“How incessant and great are the ills with which a prolonged old age is replete.” C.S.Lewis
Well, briefly visiting people- people who one may have known, some not met before, some distant relatives and some social acquaintances. All this, the result of a social exercise that one have to set about, however dismal some of those brief visits and social encounters are. Honestly it is a thankless endeavor, having to call at houses you never wanted to, bare your teeth in a muscular exercise called smile - to draw back your parched lips and grimace baring the frontal teeth to some you may not even want to notice on the road; some trivial, some petty, some haughty, some charming, some stoic about life- theirs and your and some gracious for your remembering them.
A few of them would be eager to annoy with their seemingly innocent but tactless, rude and misplaced enquiries, about something that one wanted to let behind and be forgotten; then when they notice a slight trace of discomfort in you they hammer in the nail with a wry smile- what can be called specious empathy. Smile inside with a brutally sadistic comfort before seeing you off.
Sometimes, how one wishes that one need not have to talk. Often it is pleasurable to not speak, to be quite, silent, in a mute existence!
I have been on social calls for the past few weeks necessitated by a forthcoming wedding in the family. So when entrusted with the uncomfortable job of going to homes and inviting folks there is nothing much one can do besides accepting the hazards of the exercise.
Brushing aside the forgettable invitees, I was troubled to see a gentleman who I have known since I was little-seen him in his prime and always compared him with the most handsome men in the tinsel world. A man who is a doctor by profession and whose family had close family ties with my maternal grandfather. I remember often visiting his well-known clinic when I was little and also even in my teens. They were wealthy physicians over three generations and were respected and well-known.
Old age- when money, social positions and nothing else matter; it catches up on you swiftly that you realise that you are handicapped even before you bated an eyelid. . He is in his mid-seventies and was widowed some years ago. That I have known devastated him.
The loneliness of old age! It must be the matter of the desperation of the mind over what ails the body was what I guess I saw in his face – a man, physically a shadow of what he was. But he was alert and cocooned up in his bedroom watching the cricket Test live. A walking aid was kept next to him. In the course of our brief conversation he spoke about his fascination for cricket, asked me if I played. He enquired about everyone, though sometimes he was unsure. He stood up while I was leaving and with folded hands thanked for remembering him.
When I was driving back from his house, I wondered how many among the rest I met over the past days would ever stand for a moment and think of the fragility of life, of the ephemeral youth, our helplessness in between the brazen existence we often display.