gets caught! Perhaps I should buy this T shirt.