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The Ages

My grandmother, at 80-plus, has a habit. She loves to prod and goad and ask innumerable questions the moment you introduce someone to her. So what is the name of your clan? Name your family members? Who all are married? The queries go on... Over the years, I have met people her age and I find they all share this habit. They are all friendly, and to a fault.

My old neighbour in Sarojini Nagar was one such man. He lived with his son and daughter-in-law and two granddaughters. Everyone seemed to pay him a deaf ear, for reasons not far to seek. I dreaded opening the door every morning to pick up the newspapers because he would be standing, waiting for the sound of the door creaking. Soon I would hear a, "May I come in?" He loved to discuss the morning paper headlines with us. It became a pain, so one fine day we decided to be rude. "No you may not come in".

My current neighbour is another old man, who walks about with dark goggles even at night and a walking stick. The dark goggles is because he had a cataract operation a few months back. Now it is a permanent feature on his face. Some days, I get a fright as I would see him standing outside in the dark at the the door waiting for a tete-a-tete. He will not press the bell with his fingers but he would be aiming for the bell with his walking stick and he would attempt many flings before he finally hits the bell.

"Suna hain dengue huwa hain kisi ko is ghar main? (Heard someone got the dengue in this house)", he recently asked me. The moment I said yes, he started telling me how I should be plucking these certain leaves from a tree nearby and boiling them and feeding the patient. He said James, another neighbour, got cured after he drank this same herb water. I told him that my patient was in a hospital which does not allow any food from outside and that the hospital was A-one and was taking good care of the patient. But he refused to listen. He wanted to show me the tree. I had to lie that I was in the middle of cooking. Sometimes, I run out of excuses. I have to endure his talks which range from food, his grandchilren to his village near Banaras.

We crave for company at every stage in life, but what we do not realise is how desperate this craving becomes especialy at old age. I am insensitive and find old people inherrently funny. And I dont want to live up to 80 years but I know, in time, the boot would be on the other foot. The cyle of life, alas!


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