WOMEN AND AGEING! We have been taught pretty early in life not to ask a lady’s age or a man’s earnings. Either because both are sensitive or because these are the matters which people want to conceal at any cost. But over the last one week I have developed the audacity and have gradually steeled my heart to talk to you ladies about age. About your age. And about the ageing process. So you now harden your hearts but open up your minds and listen. When I took my driving lessons (I was only 15 at that time and learning to drive then was not even legal) I asked the old driver who worked for us about shifting gears in a car. “When you drive in first gear you have enormous power and energy but you consume a lot of fuel. There is so much friction as well. When you shift to second the power comes down and the speed goes up. And so on till the top gear or overgear where the power is less and you simply cruise.” He could have stopped with that. But at his age, the full 65 years of it, he could not help being philosophical. “This is also similar to ageing. When a person is as young as you are, there is lot of energy, but lot of friction, because you are driving in first gear. As you grow old you become less energetic but start to drive with less friction as you drive in second and third gears. “This is because you know the ways of the world. And when you get to the top gear when you are very old the friction is the least and you can simply glide. But remember when you are in top gear you cannot drive uphill.” I was not very comfortable with the appropriateness of the simile. With the kind of sharpness you could see only in fifteen year olds, I asked him “Then what is death?” The old man answered with a smile, “Death is when you reach your destination and then you no longer need the car. You switch off the engine and go home.” Well, let me be very frank Ladies, philosophy and similies apart, it is very difficult for women to accept or reconcile to their age. (I would say men are worse in this department but they have greater skill in hiding their anxiety about their ageing. But there is no point in discussing men’s ageing blues here. For that we should start something like www.indusgents.com and have a forum there on ageing written by the sole woman in the site. Ha ha ha.) Many women take all out efforts to hide their age. That explains the billions of dollars invested in the cosmetics industry. From simple efforts to dyeing ones hair to very complicated facial make-ups and cosmetic surgeries there is always a war being raged against one’s age. The object of these wars is not an outright victory which anyhow is impossible; the object is just to give a kind of temporary solace. One of my friends a very handsome chartered accountant was once asked by a newspaper, “How do you not worry about your age?” (He was in his late thirties at that time). He replied with a disharming smile, “When my age goes up by one year, so does every one’s age. So why should I worry? Ageing will be a disease if I alone am affected by it. If it spares none then what’s the point in my worrying about it?” I know a lady who even in those days was a working woman, something rare in <st1:City><st1lace>Madurai</st1lace></st1:City> at that time. This lady lived in the street where my father had his office. She was the “talk of the town” and we used to see her sitting at her doorsteps. In <st1lace>Central Madurai</st1lace> one important activity of timepass is just to sit at the door of one’s house and just watch at the traffic. I have seen this lady over a period of several years. I could see her ageing and the very severe resistance she had against the ageing process. At 55 she would be there with half-an-inch thick talcum powder on her face. Poor soul! She was not aware of the advances in cosmetics. Apart from the ultra-thick face powder and a complicated hairstyle she knew next to nothing in cosmetology. So she became a caricature of herself. Being endowed with reasonably good looks, she would have been better off if she had accepted her age with grace.