They are free spirited and flamboyant, they wear their hearts on their sleeves and live life with an energy that’ll put many hot-blooded youth to shame. They are whom we’ve tagged as senior citizens, as ‘retired’ from life. Just when we assume that the sun of their lives is on its way down, they rise up to shine so bright that youngsters only witness it, astounded. In the ripe years of their lives, they are looking at new career avenues, taking up hobbies they had overlooked for years and doing their bit for the society as well. They are the alpha individuals, living as if there is no tomorrow. On the occasion of Senior Citizen’s Day that is just aorund the corner (Oct 1), let’s celebrate these young hearts!
We talked to a few such individuals who just refuse to slow down with their age and lead their lives with the same zest and vigour that helped them sail through many ups and downs so far.
Such a long journey
Former sportswomen Arnawaz Damania, 70, sounds so feisty that you stop to wonder if it’s a young girl you are talking to. She says, “Right now, I feel on top of this world. When I look back at the way I’ve spent my life I feel content. It’s a life well spent. The most important thing according to me is to be happy and live well. The young blood says ‘go go go’ but when you age, you start seeing things in a different light.” The attitude is positive and the experience wholesome. As Bharti Vadgama, 58, puts it, “I’m satisfied with all the efforts I’ve made in life till now. I have lived my life fully. I don’t think much about the past as it is bygone and I don’t even fuss over my future. We are humans and we do commit mistakes in life. The important thing is to maintain the optimism all the while.”
Vadgama, currently an intern with a hospital in the city, also has a story to tell that can very easily be turned into an inspirational read. She narrates, “When I was 16, I wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t pursue it because of some problems. So now, after retiring from a teaching job, I took up a hospital management course and now I’m interning for the same.” Vadgama has students younger than her own kids as her classmates and they see her as a guide, while the faculty treats her like a welcome link between the students and teachers.
Dr Rajendra Nandedkar from Indore, 62, retired from his job some time back. He then decided to take things easy and relax at home. But after a year, he realised that he was simply wasting his time and was losing touch with all he’d learnt over the years. He says, “I felt rusted. That’s when I joined a private college called IPS Academy as a lecturer. It’s payback time and I’m doing my bit for society. That the students don’t come to attend lectures is a different story,” he jokes.
It’s a win-win game!
With an upbeat attitude that is coupled with better judgment, the so-called oldies certainly seem to have an edge over the younger generation. Interestingly, the people on the other side of 60 are more willing to take risks than before. In fact, Lallan Pandey, 65, President, Jai Hind Projects Limited, Ahmedabad believes that everybody should take risks, regardless of the age factor. “It’s symbolic of the fact that you are alive. If you know in your heart that you’ve done no harm to anybody, it’ll bring courage to take risks. This ability comes from integrity and has got nothing to do with age,” he opines. Vinay Mohanlal Mundada, 63, has retired from the post of an advisor to Force Motors Limited and is game for taking risks too. According to him, it’s a way of life. “Taking risks is inherent. The appetite to achieve is still there. The risks are more reasonable though,” he states. He backs it up with his own example. He says, “I’ve been dealing with auto industry for 40 years now. I’ve been a staunch advocate of the right technology and we at Force Motors came up with minidor vehicles, and it was the first time that the vehicles were made locally. The confidence that comes from these things gives you the strength to venture into new things.”
Dr Nandedkar adds a whole new dimension to the idea of taking risks. He says, “I like taking risks. My opinion is that it’s about trying to see feasibility rather than possibility in situations. So that’s what I try to do now.”
Vidhubhushan Dixit, who is pushing 60, is gearing for his retirement from the post of a Sales Tax Officer in Allahabad. But his tryst with activity is not over yet. It’s apparent when he says, “I can risk more and risk freely. There are no responsibilities now and no fear.”
Raring to go
Setting goals and targets is one of the many things the ‘young at heart’ senior citizens never cease to do. And the kinds of goals they have are so varied, yet thoughtful that it amazes one and all. Take for instance, Damania. At 70, she is heading an NGO called Connecting that works towards prevention of growing cases of suicide among youth. Says she, “At the NGO, we even have youngsters helping us out.” Vadgama also comes up with her exhaustive list. She enumerates, “After I retired as a teacher, I worked from home selling handicrafts to NGO stores. Now I plan to take up a job in a hospital after my internship is over. If a job doesn’t happen, then I’ll volunteer.”
Meenu Chawdhary, 68, is an Economics major based in Assam and has worked alongside her husband in the family business. Currently the lady is a member of the Juvenile Justice court there. “There’s still so much to do. We’ve been having meetings regarding the cases of drunken driving in the region. I myself have requested the CM to stop opening wine shops in Assam, but to no avail. Then, there is also an alarming increase in dowry deaths in the state, which is sad considering the fact that dowry system was never a part of the Assamese culture. I feel your prosperity and development are of no use if you can’t bring 10 other people with you. So I intend to work in this regard,” she says.
Join in the celebration!
While the youth might find themselves complaining about ‘not being understood’ and the conflicts that arise from ‘generation gap’, there are many in the older lot who are ready to embrace the differences and accept changes that come with time. Sarita Wakalker, trustee, Indira Group of Institutes and a racing enthusiast is 70 years of age. She says, “Youngsters learn what they are taught at home. And I think, they are quite well-behaved. We should always stand by our kids at all times. And they should be given their due space because everyone is entitled to a free life.”
Some are also of the opinion that the attitude of youth towards old people is something that can’t be generalised. It depends on individuals, circumstances and the social milieu. Kumar Kiwalkar, 68, is the president of Non Residential Indians Parents’ Organisation. He says with his worldly wisdom, “It’s all about reciprocating. We should try not to become a hindrance in their way of growth and most importantly, should give advice only when asked for.”
But while they are ready to change with the times, there are some hesitations that the youth has to be considerate about. According to Mundada, older people do not rely on new technology like net banking and e-mails like the younger ones. He says, “This is one of the differences. We are still a little skeptical about technology.” With a little patience from both sides, the meeting point seems close enough.
So while our good old grannies and grandpas are busy enjoying and making the most of their lives, let’s all take a leaf or two out of their books, learn from their experience, share their enthusiasm and together say cheers to this wonderful thing called life!