One evening, a former classmate and I were joking with each other in an e-conversation about being ‘really old’ friends. Anita who climbs mountains, does the salsa and is fired by the spirit of revolution was only talking of growing old in theory, while I have rock-solid evidence.
I have started talking about the virtues of vitamins and the nourishment of nutrients after a lifetime of neglect. When I reported to my doctor-friend of several decades, the fact that I am now on a low-salt diet, she retorted, “I never thought you’d be alive to adhere to one.” Hoping against hope, she hands me a bottle of flax seed capsules.
Like my grandfather and his father before him, I find myself telling friends not to trust private insurers and equity markets — they are good at walking — away with your money, I mean. I catch myself giving random advice to my child despite knowing that the chances of its being followed are as slim as the yoga instructor at the gym.
When I invite people home, I give out my address and spend two minutes explaining how to get there — never mind that they know the city better than I do. Nowadays, I raise my eyebrows in a smirk instead of voicing my disgust — and promptly the delinquent in front of me quails in self-loathing. I used to do this in the past, but now it really works.
Little sins like telling a white lie or wallowing in laziness now get me wondering as to what hell I might end up in after my demise. The Srimad Bhagavatam, a beautiful epic that tells of the glories of God, talks of several different types of hells for various kinds of transgressions on earth. Thanks to a life richly lived, most of us have multiple choices of hellish venues to choose from. I take keen interest in funerary practices and mourning rituals — and wonder which of these I’d like followed in my memory — the granite tombstone or the red roses? The marigold garlands or the simple white shroud? Then I remember with a grin — it’s all going to go up in smoke anyway, why bother. “I always wear something inexpensive and combustible to bed,” a jocular uncle would say, after he suffered his third heart attack in his sleep.
Living life is the toughest bit. The English ‘suffer’ equals the Urdu ‘safar’ and both apply to ‘life’ equally. The time spent with friends, laughingly splitting a restaurant bill into six equal portions, idling over a glass of chai on a cold wintry morning on the highway, dawdling for five extra minutes under the quilt while the alarm clock furiously rings its way to lunacy, playing ‘antakshari’ amidst giggles without knowing a single line of any filmi number, teaching your child how to walk or ride a bicycle — these are the precious hours that constitute a life well-lived and an existence truly enjoyed. To live life sublimely, stay firmly in touch with the ridiculous.