Culture & Society

Ageing: All About Greys And Grace

'I often wonder, does age have grace? For grace is about behaviour, manners, and how one treats others with respect and charm irrespective of age.'

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Looking into the mirror the other day I wondered amusingly who was that old woman staring back at me. Those drooping creases around her mouth, deep crow's-feet around her eyes, a lack of lustre and suppleness in the cheeks, the grey hair! I find ageing to be a very unsettling process, as it is so very relative and extremely exponential. It sneaks upon us, comes out of nowhere and is unstoppable. Yet the absolute worst thing about this inevitable physical decline must be the fact that it does not at all reflect the age we feel inside. At times I entertain the idea of fixing it. I try to pull the skin on my face back occasionally just for a moment in order to revisit the looks of my past. But eventually I just giggle and realise that I would rather be wrinkled as a dried up raisin, being genuine through and through than be perfectly artificial and superficial. After all, I have found that the very old cliché of beauty lying within is true.

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Experiences and a life lived reflected in a face in combination with an inner glow radiating happiness makes a human being endlessly attractive. And it also holds true that experience is the name we choose to give to our mistakes. Ageing, whether you loathe it or love it, has been happening to us since the day we were born. From my personal journey of ageing I have gathered that it is less important what people see when they look at me but rather how they feel when they are around me. Ageing gracefully is not just a term meant for old people. There are innumerable advices about how to age well. But when does this phase begin? 40s? 50s? 60s? Earlier? Or is it when one thinks that the time has come to look at life from a different perspective? Such thoughts come with maturity, age being just a number. The ‘graceful’ tag which is often associated with age is more of a catchword to denote appearance.

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Recently, I have developed a new habit. When anyone asks about my age, I say in jest, “Officially I’m look-and-feel-good-for-my-age years old, though unofficially I am 53." This roundabout way of response has nothing to do with feeling awkward about how old I am, rather I try to kill two birds with a stone, anticipating a frequently asked question about whether ageing has been as graceful as bird on a wing. I often wonder, does age have grace? For grace is about behaviour, manners, and how one treats others with respect and charm irrespective of age.

On this note, I would also like to share a personal anecdote. Argument with my mother is inevitable when I'm at home. She tries to win most of her cases stating that I have aged but not grown old, given the immaturity she notices in me. I too tease her, saying that all that she notices is because of the clear vision she has developed post her cataract surgery. Many such banters have become part of our regular divertissement, thoroughly enjoyable. Her reference to my ageing, which is but true, is a trigger for occasional self reflection. I realise I forget names, even faces. Often when I'm dissatisfied about ageing, I wish I had this magical wand to help me go back to the springtime of my life. But the moment I recall the arduous efforts of balancing of chemistry equation, or mugging up the multitude of formulae in mathematics, or the ounces of tears shed for a failed infatuation, I instantly flinch at the intention. The days of our youth, I gather, aren't always as glorious as one presumes. Fortunately, after living half a century in this planet, I still remember to zip or button my dress, I have control over where I want to be dry and where to leak, I see more colours in my hair ( black, grey and remnants of dyed ones), there's more acceptance of the ever increasing growth in my circumference. Life has become less dramatic as I have coped up with varied mood swings. I look more for happiness and contentment and give a middle finger to people's expectations. Am loving this journey of ageing gracefully, gratefully...

With a well-lived life so far, I have learnt to do things that make me happy which can range from being childish to flirting to getting decked-up to going on a solo travel, the list being pretty big. That each of these activities contribute to increased levels of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin, adds to my feel good quotient. I have learnt to be genuine and proud of myself; celebrate my successes and failures; take onus of my own decisions; be loving and forgiving towards myself and others; wear my attitude on my sleeve; retain my sense of humour and laugh at my own follies and imperfections; and most importantly, live for the present, accepting that we are nearing death, and celebrate life to the extent possible.

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The goal is to live while we are living. Grace will inevitably glorify my age.

Debatri Das is a social development consultant who has worked with a number of NGOs and governments

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