Ageing in the Corona Age

While I was entering the colony park, I saw Mr Gupta, an 80-year-old pensioner relaxing while sitting on the grass.

I said, “Namaste,” to him and mentioned the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. I then advised him to take extra care since he and his wife are senior citizens, and thus at a higher risk if they catch the virus.

“No, that’s not true,” he replied bluntly.

“Not senior citizens, but elderly people are at higher risk,” I said, with a little hesitation, “but both the terms are same.”

He replied, “No, they are not same, they are quite different terms. Tell me, what do you mean by ‘senior’?” he launched a quick question at me.

Without waiting for an answer, he said, “What makes you senior to your subordinates?”

I replied, “Perhaps, an amount of power that can be used…”

He intercepted, “No… No… it’s not power, power is not a virtue… It’s authority that makes you senior.”

I could feel my confidence ebbing to an all-time low, so I added, “Both are almost similar.”

In a loud voice, he said, “When power becomes legitimate, it becomes authority. So, there is a big difference.”

I shook my head in the affirmative, “Fine, agreed, but how is a senior citizen different from an elderly person?”

He smiled and said, “A senior citizen is an asset, while someone who is elderly is a liability. If your father gets a pension, or he has some TDRs in the bank, or he has property in his name, he is a senior citizen, otherwise, he is one of the numerous elderly people in the country. A senior citizen has some authority to enjoy a few relaxations. He can travel on concessional fare, can save more amount from tax bouncers. An elderly person adds things everyday, while a senior citizen removes things every day.”

Also read: ‘Feeling Suffocated’: Woes of the Elderly During Lockdown

I was getting riddled, so I asked, “Uncle, what is the relation of this argument with the risk of getting coronavirus?”

He took a deep breath and said, “I have completed 80 revolutions of the Sun. I sustained for 57 years with my wife happily. Actually, I have found the mantra to live safe. When she starts shouting, I always remain quiet. But when she remains quiet, I never shout. The same principle applies to coronavirus too. This is a life saving tactic that I am sharing with you, free of cost.”

Flabbergasted and wanting to just end the conversation, I said, “But you should take care of yourself and follow all the preventive measures.”

He said, “Well, son, I knew it many years ago.”

Astounded, I exclaimed, “Many years ago… this is a novel disease, just few months old.”

He became serious, “Yes, many years ago. I didn’t know about corona but I knew that many cases of eye strain have developed by looking at the bright side of things. I bought a colour TV in 1986. Our whole mohalla used to watch Ramayan on it. I used to tell the kids to maintain a safe distance from the screen. I used to wipe the screen once in a week with a tender cloth and never touched it intentionally with bare hands, because the sense of touch is an emotion, to be shared and understood only by living things such as humans or animals. We used to keep our contact with people intact, but established only limited relations with devices. But when these touch screens emerged and encroached the best emotion specially privileged for humans, I guessed that very soon, the time will come when humans would lose the relation of touch with one another.”

“So, you think that these touchscreen devices have brought corona?” I asked.

“No, not the devices,” he replied, “these devices are as abiotic as coronavirus, but when they get an opportunity to enter the system of an individual, they turn biotic, then hijack the human body to attain supremacy over human values. We have brought corona, rather created it. Now, the situation has gotten worse, so we think we will handle it if we develop a vaccine. Vaccine will handle COVID-19, but then there will be COVID-20, 21… Always remember, when you relinquish the desire to control your future, you can have more happiness.”

As I fidgeted indecisively over what to say, Mr Gupta suddenly stood up and started walking towards the entry gate. ‘Okay son, take care.”

Surya Prakash Nayak is a faculty member, Faculty of Communication Skills, Govt Polytechnic College, Nowgong, Madhya Pradesh.  

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