Thursday, January 19, 2012

Selective Aging

My mother is 72. Or is it 73? In any case, the point is that we don't remember her age because she doesn't act it. She is fit as a fiddle, lives alone in a small town in Himachal, walks 10 Km in the mountains everyday, eats healthy, keeps her weight in check, does Pranayam daily and is at most bothered by sneezing every now and then. The only thing that gives out her real age is her white hair, which she has never dyed. I am sure if she were to go to one of those television shows where they find your "real age", she won't be more than 50.


Last year, we spent a week in Lhasa. On our way back, our plane out of Lhasa was delayed by an hour, leaving us with less than an hour to catch the connecting flight out of Chengdu. In this one hour, we had to collect our bags, rush to the international wing of Chengdu airport, check in and board the flight. Nearly impossible, but we won't take no for an answer. We split the responsibilities. While I waited for our luggage to arrive, mom went to the international check in to do the paper work. The luggage took forever to come and by the time I reached the international terminal, we had less than 10 minutes left to reach the gate.

There, I found mom sitting on a stool near the counter, sipping a glass of water slowly. This was unusual because typically she would be all business and ready to put everything in order. Another thing I noticed immediately was the coolness in the airline staff's attitude. Though nothing was said, I was being given killer looks as if I was personally responsible for the delay. My passport was hurriedly checked and then we were asked to rush to the gate, our bags in tow- it was too late to send the bags the usual way. I grabbed one and an airline staff took the other and the whole entourage began to run. There was tremendous tension, compounded by the language barrier, and none of us were having a good time. There was certainly no sympathy for us, even though we were the real victims here.

Suddenly I noticed mom slowing down. She was breathing heavily and I could hear her say "hai, hai" with every breath. Her face looked very pained. I was very alarmed. I offered to take her hand bag and hold her hand, but she refused and muttered something. By now, I was freaking out. Was mom having a heart attack? Should we stop? Should we forget about this darn flight and let her rest? Before I could panic fully, I heard her say to me under her breath "There's nothing wrong. Keep going."

By now, the airline staff had paid notice to this old woman, who seemed very tired from all the running. They all slowed down a bit and their expressions softened. The tension and passive anger that was so palpable a few minutes earlier dissipated. By the time we arrived at the gate, there were some smiles too.

Once inside the plane, still concerned about mom, I asked her if she was feeling better. She laughed and said it was all a pretence. When I looked puzzled, she pointed out the change in the attitude of the staff after she "became" tired.

Only then did I get it. Her "acting" her age had brought out the human instinct of care that most people have for the elderly and the very young. While it didn't get us any tangible help from anyone, it changed the entire atmosphere from one of hostility to that of sympathy. Smart no?

While she doesn't look or behave like your typical 72 (or 73) year old, she certainly hasn't missed out on the wisdom of those years!


  1. good it brought back the whole picture which was wiped out of my memory.How do you know which part was actual acting?I act most of the time ha ha.

  2. What mom!!! Now you are scaring me!