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.