Usha
My mom's uncle was a Village school headmaster and in his retirement he was a great hit with pre-adolescents. The very same kids who sought him as children suddenly began to avoid him once they reached adolescence. Reason? He would be seated with his entourage of adoring kids showing them card tricks and magic. Suddenly he would catch an older boy passing by and ask him "which standard are you in? eighth? Ok,now translate this sentence into English: "vandikaran Mattai trit trit trit enru oatinaan*"
The poor village boy would not know how to translate the act of goading the bull dragging the cart, nor would he know how to translate the trit trit noise into English! And he would go red/ purple in the face about the humiliation in front of his younger cousins and siblings squealing with laughter at thatha's imitation of the Bullock cart driver. Trit trit trit, they'd go.
But Sami thatha would hold him close and tell him "see, you should not get discouraged by such questions. If someone asks you what is the English word for kathirikai** you should say "constantinople" without hesitation. - 'kathrikaiku Englishle ennanu keta constantinople nu sollidanum. bayapada koodadu'
And he would further add, 'presence of mind, confidence and alertness are important. If you go for Indian Civil Service interview they will suddenly ask about the number of steps in the staircase you climbed to get to the interview hall...'
I have no idea if they really asked these kind of questions in an IAS interview those days but that is what Sami Thatha said and I would believe anything he said.
His repertoire of tricks, trivia and jokes was awesome. And he used to know and sing so many songs, such as those sung during marriage, the bangle ceremony for a first time mother-to-be called valaikapu and death. These songs were not written down but usually passed down the generations orally. I used to adore him but his own children and other grown ups in the house did not care much for him with the result he took all that he knew to the grave without anybody caring to inherit that knowledge he possessed.

As a child it was a mystery to me that adults did not think Thatha was a super hero and they treated him as a joke. Once I became an adult I became like them too finding these old people's sense of humour rather clichéd and tiresome. Have you noticed that old people across households crack the same kind of jokes:

Family discussing wording of their son's wedding invitation card. Boy's sister says 'Let us make it clear that they should avoid presents'
Boy's grandfather: Make sure that the printer doesn't print it as "avoid presence" Then there will be no one at the wedding.
Brother and sister exchange glances grinding their teeth in exasperation.

Boy preparing for their exams. Retired neighbour enquires: "studying hard? or hardly studying?" with a wicked smile.
Although your instantaneous response is to wring his neck, the appropriate response is to grin and bear the torture and remember that you will hear it again before the next exam.

Sometimes people who seem rather stiff in their 30s and 40s suddenly acquire this kind of sense of humour when they reach their sixties. Looking around and seeing this kind of transformation in some acquaintances, I imagine if I might be in their shoes ten years from now although I see this happening more among men than women. I wonder if it is a sign of male menopause. So I listen patiently when a retired uncle tells me in the middle of a match telecast about Rangachari's career best of 5 for 107 against West Indies at Delhi.

It is tough trying to keep pace with the changes in a fast paced world and feeling comfortable in it. It is tougher if you have lived in small towns all your life and suddenly thrust into a big city and its ways in retirement. Sometimes I see these old couples floundering among the aisles in supermarkets trying to figure out their way. The other day I was at MORE super market (which used to be Fabmall before the management/ ownership changed.
Uncle about 65 walks in, attired in khadi dhoti , short khadi kuta and a cloth bag and asks the girl at the cash register where Fabmall is.
The girl replies "no Fabmall, it is More now.
Uncle: Yes, I know this shop is called MORE but where is the Fabmall that used to be here.
Girl:It is closed.
Uncle: But it must have gone someplace. Where is it?
Girl: Fabmall closed.
Uncle: But,...(mutters to himself in Tamil: I don't understand what you are saying and I don't know Kannada 'Neenga solradu enaku puriyalai enakku kannadamum teriyadu'
So I step in to explain in Tamil that Aditya Birla group has bought over Fabmalls and changed the name to More. Uncle's face brightens with a smile of understanding as he wonders: "oho, these guys are so rich that they bought over the shop and the name too!"
And he goes on to wonder more:
"And your Tamil, you speak it so fluently and with the right pronounciation!!"
I take leave of him with a smile. he stands there wondering that a huge chain of shops was swallowed ovenight by another chain and that he would find someone speaking Tamil in a Tanjore accent in this big city.
Wonder what other fascinating discoveries he made standing there after I left.

I see me there, in his shoes, a decade from now - all you nice young people, be kind to me and my queries and my jokes. It doesn't take too much to be kind to an old person.




_______________________________________________________________________________
* - Vandikaran - the guy to drives a bullock cart; mAdu - bullock; to oatify - is to drive/ to goad something to move forward; trit trit trit - beyond translation.

**- Kathrikai - Brinjal

***- Thatha - grandfather
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18 Responses
  1. Altoid Says:

    :D Thanks for the advance warning! Perhaps you should start reading books on standup? That way your repertoire of jokes to serve in your old age might be far superior? You'll be one of a kind!

    Think about it, you'll be the first senior citizen lady standup in all of Bangalore. How cool is that!

    Either case, you'll age gracefully and perennially young at heart. This I believe.


  2. Asha Says:

    That was a good post. Nice observations :)


  3. S.Praveen Says:

    Andha maari vellai veshti manja pai thatha maargal ippo naraya kanla padara namma Bengalorela, either with little peran-pethis or desperately looking for something in super markets...u just cant avoid being good to them.

    Yeh and totally agree with the jokes they crack, I have heard enough of those maadi padi jokes as a kid too and guess what they even provide the answers saying that u shud answer them saying u came by the lift, so I don't know how many stairs were there...heard of this??-its a standard one I guess :D

    Usha but I guess ur jokes will be surely entertaining, be it a decade or even more :) bet on it, U can never be boring. :)


  4. Serendipity Says:

    See ? Thats such a feel good post. Reminds me of Patti. Whenever I told patti "Patti , bore adikardu" , pat came the reply "Seri , appo nee ada adi"


  5. S.Praveen Says:

    @ Serendipity: I have heard that from my Paati too :)


  6. V Says:

    Reminds me of my grandpa and how I regret not spending a few minutes more laughing with him and finding joy in small things in those teen years. I could have made more memorable memories to cling on to in those few years when everything he did irritated me!

    Great post!


  7. nice post.my parents are in their sixties now. my dad who was always so stern, has really mellowed out, and has started telling jokes, well not jokes per say, but he has begun to make humeroius observations about himself and my mum. it's nice to see.
    you could never be old,...it's just a state of mind, i think


  8. I recall you saying in an earlier post/comment that "old" is not in this blog's dictionary. Hm... my memory must be failing because I am getting ... :)


  9. Usha Says:

    altoid: Yes, I'd love to do that. But remember I cannot tell a joke to save my life?
    http://agelessbonding.blogspot.com/2006/08/comedians-and-jokers.html
    The idea is to remain perennially young but then I see these people and wonder if I am deluded. :(

    Asha: Thanks :)

    S.Praveen: Amam nanum neraya pakaren - pram ai thallindu illenna supermarkets le karigai vangindu.
    Me after a decade, hm, we will see won't we. Thank you for being so kind. :)

    Seren: Yes, I have heard it in my family too. Must rememebr to use it on my grandchild. hehehe.

    S.praveen: :) me too me too.

    V: Ya we take them for granted and they leave such a void when they disappear in a flash. I feel bad that no one bothered top note down my thatha's songs. :(

    Rouhana:yes age is just a number but sometimes one finds oneself forgetting things or repeating and then begins to wonder...

    The RF: Parungo vayasarada ellam marandu poyidradu...hehehe But you live in a country where 60 is the4 new 40. By that count you are 10 years younger. So you can't use that excuse.


  10. eve's lungs Says:

    Good question - what happened to Indiaplaza which was Fabmall online ?


  11. Shruthi Says:

    LOL! Usha, I have no idea how you will be in the next ten years, but I can tell you that you will still be adorable! :D


  12. Meena Says:

    Very funny, but insightful. Have seen so many old people like that and it is rather sobering to think we could be like that in a couple of decades!
    Meena.


  13. Mahadevan Says:

    I can join them when they talk about M.J.Gopalan and C.R..Rangachari. But I am nonplussed if they go into ecstasies over M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavadhar or S.G.Kittappa. But there is a thrill in talking about olden days and many are fond of this. If you look back at the distance travelled, the miles ahead becomes easier and this is nature's way of providing us inspiration.

    As age advances, innovation dries up and hence the stale jokes. Kripananda Variar demonstrated this.


  14. 2 B's mommy Says:

    insightful post but got me a little worried too. I never got a chance to spend time with my grandparents but I see my son chat to his nanaji online for hours sharing his daily life, jokes, studies etc and it fills my heart to see their close bond inspite of the physical distance and generation gap. It will be heart breaking to see him avoiding his nanaji :-(


  15. maami Says:

    Wait until your grandchild arrives and says , "Pati enna sollaranu puriyalaiye mama"?!


  16. Usha Says:

    eve: Now you don't start that. Gone gone.

    Shruthi: We will see. Won't we - it is just a decade away. You will be here and I, er, mmmm. we will see... Hehe

    Meena:Yes. Old age the great leveller!!

    Mahadevan: yes and I think they repeat because they forget too.
    I can even tolerate raptures over MKT but get mad at those who rave about vellakaran days - their punctuality, the neatness of attire blah blah

    2b's mommy: May not happen but it is upto the nanaji not to become naggingnaji. :)

    maami: Peran/ pethi vandudaan sollanuma ippave pAdi per blog comments le adane solra. ;)
    pAti vayai moodindu summa irungo, manathai vangadengo nu sollada varaikum sari.


  17. Usha Says:

    eve: Now you don't start that. Gone gone.

    Shruthi: We will see. Won't we - it is just a decade away. You will be here and I, er, mmmm. we will see... Hehe

    Meena:Yes. Old age the great leveller!!

    Mahadevan: yes and I think they repeat because they forget too.
    I can even tolerate raptures over MKT but get mad at those who rave about vellakaran days - their punctuality, the neatness of attire blah blah

    2b's mommy: May not happen but it is upto the nanaji not to become naggingnaji. :)

    maami: Peran/ pethi vandudaan sollanuma ippave pAdi per blog comments le adane solra. ;)
    pAti vayai moodindu summa irungo, manathai vangadengo nu sollada varaikum sari.


  18. WhatsInAName Says:

    lol
    Hugs to you. For now. For 10 years from now. :D