Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter of Lonliness

    “How incessant and great are the ills with which a prolonged old age is replete.” C.S.Lewis

Well, briefly visiting people- people who one may have known, some not met before, some distant relatives and some social acquaintances. All this, the result of a social exercise that one have to set about, however dismal some of those brief visits and social encounters are. Honestly it is a thankless endeavor, having to call at houses you never wanted to, bare your teeth in a muscular exercise called smile - to draw back your parched lips and grimace baring the frontal teeth to some you may not even want to notice on the road; some trivial, some petty, some haughty, some charming, some stoic about life- theirs and your and some gracious for your remembering them.

A few of them would be eager to annoy with their seemingly innocent but tactless, rude and misplaced enquiries, about something that one  wanted to let behind and  be forgotten; then when they notice a slight trace of discomfort in you they hammer in the nail with a wry smile- what can be called specious empathy. Smile inside with a brutally sadistic comfort before seeing you off.

Sometimes, how one wishes that one need not have to talk. Often it is pleasurable to not speak, to be quite, silent, in a mute existence!

I have been on social calls for the past few weeks necessitated by a forthcoming wedding in the family. So when entrusted with the uncomfortable job of going to homes and inviting folks there is nothing much one can do besides accepting the hazards of the exercise.

Brushing aside the forgettable invitees, I was troubled to see a gentleman who I have known since I was little-seen him in his prime and always compared him with the most handsome men in the tinsel world. A man who is a doctor by profession and whose family had close family ties with my maternal grandfather. I remember often visiting his well-known clinic when I was little and also even in my teens. They were wealthy physicians over three generations and were respected and well-known.

Old age- when money, social positions and nothing else matter; it catches up on you swiftly that you realise that you are handicapped even before you bated an eyelid. . He is in his mid-seventies and was widowed some years ago. That I have known devastated him. 

The loneliness of old age! It must be the matter of the desperation of the mind over what ails the body was what I guess I saw in his face – a man, physically a shadow of what he was. But he was alert and cocooned up in his bedroom watching the cricket Test live. A walking aid was kept next to him. In the course of our brief conversation he spoke about his fascination for cricket, asked me if I played. He enquired about everyone, though sometimes he was unsure. He stood up while I was leaving and with folded hands thanked for remembering him.

When I was driving back from his house, I wondered how many among the rest I met over the past days would ever stand for a moment and think of the fragility of life, of the ephemeral youth, our helplessness in between the brazen existence we often display.


Shilpa Garg said...

Loneliness especially in the old age can be very painful, as the pain of the mind is greater than the pain of the body!
Aah... the pain of meeting some acquaintances and distant relatives is no less!

KParthasarathi said...

On the social visits to invite people whom you never meet except in weddings I admit they are always not pleasant.Luckily these days personal visits have been given the go by except to very close relatives and invitations alone are sent.Courtesy and learning to converse pleasantly do not come by to all.

Not for everyone old age and loss of spouse is a cause for loneliness unless made immobile or vision rendered dim.I could relate to the old doctor except that I am busy always.

Happy Kitten said...

That was a bleak post, gently reminding that some of us may reach this age some time in the future. Only the condition of the same is unknown. Will good health alone banish loneliness? Not for sure I think.

As for meeting relatives, it becomes harder as one ages.

anilkurup said...

@ SG
Yes indeed both subjects you mentioned are pretty awfully painful.


Yes I agree with your last sentence.
I was wondering about the awfulness of old age when one is not financially independent and sound, at the same time bothered by ill health. Well there is o need to be thinking much. But old age without adequate health care is painful.

As for the social visits , it sucks.

@ Happy Kitten.,

Yes bleak . I was also thinking of the French Movie " Amour" and all put together unless one is fortunate the butt end of life is scary.

NRIGirl said...

I have a soft corner for the aged. Most my church friends are old. I make it a point to say hello and hug them every Sunday. Israel often makes fun of me when I am invited to their gatherings.

But then they shower me with so much love, it is hard for me to ignore them. The happiness you see in their faces when you pay them attention and care to sit down and chat with them, walk with them, compliment them, inquire of them, surpasses all else.

To think of us becoming old though is scary; becoming lonely is even scarier...

Rama Ananth said...

I can understand what old age means. I have my father who is also a widower, 20 years has gone by living without his life partner. They were married for 49 years.
As soon as my mother passed away, he lost weight, although he was eating alright. The mental emptiness is unbearable, more than her physical absence.
He has always kept himself very busy and active, and being a pharmacist, knows well to look after his health.
He has money, he has his son with him yet he is not fully happy, and is just waiting for the battery of his life to expire, he is 92.
Then there is my MIL, who is 85 and is quite fit, though a fall she had 2 years back has left her little frightened to venture out on her own. She too is waiting for her time to get over.
I think we were better off before, when our grandparents all left before they were even 60, but now we have more old people living, with the help of modern medicines.
My wish is to die off by 65, for there is no point in continuing when i have already done everything and experienced everything in my life. I only hope things work out as I desire.

Renu said...

Old age is always scary.but that also depends how old...what really scares me is going beyond 85 or 90 when your children are also senior citizens and you become a liability everywhere...

Ashwini C N said...

It's sad to see elders and senior citizens spending their days alone without any company. As much as we have things to divert our attention and to pass time, nothing can come close to the support that human beings can offer. Pains a lot to see them living all alone.

BK Chowla, said...

Come month of August,it is the beginning of the festive season.Thats the time one has to willingly or otherwise meet the ones one isn't quite comfortable with.
And for loneliness ,one hopes not even your enemy is faced with such situation.Its terrible

Tracy Terry said...

I often think how undervalued the elderly are. Often a font of information, its a shame that so many feel so lonely and isolated when they have so much to offer.

Anupama K. Mazumder said...

At midlife, there are times when I feel isolated from those younger than me. I am scared to think what would happen to me when I am old.

Happy New Year!!

anilkurup said...

@ Anupama.K.Mazumder,

Thanks you for stopping by.
Yes indeed old age is quite scary, we can't tell what would be in store. It is not a pessimistic outlook but matter of fact.

anilkurup said...

@ Anupama.K.Mazumder,

Thanks you for stopping by.
Yes indeed old age is quite scary, we can't tell what would be in store. It is not a pessimistic outlook but matter of fact.

Anupama K. Mazumder said...

Yes Anil, I couldn't agree more. Especially when we cannot relate to the following generations - next and the one following it.

Musings said...

Anupama K. Mazumder

Yes I agree,

Insignia said...

Relatives! I avoid like a plague. Some of them are good but I have developed an aversion. It gets tough when there are situations as these when you got to meet them, be formal and observe all those practices

Old age - scary. What will become of me. Will I be lonely? Will I be decently healthy? I think if only people thought about their old age; they would turn out to be more humane than what they are

Usha Menon said...

Anil I am quite amused after reading comments of most of the bloggers.People feel that old age scary.It is not so. I am now 78. I am respected by my family and friends. I think I must write a blog about growing old gracefully.

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia,
B, the comment of Ms Usha Menon is positive when we have been rather wary.I guess she is one of the fortunate ones. When ill health rules over you, it is a pretty awful time this old age .
As for the relatives I endorse your view,. They are all ( most of them ) shallow and it shows glaringly when you are against the wall.
As for the gentleman in my story, he sent a pleasant Wedding card to my niece along with a gift , cheque for a decent sum and a note to my sister and b-inlaw. Thanking us for remembering him and that old age makes it tough on him to be present at the function.
I suggested that the cheque be framed as a souvenir.

@ Usham Menon,

Indeed you are among the fortunate ones.
I was thinking in general terms.

Tracy Terry said...

Stopping by to say hello.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Old age is a particularly difficult period of time. We fall ill and become pale shadows of what we once were. But the worst thing about being old is the loneliness that it brings about. Most of our contemporaries may have already "boarded the train" so to say.
About social calls, all I can say is that it is a chore that we bring upon ourselves because we live in this society!

rudraprayaga said...

Young age slowly steps into old age which some paint with desperation and some others with vitality accepting the fact.Anyway a nice go here.