We were filming an old Brahmin cook for BBC. Preparing avial was a melodious experience, every time he touched the shiny bronze uruli, sound and flavour rhythmically swivelled and so did our love for the retired cook. We knew ageing is not in anybody’s control and truth is we will also be there some day. Let’s begin this feature from a food perspective and organically flourish, to glorify this magnificent voyage of life.
Chef Thomas Jacob was 74 when I met him, even before I started my first restaurant. A frustrating day driving to Willesden in North London; I was fuming with anticipation and desolation about finding a cook of my dreams. Sitting by his bedside, I described my mission and expressed stupidity of not having a chef just a week before the opening night.
Having glimpsed his condition, I was doubtful about the whole trip. To my surprise Thomas got up with incredible vigour and yelled: “I will help you to learn cooking since you came looking for me, only thing, you have to pick and drop me back every day.”
Our stimulating long drive, back and forth started next day, with two people helping to bring Thomas down. Once he touched the kitchen floor he managed to stand alone like a young man and cooked for hours. Thomas admitted, “I feel like am back in my teens and full of excitement.”
A World Growing Old written by Jeremy Seabrook scrutinises real implications of the ageing phenomenon, challenges our preconceptions about how it should be tackled. He argues: elderly’s accumulated skills and experience should be employed to enrich society, rather than perceived as a ‘burden’.
Most importantly, the reintegration of elderly into mainstream society worldwide is vital for our survival. Jeremy’s research and sentiments made me feel so connected with that part of our population and contemplate profoundly on how we could be of help and make them enjoy their truly wonderful period of liberated life.
An article that appeared in The Daily Telegraph early this year touched upon this very subject. Presenter and campaigner Esther Rantzen claimed, “Britain has become ‘too busy’ to find time for older people. The Silver Line helpline had more than 100,000 calls in six months from people who suffered loneliness and many of them haven’t spoken a word in a week. Even our doctors, our carers, high streets and our families fail to recognise that what older people need is time to talk, time to listen and time to value them.”
Maria and Ken are the most inspirational elderly couple I have met in my life. Maria turned 91 and husband Ken’s 87. We meet them every weekend at the YMCA club playing badminton unlike many young people. Their enthusiasm and liveliness will motivate anyone. After every shot Maria dances with a smile; envisage her adolescent years in Italy before the Second World War. She shared her amazing story and personality at Rasa when we had lunch together.
Regrettable reports concerning the elderly are heard all over the world including India. As we run every morning to work, to make money, to conquer the world, we miss lot of care homes and silent elderly crossing roads. We must know our happiness and success is not complete without them. Having realised this moral and humane responsibility, we are taking a big step to engage the elderly at Rasa Gurukul as our cookery teachers, and help as many people as possible. Every retired person has contributed towards the foundation of this modern world we live and enjoy. It’s our responsibility to admire and include them in our journey. Munching Thomas’s cashewnut patty with delicious coconut dip, I watched his energy around the fire with a bright smile. I knew retirement and old age is just another exciting phase of our life, let’s help them to enjoy.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain