Old age is the phase when people begin to develop imagined fears, phobias, or suspicions and then create their own private demons Some call it end of days! Others see it as a curse—a period of dependence—loss of independence, Yet others view it as aMoreOld age is the phase when people begin to develop imagined fears, phobias, or suspicions and then create their own private demons Some call it end of days!
Others see it as a curse—a period of dependence—loss of independence, Yet others view it as a time of reconciliation—making peace with one’s self—in mind and body! The title was jovial on the face of it, but was a well presented piece on the plight of the Old Fogies Colonel Mahip Chadha, author of GRIT GUTS and GALLANTRY, SOLJER SOLJER -has just concluded hs third book, which carries a very intriguing title called-GIN and LIME WHISKEY or WINE?According to him, the reason to write about the Old Fogies or retired veterans- emanated from the fact that this group had decided to get together to fight loneliness, and live a life of their own away from home and talk or joke about a common period of time, have discussions in which they could participate freely without fear.
At home, they were not sure whether their children understood the era, in which they had grown up in-when the rupee had value and values were different,respect was measured in a different denomination and the elders in a joint family spoke to their wives through their children, did not know the names of the little ones and never played with them because it was just not considered right!These Oldies had identical problems. These included—drifting away of the children to greener pastures, loss of a spouse at this juncture of life when the two needed each other the most, identical medical problems and of course huge properties to manage on their own and in some cases- children or relatives waiting in the wings to grab everything away from them like scavengers!
Other problems were the additional years amalgamated into their life due to better awareness, better drugs, sensible life style and also the urge to make the best of the twilight years!But, the body was being subjected to the vagaries of time and abuse—while the mind was also subjected to pressure and stress! This was coupled with the fact that Insurance companies did not want this additional risk factor, Finances were the basic issues, as well as the need to be provided regular medical attention.
Not all doctors were bad, but many were indulging in loot of the patients! Unnecessary tests were conducted and the patient fleeced without cause. The basic joke was never to come into the clutches of the khaki, black or the white uniform because these could heat up your life! Khaki referred to the police, black to the lawyers and white to the medical profession!Colonel Chadha has written about a group of pensioners in the senior bracket who have realized that they need to organize their lives, look after each other and assist them, because the remainder of their lives depended upon this!
What would have been a dreary narrative has been twisted into a racy adventure laced with romance, converted into a critical analysis of the ills facing the country and finally interspersed with a sojourn towards preparations to meet their Maker! The evening began with something sensational like an expected hike in the DA or daily allowance- to the Sixth Pay Commission and anomalies which affected them—to the new medicines which had entered the market or had been sent or brought by their children from abroad- and finally why the government was not trying to understand that income tax must not be levied on their meager pensions-especially when medical expenses were so high and the Military Hospitals were unable to cope up with the hordes of pensioners who refused to die!Many had another problem—they had lost their spouses when they needed them most and they wandered about alone, also because their children were not with them to take care of them.
Some had run into a very different problem—their children had settled abroad and they wondered how they would live out their final days without moral and physical support. The thought of living in any alien land was very abhorrent to them and they preferred to breathe their last in the land of their birth. They also did not want to live out their last days living as glorified nannies or dignified governesses! Friends were therefore very essential.This commonality drew them together and when they heard news of one of their colleagues having departed –they wondered when and in what manner their turn would come.
They rallied together at the house of their colleagues, to buck them up, if he or she sustained an injury or had a mishap or a stroke.Old age was a terrible event-which heralded new nuisances like arthritis cataracts, heart problems, diabetes, weakness of the body structure, dependence on the walking stick and God forbid fractures of the hip or pelvic bones if one fell down in the toilet—fractures which refused to heal, no matter how much calcium you swallowed!
Yet the Old Fogies laughed at their follies of yesteryears, how they chased pretty girls, fought wars and went on difficult patrols in all the vagaries of climate and terrain! Believe you me—some of their stories could raise your hackles, for many of these gaunt old men had been heroes in their days and rarely does a hero talk about his exploits! He is too embarrassed to talk about his personal adventures. They were a separate entity—for they understood grief, happiness and isolation as well as loneliness better than anyone else!Their generation was unique-they had seen life in a composite India, go through World War II, to then live through the partition, have the privilege of seeing the British leave the country, brave the cultural shock of finding a job and a house in the battered new country at war with its twin-Pakistan.
Their generation saw Tarzan, Superman and Batman emerge through comics- and then lived to see them come alive on screen.This was a generation which saw a King abdicate his throne for his love, but did not subscribe to the advantages of love affairs! They felt that it was better to marry the person selected by one’s parents and then fall in love with one’s spouse than have a love affair leading to marriage!
God Bless them!The title came from the last line in the book—a triumph over loneliness.