Living within a budget

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Dear friends, most of you are too young or inexperienced to be aware of some harsh realities of life. Maybe you have no knowledge of the difficulties your parents must be facing. In the times of the ever rising inflation we are living in, it is becoming harder and harder for most people to make both ends meet.

Running a home comfortably, ensuring that the requirements of all family members are fulfilled to their satisfaction, providing quality education to their children and striving to save some amount for the rainy day, is becoming a daunting task for your parents.

Has it ever occurred to you that there are many different ways in which you can help your parents out to handle the expenses better. Here are some tips which could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

Be realistic in your demands

Often children pester their parents with unnecessary demands, asking for things which they can easily do without. There is no need to change the school bag every year, get a new dress for an upcoming wedding or buy a gadget a friend had recently got.

Eating out is often expensive and you can refrain from pressuring your parents to take you out for dinner every weekend. A few hours spent in a park or by the seaside (with some homemade snacks) can be more relaxing and entertaining.

Most children ask for or do things out of peer pressure. You don’t have to do what others are doing or have what others have. You shouldn’t follow the crowd or the fad, follow your family’s instructions and be mindful of their priorities.

Learn to understand your parents’ financial situation and limitations and do not ask for things which may prove to be an extra burden on their budget.

Differentiate between needs and wants

Often we cannot draw a clear line between what we want and what we really need. You may want a new pair of jeans or joggers, but you may not actually need them. You may be asking your parents for a new rug or wall hanging for your room, but if you think rationally, the old one is good enough!

These are things that we ‘want’ but we don’t really ‘need’. So if we don’t have these things, it really will not make a difference to who we are as a person, but getting them can mean that parents have to spend the money that could have been spent on a household need or saved for the future for us.

Cutting down on your wants will go a long way in releasing the pressure on the family budget. Never buy anything in a hurry. When the urge to get something new hits you, take some time to think. And ask yourself these questions before insisting on getting something new: “Do I really need this”, “Can I do without it” or “Is there an alternate already at home”.

Shop wisely

When you do need to buy something, especially if it is expensive, spend some time in searching for it in different shops and you are sure to find cheaper options for the things you need. Some shopping centres, specially the fashionable malls, are more expensive and you can get the same things from other markets at much cheaper rates. Don’t feel shy to ask around, and always try to get a good deal for the things you need to buy.

There are also factory outlets of different products and brands, where some products and designs are sold at discounted rates. There are also wholesale markets of most things where you can buy things at wholesale rates, that are much lower than the retail prices of the same products.

All of us like to use branded stuff, but often we can get nearly the same quality in other brands in much cheaper rates. And if you really want to buy expensive brands, wait for their sales when you can get your required things at a reduced price. If you plan your shopping well in advance, you can always get the things you need at cheaper rates.

Be both penny and pound wise!

Only because a burger/pizza jaunt or a famous garment outlet is offering a “buy one get one free” deal, you needn’t rush to it. The shops are charging enough from the sale of one to give the other free to customers. Remember that you have to pay for one and even that can be an extra burden for the family budget.

Soft drinks slash their prices many times a year, this doesn’t mean that you must have them on the table all the time when the prices are down! These deals and advertisments misguide us into thinking that we are saving money when buying something, while actually you are being lured into spending unnecessarily!

Also remember that home-cooked food, plus homemade lemonade is always a better, healthier and cheaper option. The same rule applies for school lunch. Snacks made by mummy are always much better, healthier and cheaper than what you can buy at the school canteen.

Help out wherever you can

Be sure to switch off the lights and fans, when you are leaving the room. Keeping the television on the stand-by mode is unnecessary and it increases the electric bill.

If you help out a younger sibling in subjects he/she is weak in, your parents will not need to acquire extra help for them. This will be supportive as they will not have to pay expensive tuition fees which are always an extra load on the budget.

If you press your own clothes, make your beds in the morning, polish your shoes, assist mummy in laying and clearing up the table, you can help her in cutting down on the household help she employs. These small tips will prove to be both financial and physical relief for your parents.

Learn to save

Learning the habit to save money early on in life will go a long way in helping you in the later years. Small amounts you save from your pocket money, or the cash gifts you get on your birthdays and Eid, or even the loose change you throw about carelessly, can build up into a considerable amount. You can use this money to get things you may need without burdening your parents.

Be happy with little

The key to a happy life is contentment. Once you learn to be satisfied with the best your parents can afford, you and your parents will both feel happier and satisfied. Competing for material things with your friends or classmates will only enter you into a rat race which has no ending. And the end result of this race is frustration and problems for your parents and later on for yourself when you grow up and start earning.

Be grateful for what your parents can provide instead of grumbling about what they can’t! Leading a simple lifestyle and curtailing your wants will make you happier. Remember, every advertisement is just a ploy to make us spend our hard-earned money on something we don’t really need. Even the latest and most expensive thing and gadget can only give you pleasure, not happiness.

Over the years when you look back at your childhood days, you will be surprised at how these simple tips made life easier, happier and more relaxed, both for you and your parents!

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 19th, 2015

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From Six to Sixty-Five!

SunriseI have only recently turned 65, and in reflective moments, feel a bit amused when I remember the times reaching sixties, or for that matter, even 40s or 50s seemed a far cry for me! I distinctly remember the day when a distant uncle tried to apply his newly learnt palmistry on reading what the lines on my little palms were predicting! Cupping my palm in his hands, he peered down at it intently for quite some time; then shaking his head sadly declared in a solemn voice, “Yasmin, your age line shows that you do not have a long life. I fear you may not be even able to cross thirty.” “How insensitive of him!” I often think now, but at age six, dying at thirty years seemed too far off to worry (or depress) me and I just wanted him to leave my hand so that I could go back to play with my elder twin sisters.

But my uncle’s prediction lingered in my subconscious until I had crossed forty and learnt to scoff at it. At every illness big or small, I would tell myself, “This is it. My end has come!”  But by the grace of The Almighty, at 65 I am still around and also not in a too bad shape. Life is still worth living and there is yet a lot to look forward to. To be honest, I do not feel old inspite of my years. Even now I am thrilled when it rains suddenly, enjoy the morning breeze, love the fragrance of flowers and still feel enchanted by the bright light of the full moon. Surprise gifts and a compliment on my writings (and yes, looks also) still bring a rush of adrelin! I love to go out and visits from friends and relatives and above all my daughter and grandchildren are always exciting.

As I look back on my life, I have a lot to reminiscence about. Having a secure childhood with very caring parents and loving siblings, the early years of my life form a valuable part of my chest of memories! Married at a rather young age, my prime years were the hectic ones when I was busy raising up my children. I am thankful that I had a life long enough to sit back and reflect on the past years, congratulate myself on the areas I feel I have been successful and admonish myself on where I have made mistakes, or could have done better. Life is always full of Ifs and Buts! But I am lucky that I have no regrets or resentments. Living in a joint family system with my married sons is a great blessing for me. With all my children happily settled in their lives and having families of their own, the focus of my attention has shifted from them to my grand children. I hope I live to see them achieving their goals and fulfilling their parents’ dreams!

I have had my share of adversities but with the passage of time and the wisdom only years can bring, I have realized that they come with the package of the roller coaster ride we all call Life! In the bumpy road of the years I have lived, I have learnt a lot of lessons, some sweet, some bitter! But I have refused to be disillusioned by these lessons. I have also had my share of successes and failures!  Successes have encouraged me to strive for even better results, while failures have taught me to struggle with more vigour. The perfectionist in me is never satisfied and I am always my own best critic!

At age 65, I have more to look back at, than to look forward to! Life is drawing to its natural end! But there is a wish list which keeps getting longer by the day! I want to note down these wishes and checkout on how many of these are shared by my readers!

I wish that I am never a burden for my children, physically or financially. Not hampered by diseases old age brings, I wish to remain active and self sufficient till the end comes.

I wish that my children pass on to my grandchildren the religious, social and cultural values I have tried to instill in them. I have always taught them “To live and Let Live.” I wish that my children and grandchildren cherish the legacy of love I have strived hard to pass on to them!  I wish (and pray) that they remain a closely knit family and always be out there for each other, in good times and God Forbid bad!

With my eldest granddaughter beginning her medical university this year, and the younger ones still to begin school, I wish that my grandchildren attain success both in their academic and personal lives. I have high dream for them and I wish to live long enough to see at least some of them fulfilled. 

 I wish that, when the time comes to go, I accept death serenely and am at peace with myself. I wish I die a content woman who does not want to cling on to life unnecessarily.  I just want to move on to another world, which I pray and fervently hope, would be better than this one!

I wish to die peacefully at home, in my bed and with my children around me. No heroics for me, no rushing to the hospital and unnecessary (and painful) medical procedures. I wish my children let go with acceptance that there is an end to every being in this world. I wish that they accept my loss with grace and with no prolonged mourning after I have left. By God’s mercy, I have lived a full life and always struggled to keep my children happy. In death also, I wish that they are not saddened!

I wish to be remembered with love, tenderness and respect! I wish that my memories bring a smile to the faces but also a faint mist to the eyes of my family members and friends! I wish that even when I am around no more, I continue to live in the hearts of those I love so dearly!

Yasmin Elahi

24-3-13
I posted this blog last year, but the situation and my feelings have not changed! Frenzy about branded lawn is on the rise and new designers are mushrooming to make the most of this mindset! What if political instability, religious intolerance, inflation, illiteracy, crime and uncertainty is on the rise! Who cares for it as long as I can pay for what I want and whenever I want it. Whether I need it or not is another question, to be ignored and brushed under the carpet!

The lawn season is on! To be more accurate it was on even when we were still braving icy winds from Siberia and pulling closer our woollies to stay warm! The designers were racing each other to be the first to launch their lawns and exhibitions were being held on prestigious venues as early as in February! The city was painted blue, green…

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Hypocrisy: The pretending game….A slightly edited version of an article published in The Review (Dawn In-Paper Magazine).

I was reading a book around mid-afternoon, a daily ritual I perform before my afternoon siesta, when my seven-year-old grandson came and announced, “Nafisa Auntie’s call for you Amma”. Oh no, I groaned inwardly! Always at draggers drawn with her daughter-in-law, my friend often calls with her (new) list of complaints. And I am forced to listen to her rants, although I am least interested, plus I do not have such a bad opinion of the poor girl! But I do not have the courage to give my views to my old friend, as I do not want to annoy her.

 

The book was getting interesting and I was in no mood to be disturbed, so I told the little one to tell Nafisa that Dadi is sleeping. “But you are not sleeping Amma!” Looking a bit confused, he reminded me innocently, “You always tell me that I should never tell a lie”. “Run away and do as you are told. I don’t need your sermon,” I scolded him. He left the room, but not before giving me a reproachful look. I returned to my book without having the slightest idea that I had given my little grandson his first lesson in hypocrisy.

 

How many of us go through similar experiences in our day-to-day life? Majority of us are hypocrites as we love to preach what we ourselves seldom practice, conveniently molding our rules and principles to suit our moods and whims (and sometimes convenience).

A hypocrite can be defined as a person who pretends to have virtues, principles or moral believes which he does not actually possess. He is also a person who feigns desirable attitude when in company, although this behaviour does not conform with his true personality. According to Bertrand Russell, “We have two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.”

So, what is the real cause of hypocrisy? For me, the most important reason is the fear of disapproval of the people with whom I interact in my day-to-day life. I am scared that my true feelings may annoy or hurt them, or have a lower opinion of me than what I would like them to have! So, I take refuge under the cloak of hypocrisy. Also, as I am so obsessed with myself, I usually do not think that something is wrong if a nice person like me is doing it. At times, I lie so sincerely, I cease to perceive my deception, forgetting that I am not deceiving people but only myself. Although, according to Socrates, “The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be”.

Let me explain. I go to the wedding of an acquaintance’s daughter and after greeting and congratulating my hostess I exclaim, “Wow! Salma, you look so beautiful in this maroon dress. One would never guess you are the bride’s mother”. Salma blushes as she guides me to a seat and moves away. “What a terrible colour to wear, looks so loud for her age!” I whisper to a common friend sitting next to me. “But you were complimenting her for her dress just a moment ago.” She looks surprised. “Do you know she is the principal of my grand- daughter’s school? I can’t take the risk of annoying her,” I reply with a smug smile.

Umar Adil, a young businessman, believes, “Hypocrisy has become a second nature to most of us. In today’s world what matters to us the most is what other people think of us. Even our opinion about ourselves is based on those views. I am a real man living in a real world and trying to prove myself. Yes, naturally I am a hypocrite. What I say and preach is rarely based on what I practice and most of the time I do this to create a cool impression. The remedy to this issue is accomplishment. Once you prove yourself a successful person, you find your actions speak better than the hollow sermons you never tire of giving. I know I can get over my hypocrisy (i.e. if I want to do so), but the time is not ripe for it yet!”

Freelance writer and journalist Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam gives her views, “Hypocrisy, to me, is a form of lying. Unfortunately, we all end up indulging in it as there are contradictions in our personalities, our lifestyles and our beliefs. We often portray ourselves to be something that we are not. I think true liberation comes with being one’s true self under all circumstances. People who don’t accept us the way we are don’t deserve to be in our life.” When asked if she is a hypocrite, she replies with a smile, “This question actually teaches me to be less judgmental. Commenting on others’ actions should be avoided, as at times we may end up doing the same thing in similar circumstances”.

I know many people who can be called hypocrites, but I have never been able to muster enough courage to tell them so, as I myself am a hypocrite. There are times when I really feel ashamed of my hypocrisy and wonder what measures I can take to minimize it. Maybe this can be achieved by trying my best to always do and say what I believe to be right and not changing my values to justify my actions. On other self-righteous moments, I overcome my guilt by reminding myself that I am an honest hypocrite and unlike most people, have the courage to admit my weaknesses.

Heart-to-heart: AN OPEN LETTER TO MY SON (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/7013

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My dearest son,
I am sure you will be surprised on receiving this letter from me, as we live under the same roof, talk everyday and everything that I am writing now could have been said directly to you. But my dearest, I want you to know that often we talk without being able to truly communicate! There are so many things that I would like to tell you, discuss with you, advice you on but somehow whenever I try, the words simply don`t come out as strong as my feelings. So, I thought about writing to you.

You look very depressed these days, and I can sense frustration in your behaviour. You are no more my sweet tempered boy who was always bubbling with life, but tend to be irritable and get angry at the slightest pretext. Please read this letter carefully, and that too many times, and let my advice sink in. I know that your dreams have not been realized yet, your expectations of what your life will be after you finish your education, have not been fulfilled to your satisfaction. But I want to ask you, will anger and depression help you in any way? You know very well that life has never been smooth sailing for me, but I never gave in to self pity or frustration. Instead I tried to handle my problems turn by turn and I am fairly content with the results.

The problem with your generation is that you do not have patience. You want to step on the first rung of the ladder to success and want your second step to be on the top! I say “Give life your best efforts and be content with what life gives you in return”. You may not reach your goal, but you should have the satisfaction that you tried your best. Remember that life is not a trade… a business in which success means more output than input! What appears to be a loss in a trade can prove to be a gain in life. If you keep your attitude positive, experiences will end up giving you wisdom and failures a new resolution to try again, work harder and never to give up!

As you may have heard umpteen times, an optimist sees a glass of water half full, while a pessimist calls it half empty! The amount of water is the same; it is the difference of attitude that matters. You want to give up although you have just stepped onto the road of life. I don`t want to shelter you any more; rather I would like you to experience life as it comes your way. I know that you will face both success and failures but I want each experience, good or bad, to make you stronger! So please be positive, keep on with your efforts and with the help of Allah you will be amazed by the results, for things will surely change for the better.

I want you to behave like an educated person, not merely one who has degrees and has gone through college and university, but a person who dares to dream, has the ability to think and accept the challenges of life without a blink of the eye. Though striving for a decent living is part of a healthy life, don`t make it the sole reason of your qualifications. The least we can do to justify our education is to strive to change (for the better) the things around us. Sometimes small changes are not even noticed by us; but believe me, these small changes can bring about revolutionary ones! Invisible drops of water make up clouds, but when these clouds burst into rain, every single drop counts.

I do not want you be to be a part of the crowd; people who complain, criticize and grumble at life`s problems and conveniently place the responsibility of their woes on someone else`s shoulders. I want you to be among the few who have the vision and the burning desire to change things for the better, are ready to take responsibility; people who face life`s adversities bravely, accept its challenges and work hard to reach their goals.

Success may be evading you at the moment but do not lose hope. Because without hope there is no yearning, no desire for a better tomorrow! Without hope, life comes to a standstill! So, snap out of your depression and keep on moving ahead with your head held high. And remember, I and my prayers are always here for you. Love you my son,

Forever yours,
Ammi

Attitudes: Insensitive sympathies…http://dawn.com/2011/12/18/attitudes-insensitive-sympathies/

Death has different ways of striking and carrying away the people we love dearly. Sometimes it comes on tip toes from behind, taking us by surprise, hitting like a tsunami, destroying our peace of mind and happiness in just a moment and leaving us agonised and dazed by the intensity of the pain it creates. And on others, we watch in despair and anguish the ebbing away of the tide of life from a cherished person, hoping against hope that some miracle would stop it from striking.

When it comes to the passing away of our loved ones, the sorrow it causes has the power to sweep off the feet (though momentarily) even those of us who are emotionally strong. Only time can heal the heartache we experience. But this is also the time when we expect and need maximum emotional support from friends and family, and more often than not they move in quickly to help us in our hour of grief. Their care and reassurance is valuable for us, as they help us overcome the initial pain and learn to live with the sense of loss.

It is strange that in spite of their sympathy and eagerness to help, well meaning friends often say or do things which instead of helping us, only hurt or irritate us, forcing us to withdraw into our cocoon of pain.

Rehana, a university student, whose father passed away recently, says, “Everyone who came for condolences thought it was his/her duty (or right) to embrace me and shed a few (even artificial) tears. Maybe they considered it an important norm of attending the funeral. What most of them did not realise is that I felt more irritated than consoled by the big hug, as I am not comfortable to physical touch. People should understand that sometimes saying a few kind words or just holding hands in silence can be more comforting than hollow words or acts”.

Nazia, who lost her husband a couple of years back shares her experience, “When the time came for my husband’s funeral casket to be lifted, I wanted to have some time alone with him, paying my last homage to a very caring husband and reliving memories of the happy times we had spent together. But sadly I was denied this by the eagerness of friends and relatives who gathered to have the last glimpse of him; a large number of people squeezed into the small room, not realising that those were very sensitive moments which I did not want to share with everyone. The grief and suffocation caused me to faint and when I came to, my husband was gone forever.”

There are times in life when pain engulfs our heart in such a way that we do not want to let it go and we feel that our grief will remain as intense throughout our lives. Any attempt to divert it only increases the pain. Asma and Zohair share the memories of the death of their first born. Zohair says, “Our son caught pneumonia when he was only three months old. We were devastated when he succumbed to its complications. Most of our relatives tried to console us by saying that eventually we will have more children and our heartache would subside. I felt angry and hurt and more miserable than consoled by these comments”. Asma asks sadly, “How could people expect us to forget our first love? After all, every child holds a special place in his parents’ heart. Years have passed and we have been blessed with two more children but the memories of our first child keep clinging to my heart and I still feel that a part of me died with him”.

Another mistake people often make is asking the bereaved not to weep. What else should be expected from someone who has lost a near and dear one? Unshed tears leave deep scars on the soul, scars which never heal; tears are nature’s way of healing pain and it is better to let them flow. Slowly they will subside because no matter how great the pain, no one can cry for ever.

Saying things like “I understand your pain”, “I have been through this”, “You will get over it with the passage of time” or “When so and so died…” only increases the heartache, because every sorrow is unique in its nature and everyone reacts differently to pain and mourning. In their hour of bereavement, people usually like to believe that for them, life will never be the same again. This is the last homage they are paying to the departed person they loved dearly. By speaking less, listening more and letting the grieved person pour his/her heart out, friends and relatives who come for condolences can make the bereaved feel that they understand and share the anguish and sense of loss.

 

SWEET SIXTY! (http://dawn.com/2011/10/09/sweet-sixty/)

It was my 60th birthday. The day went by as usual but in the evening as I stepped out of my room I was surprised to see my children and grand children excitedly gathering in the living room. They showered me with gifts, cards and flowers as I sat a bit dazed. Sixty years! That’s quite a long time to be around. When I retired to my room at night a sense of nostalgia seemed to seize my heart.

Although moved by the loving gesture of my family, I felt strangely sad for all the years that had flown by and the time that would never come back; for the loving faces that were once an integral part of my life but had long since left for their heavenly abode; for the opportunities in life which either did not come my way or were missed. So much water had passed under the bridge. Sad I definitely felt but thankfully there was no remorse, no wish to go back and do things all over again. I was content with my life and satisfied with whatever it had dished out to me.

As a child I would look up in awe at my 30 plus mother and wonder how old she must be feeling. At that time, 30 years seemed a far way off. But when I reached that age, I laughed at myself as I remembered my feelings for my mother because at 30 I felt young, strong and full of life. I realised that in her 30s, my Mom must have felt the same. Abhee tou mein jawan hoon… I would often hum to myself, but I strongly doubted whether I would manage to live to 60. Thirty more years felt too far away.

Years fly and life moves on! Here I am at 60 plus, in fairly good health except for normal age related problems like arthritis and insomnia. Living in an extended family with my married sons, I categorically refuse to take the golden hand shake, trying to remain as active as possible. Although each passing year does take its toll, I consider each day I can carry out my daily chores a blessing, each additional year a bonus. As Maurice Chevalier says, “A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world.”

What do women usually feel when they reach this landmark in life? Rehana sounded sad, “I spent the prime of my life working endless hours, giving tuitions to supplement my husband’s income, because we wanted to give quality education to our two sons. I looked forward to the time when my sons would get good jobs and I would sit back and relax. But all my dreams remained unfulfilled. My sons migrated abroad in search of greener pastures. Now that we are old, I and my husband feel lonely and let down. The sons come every two or three years with their families and send lots of money but can this make up for their absence in our day to day life?”

Shireen has other complaints, “After retirement, I really miss the busy days when there was so much to do. Trying to create a perfect balance between my job, children, household chores and personal life, I often thought 24 hours were not enough for a day. Now I sometimes don’t know how to spend my time. Praying, reading and gardening are some of the activities that keep me busy — things I had always wanted to do but never had enough time for. Maybe this is one of the advantages of being old.”

Reema sounded very practical. “At this age there is so much to look back on, but not much to look forward to. With advancing years, I expect a far less active life, failing health and the inevitable end. But I have a rich past and feel that I have led a full life; so when the end comes I shall be content to slip away peacefully. I do not regret my life and believe that it is a privilege to have lived all these years.”

When asked, a relatively young friend said with a naughty smile, “I have yet to reach 60 to understand what you are feeling but it reminds me of my father who lived to be 80 plus. Whenever anyone asked his age he would always say, ‘I am 50/ 60/ 70 years young’. He never used the word ‘old’ for himself and he died young at heart.”

I totally agree with this frame of mind. With so much more to do, so many stones unturned and goals yet to achieve, I have no time to feel old, sick or at the end of life at 60. According to Sophia Lauren, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.

When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” The number of years I have lived do not matter. I shall only grow old when I desert my ideals!

SWEET SIXTY! (dawn.com/2011/10/09/sweet-sixty/)

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It was my 60th birthday. The day went by as usual but in the evening as I stepped out of my room I was surprised to see my children and grand children excitedly gathering in the living room. They showered me with gifts, cards and flowers as I sat a bit dazed. Sixty years! That’s quite a long time to be around. When I retired to my room at night a sense of nostalgia seemed to seize my heart.

Although moved by the loving gesture of my family, I felt strangely sad for all the years that had flown by and the time that would never come back; for the loving faces that were once an integral part of my life but had long since left for their heavenly abode; for the opportunities in life which either did not come my way or were missed. So much water had passed under the bridge. Sad I definitely felt but thankfully there was no remorse, no wish to go back and do things all over again. I was content with my life and satisfied with whatever it had dished out to me.

As a child I would look up in awe at my 30 plus mother and wonder how old she must be feeling. At that time, 30 years seemed a far way off. But when I reached that age, I laughed at myself as I remembered my feelings for my mother because at 30 I felt young, strong and full of life. I realised that in her 30s, my Mom must have felt the same. Abhee tou mein jawan hoon… I would often hum to myself, but I strongly doubted whether I would manage to live to 60. Thirty more years felt too far away.

Years fly and life moves on! Here I am at 60 plus, in fairly good health except for normal age related problems like arthritis and insomnia. Living in an extended family with my married sons, I categorically refuse to take the golden hand shake, trying to remain as active as possible. Although each passing year does take its toll, I consider each day I can carry out my daily chores a blessing, each additional year a bonus. As Maurice Chevalier says, “A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world.”

What do women usually feel when they reach this landmark in life? Rehana sounded sad, “I spent the prime of my life working endless hours, giving tuitions to supplement my husband’s income, because we wanted to give quality education to our two sons. I looked forward to the time when my sons would get good jobs and I would sit back and relax. But all my dreams remained unfulfilled. My sons migrated abroad in search of greener pastures. Now that we are old, I and my husband feel lonely and let down. The sons come every two or three years with their families and send lots of money but can this make up for their absence in our day to day life?”

Shireen has other complaints, “After retirement, I really miss the busy days when there was so much to do. Trying to create a perfect balance between my job, children, household chores and personal life, I often thought 24 hours were not enough for a day. Now I sometimes don’t know how to spend my time. Praying, reading and gardening are some of the activities that keep me busy — things I had always wanted to do but never had enough time for. Maybe this is one of the advantages of being old.”

Reema sounded very practical. “At this age there is so much to look back on, but not much to look forward to. With advancing years, I expect a far less active life, failing health and the inevitable end. But I have a rich past and feel that I have led a full life; so when the end comes I shall be content to slip away peacefully. I do not regret my life and believe that it is a privilege to have lived all these years.”

When asked, a relatively young friend said with a naughty smile, “I have yet to reach 60 to understand what you are feeling but it reminds me of my father who lived to be 80 plus. Whenever anyone asked his age he would always say, ‘I am 50/ 60/ 70 years young’. He never used the word ‘old’ for himself and he died young at heart.”

I totally agree with this frame of mind. With so much more to do, so many stones unturned and goals yet to achieve, I have no time to feel old, sick or at the end of life at 60. According to Sophia Lauren, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love.

When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” The number of years I have lived do not matter. I shall only grow old when I desert my ideals.