I never really realized how the people around me have aged until very recently. Somehow the people I knew when I left India were not people who could grow old. They had dark hair, glowing faces and were always larger than life. And yet, since the day I’ve left.. every time I go back, I see something that reminds me that they are older. It strikes deep that these people are changing even now, a time warp that I cannot stop. And it includes people like my parents. People you believe should never get old. Ever. My mother tells me of recent developments in the family, it is all I can do to assure her that such things happen.. to assure her that everything is OK.
I remember the last time I could spend with my thatha a few months before he passed, and there is a sorrow that I still cannot be there for those who remain. That I cannot do more. That I am currently unable to take care of them the way I want to, the way they should be taken care of. I remember the way their eyes shine on the rare occasions when I get to see them.. the happiness apparent when they see any of us, we talk to them, we sit with them, we are with them. I cherish the 20 minutes I spent walking with my other grandfather down to the general store, helping him over the shoddy footpath, and helping him back home. His smile at the end of it all made me wish I could do it everyday. I remember the hug my grandma gave me after a year and half. Holding my hand, never wanting to let go. The smile when I told her she was looking good that night.
I hate it more because I know it means that soon my parents will be like this. People who I only remember as being young and bigger and stronger than me are slowly showing the signs of age, gray hairs and all. It is a bitter feeling, a sad one, that I cannot shake off. One of my grandmothers is suffering today in a way I did not think possible for her, it is all I can do to hear about what is happening with her. She is being taken care of, true, but such is life that you wish that more could be done.. that she never had to be this way. She has always been a strong loving person, to see her like today is something I could never have imagined. I have vague memories of playing with her before I came back to India in ’94.. I wish I could remember more. There is my dad’s complete archival of all our photos ever.. someday I must sit and see them. They may soon be all that remains of memories that slip away before I can think about them. I want to show them to someone, to describe how wonderful it used to be with these people.
Age is cruel, very cruel.
On the flipside, age is cruel on many things you discover as a child – the concept of ‘dudes’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘bogus’ – some things you watch when you’re 10 years old, and enjoy to the fullest. I remember watching ‘Teen Wolf’ and the sequel and enjoying them completely. The ‘awesome’ dialogues, the great attitude of M.J.Fox.. it was rocking at a different level! I spent weeks replaying the final sequences of the boy (and not the werewolf) reaching for victory. Similarly, ‘Saved by the Bell‘ and ‘Bill and Ted‘ and ‘Boy Meets World‘ or any of the other 80’s shows and movies. To my rosy memory each of these had special places among the few ‘neat’ things that I watched when little.
I rediscovered them recently.. and somehow the magic has jaded ever so slightly. ‘Teen Wolf’ stands revealed as M.J.Fox riding the wave of ‘Back To the Future’. I was jumping, awaiting the DVD from Netflix.. willing myself to enjoy something I had seen nearly 20 years ago.. but some things cannot just be. One part was bearable, I could will myself back to the child who watched them.. but the second (which is a tad badly made anyway) stood stripped of the memory. The TV serials, somehow, those amazing lines and great timing breaks down more a little. This is not true of everything I’ve watched back then – some, such as ‘Back to the Future’, ‘The Wonder Years’, ‘Tom and Jerry’ are ageless. I watched ‘Bill and Teds Bogus Adventure’ only to realize that ‘dude’ and ‘awesome’ and ‘bogus’ were not mere words.. they represent a time and place when things were simpler. It does not seem like such things can exist today.. the world is a lot more complicated, and people expect so much more. Being able to live through hell, beat the Grim Reaper at ‘Battleship’, watch Hammerman save the day, even the gentle humor of a ‘Lisa Card’ seemed so brilliant back then, with snappy dialogue and neat stories.. every aspect of it seems tacky at best now, but somehow watching them reminds me of the time when ‘awesome’ really meant something.
And that just makes age even crueler.