Finally, it happened. I was in Standard VI. In the classroom, the blackboard looked hazy. I was unable to make out what the teacher wrote. I came home and announced, with dignity and pride, that I was now eligible for a pair of spectacles. The next day, my father took me to the ophthalmic doctor, who meticulously examined me and instructed me to read ABCD with various lenses on, asking me which of the lot provided the clearest vision. Finally, I gave my valued opinion, at which he laughed, took the frame out and passed two fingers where the lens should have been, to confirm my worst fears — I had no eye problem. My dream of walking to the school in stylish spectacles was shattered.
Spectacles and full pants were the fantasy for most of us at school because naked eyes and shorts made us feel like kids. At that age, we just wanted to grow up fast, whatever the means.
By the time I turned 42, my son told me that I was holding his comic book too far, when we read it together in bed. The ophthalmic doctor did the same ABCD test and wrote down the prescription for a pair of glasses. I reflexively asked: can I get contact lenses instead? Hair dye, contact lenses, loose shirts and Levis jeans at 45 are all directed at the same thing. Trying to look young, pretending that we have not grown up. Many of us got stuck for a couple of years at 39 before we had the guts to pronounce to the world that we are finally on the wrong side of 40.
When young, we desperately want to grow up and once we are there, we regret having grown up. At 85, my father does not care whether he grows old or looks young, whether people presume him to be 78 or 89; he is worried only about his grandchildren, one in college and the other finishing Standard X. While the grandfather is worried about their safety, the perturbed grandchildren say… “appoppa we have grown up, we are not children anymore.”
That's the paradox of life. The young want to grow up. The grown-ups want to remain young. The elderly are bothered about their grandchildren who, in turn, feel that they are being overcautious. At every step, we want to change our role. Why not take a pause, look around and just enjoy the present? Every stage in life has its pains, awards and surprises. Savour it now, it will never come back.
Enjoy the aroma of everyday coffee rather than waiting for that rare outing to an expensive candlelight dinner.
(The writer is Head, Department of Cardiology, PRS Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram. Email: email@example.com)