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  • Vishakha Mukherjee

The Deceiving Dust of Age



Every time I ask my grandmother from my dad's side how she is, it's always the same answer: How can I be good when I'm old? Negativity runs in my father's side of the family, so I barely bat an eyelash at her complaining. Yet, her words ring in my ears from time to time. Soon, I became terrified of aging; of how bones become aching, rickety sticks, of skin withering like an orange left in the sun and of leisure activities turning into Herculean tasks. To be honest, it sounded worse than death: to exist without truly living. My observations didn't help me either.


My grandpa from my mom's side was, to say the least, larger than life. He was a surgeon, artist, tabla (drum) player, writer and the most jovial man I've ever met. Sure he had a temper and was at times insensitive, but he had this infectious smile that could brighten a room and a jolly laugh that echoed in your soul. He loved to eat and every morning, he would have a five-course meal: peeled almonds, fruits, luchi (puffed flour balls), vegetables, yogurt and eggs. Tall and handsome. But that all changed when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. I remember how his frame sunk into himself, like a deflated balloon. His body wasn't the only thing that age and cancer took from him - it embittered him, resulting in his explosive mood swings. All the mouth-watering food he relished seemed revolting. He was the shadow of the jolly, merry man of my childhood. My grandpa was a fighter though he battled with cancer for three long years. And witnessing one of the liveliest men in my life crumble like that still haunts me.


I'm afraid of aging, of decaying while living. Insecure. It sends chills down my spine to think that I won’t be able to write anymore, do the things I once loved or eat what I want.

I live to eat. One of the things that horrify me about age is how there's no control-even while writing this article time is passing, my cells are dividing and I'm already an older person than when I started. And it scares me that I'm aging too fast, that I'm not living my life to the fullest. Unfortunately, I have grey hairs already at 19. It's in my genes, but I can't help but think “I'm getting old”.


I try to accomplish as much as I can by being kind to others, having fun, sculpting, painting (even though my art skills are worse than a toddler), writing, reading, singing when I'm in the mood, joining organizations that make a difference and signing petitions. We all have this oil, our youth, our potential, and I plan to use it to the fullest.


But, when I go through magazines and YouTube videos, I see that age doesn’t always necessarily equate to withering away. I see people starting restaurants, climbing mountains and pursuing music all while being in their sixties, seventies and eighties. Their grey hairs and wrinkles seem to be medals for living that long instead of signs of dust. Their age isn't an obstacle, but a challenge to tackle.


I still haven't fully processed the concept, since it's still deeply ingrained in me, but I'm trying to overcome it. It's difficult since the media loves to shove how we mostly live in our youths - most protagonists are children, teenagers, or in their twenties at most. And I think we need to accept that adventures and stories can start at the end, that we're all heroes despite our age.


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