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Blessings of white hair

Most people hesitate to let the world know their true age while their thinning white head of hair is fluffing about at the slightest whoosh of air. Possibly they aren’t aware of the unasked blessings conferred on senior citizens. Artificially coloured hair can make them look younger and more radiant, but they’re missing the blessings that their mop of white hair could confer on them.

My first dalliance with this benediction was at the Kuala Lumpur airport. We were tired and deadbeat after a long flight from Auckland. The transit time was short and we walked straight to board the connecting flight back home. The queue was long – the securitymen rummaged through the hand-baggage and frisked passengers. A middle-aged lady sat on a solitary chair placed alongside the queue.

My wife pulled ahead. The lady saw her but sat unmoved. Then her eyes fell on me as I inched closer. She got up instantly and offered me her chair. I thanked her profusely for her gracious concern. “I’m absolutely fine standing. Please be seated.” But she wouldn’t. My shock of white hair and beard was too much of an affront to let her sit!

But this wasn’t a one-off. On numerous occasions while checking-in, the girls at the counter would softly ask my wife edgeways if I needed a wheelchair! Sometimes when our checked baggage weighed a tad more, they would ask to lighten it and put the items in our cabin baggage. Once when I was unzipping the suitcase, the girl looked at my sciatic back as I crookedly bent on my knees, and said not to bother any more, and just checked me in!

Recently I dropped a book on my way. Before I could bend, a youngster had picked it up and handed it over to me with a smile. My experiences are well-rounded. In our building society office the man offered his lone chair to wait: How can I sit when you’re standing, you’re so much the elder! While pushing my nonagenarian mother around in a hospital wheel-chair, the chowkidar stopped me. “You’d be in your eighties, could I help?” In shops, gracious souls often make way for me amid the crowded rows of merchandise. White has the right of way!

The ECI too couldn’t play deaf, and offered old souls a way forward amid the milling crowd. To avoid the long queues we had decided to go early and reached the booth around 8 a.m. From a distance the cacophony of voices, the cars corralled on empty grounds beside the road, conveyed we’ll have to wait under the hot sun, getting hotter by the minute. In front of the polling centre serpentine queues snaked; voters sought shelter under tree canopies to escape the fiery sun.

Exasperatingly we sought our polling room. “You can go straightaway and vote, uncle,” a young voice chimed. “You’re senior citizens!” He would’ve espied me up close – the ruffle of white hair and my white beard magnifying my seniority was unmistakable! As we edged closer, the policemen too waved us in without a whimper. Within minutes we’re in and out of the booth. I was chuffed. How good and easy life is on this heaven on earth!

But I was over-living my senior moments: it was exhilarating! Within days I was down on Mother Earth with a thud!

The niggling pain in my knees and elbow had refused to ebb. Priyanka, my daughter, too had an issue with her back. I requested a friend in the hospital to fix appointments with the physiotherapist. On arrival, Priyanka went in first.

It was my turn next. The physio looked at me and said, “I was told only of one patient. I can’t see you!” His words were sharp. My mental breeze still eddying his surreal words, I entreated, “Could I wait till you’re through with your patients?”

“You can, but I can’t guarantee I can see you!” His words were brisk, his face wore no pity.

The physio had taken a good look at me during Priyanka’s consultation, even asked my age to emphasise a point he was making. He couldn’t have missed my pate’s offerings: a shock of bristly white hair.

I bit down my white-headed pride. The Mickey’s taken out of me! A new experience in the hospital that was a second home for me for the last dozen years to repair my sundry body parts!

Glacially slow now, my knees emitting elevated psychosomatic pains, I hobbled back home, medical and X-ray reports in hand. I knew I was (sinisterly) living in my self-constructed utopia. Little wonder the fuzzy whiteness on my fluffy hair-beard combo hadn’t worked its magic this time around!

sudhansumohanty56@gmail.com


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Printable version | Sep 11, 2021 7:15:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/blessings-of-white-hair/article27103959.ece

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