My father once made a remarkable observation. ‘For ages I was told,’ he wryly said, ‘that I was too young for a lot of things….and then before I knew what, people started saying that I was too old. Whenever was I ever just the right age?’
I have had somewhat the same problem all my life. It has been aggravated by the fact that I am a teacher by profession, and I try to keep in touch with a lot of ex students, and so I am forced to watch little kids grow up (well, grow bigger, fatter, more conceited and uptight at least) all the time. It doesn’t help that I have a very long and acute memory, so that anyone’s current affectations clash violently with all the foolishness and vapidness of theirs that I vividly remember.
And it is a very strange and common disease that people are so sensitive about age. Class ten-ers will pooh pooh those in class five, a college goer will sniff at class ten-ers, those who have entered working and/or married life will sneer at college goers as ‘just kids’… and so it goes on. Funny they all assume that they themselves have grown much wiser and sharper in the few years that have passed since they were that age themselves, entirely and happily oblivious of the fact that most of them haven’t really matured one whit: they have merely blended with the crowd of the benighted, most of them, and after all, as I love to say, A fool when he grows old simply becomes an old fool!
‘Oh, but she’s so young’, I have heard people say in their twenties and in their fifties. When does a person stop being ‘too young’? Khushwant Singh died aged 99 only a few days ago, so he might easily have said that about me, right, me, at 51, after all I have learnt and seen and done lifelong, and 33 years of teaching? And what can you say of people who call my daughter ‘too young’ because they are ten-twelve years older, but forget how much older I am when they talk to me? Oh, and just by the way, they get mightily offended when I say I get the feeling that I am talking to a much more grown up person when I deal with my daughter than the likes of them…