MIDWAY: They stoop to conquer

How do we talk to the elderly? Politely indeed, but a tad too loud, to make sure that they hear us. And we hinge on a tendentious rationale to do so.

We presuppose that with age their ‘hearing capacity’ should have gone kind of rusty. However, we could end up utterly mistaken in such pat judgments. Recently, I was hiking from Sankhu to Nagarkot. Which way to take for Nagarkot, I asked an elderly farmer, who, instead of answering my question, retorted: “Why are you speaking so loudly?” He sounded somewhat miffed. Keeping his age in mind, my pre-conceived notion had prompted me to pronounce my question somewhat loudly. Obviously, there was no need. Due apology made, I proceeded.

We tend to underestimate the old on a number of fronts: their eyesight, memory, physical strength, overall health, etc. For example, we are flabbergasted, pretty unnecessarily, if we see a 90-year-old poring over a newspaper without her spectacles, listening to an ipod without earphones or walking up some steep trail without sticks.

Regarding eyesight, I should tell you about the exotic plant of banrayo, whose efficacy for boosting eyesight seems to put to shame any scientifically proven value of modern medicines. A tale goes: Once an elderly couple was sitting atop a mountain while, miles away down the valley, the wife saw something bright and showed it to her husband. Oh, someone dropped a needle, says the hubby. The wife rejoins: No, someone threw it away, its eye is broken. Lo and behold. The couple lived on banrayo!

What about washing and bathing in chilly Kathmandu? While I moon around waiting for the solar heaters to warm the water, my grandma in her eighties takes freezing showers at 5 in the morning. Good grief!

Life expectancy of the people is increasing by the day. The oldest person on earth died some months back at the age of 122. PM

G P Koirala even in his eighties wears a millstone around his neck. A seventy-year-old has scaled Mt. Everest. And Michelangelo, at 87, said: “I am still learning!” And today, we sometimes hear about people in their seventies and eighties falling in love. I salute all these elderly yet active lot paddling their own canoe in the bobbing ocean of life. Bravo!