Forever Young

1975

By Tinky Ningombam

Being part of Kang Chingba (Rath-Yatra) this year after almost a decade made me realise how old I have become and how young the crowd on the roads were. It takes just a few festivals in Manipur to make you feel 40 at 27. I still remember my mother buying me new clothes when I was young so that we will follow the Kang with a huge bag to collect all the fruits. And how time flies.

No place for the old

Unfortunately for us, the world is turning younger. Products, gadgets, lifestyle, entertainment media, adventure sports, everything is targeted towards Youth. Leave apart places like Facebook who has just stopped 13 year olds from signing up, we are constantly trying to catch them while they are young and in doing so, we forget the “above 50’s”.

This is a youth-centric world. We worship youths.

Most of the clothes in stores are in zero size especially in a place like Imphal. No one wants to open a family restaurant, it is less profitable, even families want to go to youth cafes.

The roads are filled with preppy teenagers, for obvious reasons though. Most of the in-betweeners (age 18 – 25) are either in other states or abroad.

Weight-watchers

Age also means most times weight gain. And the worst thing for someone who has been thinner is to gain weight. Just a couple of pounds and everyday someone will comment on your weight, even random strangers. Top that with a family gathering, you will want to kill everyone of them even if it means you will get jailed.

First of all, no-matter how pretty you look, a stranger will comment on your body, your height, your skin, your gait. And in a small city where everyone will practically end up knowing everyone, random people take on the onus of commenting on your looks.

I gain a couple of pounds and for someone who has always been thin, that is the ultimate blasphemy. People are so irritatingly conscious and this goes for all ages, young, old, men, women, children. For an entire duration of 20 days, I have been told to go on a diet, cut sugar, work-out, see a doctor and even starve myself to lose the extra. Because “I can look better” and I am not “politely” plump or healthy, “I am the fattest I can ever be”. And all these years, I thought I was weight-conscious. Jeez.

Looks matter more than ever    

Generally women deal with stress and anxiety to feel like a young girl even when they are 50. There is a tell-tale increase in cosmetic surgery in the state as we become more affected by aging. For a woman especially, it is a life-long pressure to look pretty, presentable… young.

One cannot look like a teenager their entire life but a lot of people do live in denial and I think that is what we should stop. People have every right to try to look pretty but not at the cost of health-risks or mental tension. One cannot escape a group of older women sitting together without them discussing about their looks and their age.  And this pressure is what makes them more anxious and feel older. I think age is in the mind. And it will be wonderful to age gracefully; it should not mean the regret for the loss of youth but to gain fullness to life-experiences.

Getting older means having to dodge questions about marriage

Now we can’t go out without someone asking us when we will get married. It is unfortunate that for most, the primary reason for a woman to have a career is to get married. Thought I don’t hate the idea of matrimony like I used to before.

When we were in our 7th grade in Nirmalabas High School, one of the convent Sisters asked the Class who amongst us do not want to get married. One of my friends, Anu and I raised our hands within seconds. When Sister asked us why, I told her I hate boys and my friend went one step ahead and told her “She wants to become a Nun too.” Now she is happily married.

In just these couple of years, I have become bridesmaids to innumerable friends, I have become an aunt and I won’t be surprised if I became a granny soon. And with exasperation, I have found myself at a stage where people are getting hitched left, right and center.

One completely irrational thing that we can also see is that most young girls are getting married for the wedding: the ceremony, the gifts and the attention. If it was upto women, they would want a free wedding ceremony every year.  I think the worst part of your friends getting married is that we lose out on our together time. Somehow, they become busier, too mature for girlish banter, too old for girl trips.

Where are our senior citizens?

I like the term senior citizens, it has class and yet it hides all the worries of the old and aged. In our times, who can count on family members to care for the old?  When families are scattered all over the globe, we need to think of more realistic ways to support the old and aged instead of hiding them away in quiet homes or in a wheelchair just sitting alone all day. Forget about personal mobility on public roads, old people do not have insurance for when they are aged and when they need more than one.

The youths need to be aware of the rising medical cost and the life support and medical services that should be planned for every old and aged. Because the young-at-hearts seldom remember what might happen to them when their organs age.

(The author is happy for once to be flying back to Delhi, the land where she is still thin…err… comparatively)

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