Anatomy of old age
'Chamakam' is a hymn dedicated to Rudra taken from the Yajurveda. It is the second part of the text of Sri Rudram. The entire text confines itself to...
'Chamakam' is a hymn dedicated to Rudra taken from the Yajurveda. It is the second part of the text of Sri Rudram. The entire text confines itself to urging God for fulfillment of one's wishes. And the wishes comprise anything and everything that concerns a man's life. It may look like splurge of extravagance. The repeated phrase at the end of every wish (cha me) literally means "may this be granted to me''. The list consists of endless desirables and necessary appurtenances for Vedic rituals.
It makes one wonder if man seeks fulfillment of so many wishes on the mundane plane, it perhaps makes even God doubt whether this fellow deserves any blessings at all. His yearning is so earthy and so na�ve that it requires thousands of rebirths before he could ever think of any renunciation from his mortal plane.
Be that as it may, one wish makes one sit erect and notice. It has no parallel anywhere in any religion of the world. It is queer and even unthinkable for a while. The devotee asks the Lord and I quote: vriddim chame, vruddam chame (give me prosperity and give me old age)! Having asked almost all the things that make his life happy and enjoyable, he is anxious to court that stage when he learns to say 'no' to any.
Old age is a station when a man learns to dissociate himself with several mundane pleasures or perhaps his age makes him stay away from all of them.
He understands the wisdom of cutting the frills of an otherwise loaded life and eases into a stage when he is happier now without them while it was the other way all through his life. While he is greedy in asking for everything from the Lord, he also asks for the deliverance, forethought when he can see the futility of them all. No other religion in the world, perhaps, craves for the negation of the wishes.
There is a saying that 'Only in India, a man grows old with dignity'. In any other culture you see the parent vying with his offspring to score a point or catch up with his age. How many times do we hear the old laughing at youngsters saying, "These kids! When will they grow up? When will they learn!'' That was what his elders must have been saying at his young age.
An old parent wouldn't mind walking a step behind his son. A grandfather gratefully accepts the helping shoulder of his granddaughter. Old age would not mind compromise with things you don't understand anymore. You are no more skeptical. You don't mind failing. You take defeat in your stride. You don't lose your face anymore to say 'sorry'. You are resigned to certain truths for which you were fighting all your life, because you know that you are almost at the end of your journey. You don't mind accepting your defeat at the hands of your grandson. In fact, you court defeat. You would like to fail gladly. You are generous to a fault. In spite of being a person with self-respect, you take rebuke in your stride.
You know your days are numbered. You don't understand the ways of the younger generation, nor do you care anymore. Sometimes, seeing the world stink around you and also knowing that you are helpless to sort it out, only one thought gives you solace. You will soon vacate this planet.
Suddenly you find all the answers for the riddles you have been facing in life. Or perhaps, you don't care to have the answers for all you know. How can this society be cleansed of corruption? What are the dangerous repercussions of this mad exploitation of this planet? You don't care. Because you are not going to be there when those things happen. Is God there somewhere out there? What is life after death? You will soon know. For the time being, you start renouncing things around you and vacating the space. A small shriek startles you.
A still moment soothes your nerves. You don't mind things not happening around you. A calm morning, a cozy walk, a brief nap, a cup of hot tea, a silent evening, soothing music and then a slow drift into sleep; it is a very gratifying day. You long for many more as long as you can help it. You are not sad anymore. You are resigned to the end because you cannot help it. Old age is a process when you slowly withdraw all your faculties and become an island.
It is a platform where you understand all the reasons for your pitfalls, excuses you encountered for not taking certain chances; suddenly the light glows in your mind's eye. But you know, after all, you are a trifle late. In fact, you are late by a lifetime. You are anxious to impart your wisdom to the youngsters around you. They throw back at you the pearls of wisdom saying that the thinking is archaic. Are you angry? No, you smile. You pray God bless ("vriddam chame'') these kids! You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self- confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.
Old age is an opportunity to reminisce the strides made, chances swindled, bridges crossed, mistakes that could not be corrected, steps you have ascended. You are not answerable anymore. Nobody finds faults with you. Everybody can understand you. Even if they don't, at least they will not say so on your face. They can excuse you. It will not make you angry. You will understand. Old age is a welcome compromise. A solace. A stage when you can peacefully, heartily and thankfully communicate with God. "Chamakam'', whoever conceived it, must have done it with utmost wisdom and humility. God, who might have been baffled by all the mundane wishes and indolence of His creation, this single wish will surely outbalance all the rest of them. Vriddam chame.