BENGALURU: One segment of society that has faced stiff challenges through the pandemic is the elders, especially the septuagenarians and older. And that is not so much on the medical front while avoiding Covid-19, as it is from the technological front to keep up with its manoeuvres that the young are so adept at.
Surviving Covid-19 - or ducking it completely - opens doors to the other challenge: To bring some meaning to life rather than just be cowered down and be dependent on the young to go about daily life.
The smartphone, for the elders, is something like the magic lamp. You rub it, and your genie in the form of a delivery boy appears with whatever is needed in hand.
“Why depend on the youngsters, if all you have to do is to rub the magic lamp?” is their response. “Let’s do it ourselves and show these young brats what we are made of!”
Many ultra-senior citizens have taken to various gadgets that were mere figments of imagination in their heydays. They dabble with laptops, tabs and the latest, ever-more-sophisticated smartphones to explore these ‘gizmos’, childlike and saucer-eyed. And they master their functions.
They are discussing with the young as well as their age contemporaries about pros and cons of adopting newer technologies. Of course, there is always a grudging admission that one has to keep up with the times, but they never fail to utter “Those were our good, old days!” to ensure a strong flavour of nostalgia. If Ernest Hemingway were to live today to observe these elders, his Old Man And The Sea may have emerged differently. There are whole hordes of ‘old men and women’ battling challenges heaped on them, which equate the challenges faced by Hemingway’s Old Man in his classic, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
The story is set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana featuring an old man, a young boy and a huge fish that the elder is set on catching while far out in the open sea all by himself. He wants to assure himself that his natural faculties are still the same as in his glorious younger days as a fisherman. The story is a timeless vision of the beauty and grief of mankind’s challenge to the elements - all the more so when it is an elder facing the challenges, and overcoming them.
“Only, I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes, you are ready,” the old man charges himself up while pursuing an 18-feet-long shark that is two feet longer than his modest boat.
One needs to read the book to find out the climax, although the victory of the old man is not so much in catching the fish as in overcoming the challenges he faces while on the hunt. The elders today - women and men, and probably without even knowing it - are reflecting that very resilience of Hemingway’s old man. But the challenges are not nature’s elements, but ones that we ourselves bow down to adopt - the galloping technological progress.
Hemingway’s old man’s metaphoric statement, however, stands out: “Man is not much beside the great birds and beasts. Still I would rather be that beast down there in the darkness of the sea.” Much in that sense, the elders today are not cowing down to tech progress and challenges; a significant number among their segment is stretching out their arms and embracing it.
Senior Assistant Editor