“Ma, it’s time! Let’s go.”
Ma hurried downstairs as I started the car. It was noon and we drove past rustling trees, the coconut seller, the morning market and a fleet of cars on the road. As the rays started gleaming, the logo of the company that my father worked at for 30 years came into sight.
Today was his final working day. This was a career that my parents had built and lived together – travelling thousands of miles from one part of the country to another, staying with people whom they had never met before, getting pickpocketed in a new city and missing a crowded bus.
The rollercoaster of this journey begins for me now.
After parking the car at the office, I looked at my mom for a second, getting out of the car with her purse clutched in her wrinkled hand. On that day, her wrinkled hands stood out as a testimony of her growing old, the hands that were once said to have resembled mine. As we entered dad’s office, I saw my dad hurriedly wrapping up his things from his room as his colleagues were waiting for him for the farewell programme to begin.
As I looked at my parents, I pondered over the many thoughts and feelings in my heart. My mind floated to Kamala Das’ words for her mother:
realised with pain
that she was as old as she
I looked at myself in the glass window in front of me and then looked at my dad, realising that he is as old as he looks – in his sixties, and also a ‘retired man’ now. Age flies along with time, but it is so surreal yet tangible. It was the subtle things that made me realise this – my father’s withered memory, who was once popular for remembering specific dates and times, my mother who could go to three different places in a day, can now just go to one.
On the contrary, I also see in them what Pablo Neruda aptly wrote:
I don’t believe in age.
All old people
in their eyes,
observe us with the
eyes of wise ancients.
Shall we measure
in metres or kilometres
That day of retirement poignantly ascertained that ageing is the most constant and preeminent thing that we tend to ignore. It’s the things that cross our eyes but not our thoughts, like the withered hands, being called grandparents, and the official recognition as senior citizens.
That day, dad and mom were felicitated with flowers. As my dad walked out of his office with his things, it made me reminisce about Das’ lines again: “Felt that old, familiar ache, my childhood’s fear.”
But I was proud to see how far they have come, all these 30 years of travelling to unknown places, bringing me up, my father reconsidering staying in the company, financial difficulties, perseverance through different familial challenges and then most importantly, their learnings through all of this whether financial, social, familial or cultural. And with this, they bid a happy adieu to this significant phase of their life.
Within this ageing, the agility of my parents reminds me of Neruda:
To the man, to the woman
who utilised their
energies, goodness, strength,
anger, love, tenderness,
to those who truly
Paramita Baishya is a freelance journalist and a student of AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.