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AGE is Just a NUMBER

I had always wondered how being old would feel. I was literally frightened of it.

At the outset, it wasn’t so bad but that’s not the point. The more important question is who decides that it is the outset, how do you know that age is catching up, how do gauge that the youth is over, and what pushes your mind to believe that the golden innings are over?

It is never us but others who remind us in a rather contemptuous way that not only youth but our life is over. When I turned 37, I clearly remember that it was the quite old looking with a partially white beard greengrocer ‘cha-cha’ called me ‘aunty’ and I was shocked to the core as it had only hit me the very first time. Really, I mean seriously? Am I an aunty now and what is the meaning of aunty? For a while, I couldn’t recall what I had to buy. Was it the apples or the oranges?

A few days later, there was a wedding in my family when a cousin’s daughter (18-year-old) called me aunty and when I pointed out; she stirringly and repeatedly made fun of it and called me ‘aunty’ more than she had to. I kept quiet during the entire function but I had then decided in my mind to stay away from the young.

It wasn’t the label ‘aunty’ that was bothersome, but something with the tone of it that felt like a taunt, scorn, as if it’s a crime to be in your late thirties and forty had yet to come. I began to dread closing 40. I didn’t want to. I started manifesting dying before that.
All of it was happening in my mind. It felt like a slow burn. As if something inside me was dying already. Being an anchor and a very attractive-looking person didn’t contribute to understanding where exactly the fault lay. Except, a feeling of just letting it go (in a hopeless manner) outshone my mind. I was already sensitive to things people didn’t even bother to pay any attention to; such as the crying of a child, the agony of an animal, innocence of the cats, the most beautiful little children begging on the roads, the special needs people left alone by their loved ones and somebody hitting somebody on the face. God knows the list is endless.

Nonetheless this new sadness was something I couldn’t fathom to cope with. I left TV when I turned 38 and went to London where this depression abridged a bit as people were not so conscious of my age there; rather appreciated my skill in storytelling, my energy, my smile, my sparkling eyes and my company regardless of my number. I didn’t want to come back but of course I had to. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

It was a year before I turned 40 and I seriously believed that my life was going to be over soon. I began to notice being treated as an elderly but didn’t understand why? I was slim, smart and attractive. Then what was the reason. The reason was the ‘number’. It was as if aging was a crime.
I had always been an actively working person. Hence, my search for a job began again. I knew that no media channel would hire me now as I had crossed the bridge of being young. Besides, I was never an eye candy for them anyway. While searching on LinkedIn, Newspapers, Facebook or any other digital platform for that matter, the mindset was identical. it was then, when I noticed the requirement in most of the ‘vacancy ads’ was restricted to ‘under 35’ or ‘fresh graduates’. Where will I fit now? Is this earth shrinking for me? How will I survive and meet my personal needs? How will I pass my time? What will I do? What happened to my contribution to this world as a younger person? Is it all gone down the drain? So many questions and no answers – yet.

My knees suddenly were so effected that I assumed I had arthritis. My fibroids began to swell. My back was paining all the time. I took the crutch of tranquilizers and got used to them. I wanted to sleep all the time and felt awful waking up in this horrible world. I had this plan in mind of doing all the things that younger people do but in my own way. I was waiting for the road to become less bumpy. However, in no time I turned 40. And in principle and according to society, I must retire as life was categorically over for me. Going for coffee, watching movies in the theatre, dancing my heart out (at home), singing, writing, directing a short film, winning an Oscar, living, loving, smiling, being someone I am respected for and not just live with the label of being ‘old’ – all seemed a far cry now.

I had gone through many hardships in my younger years including attempts of rape, physical, mental and emotional abuse, loss of friends for being different and not like typical young girls, for being an intense and angry person, the loss of love, rejections, and all these are just to name a few. Having said that, it all kept me so occupied that the little girl in me stood no chance. But thankfully I was stubborn by nature, thus I never allowed the little girl in me to die, no matter what people thought or said. But I wasn’t sure how to not let it be a hurdle in my way. How to begin again… how to set the precedence of staying youthful as I age…

I didn’t care if I didn’t have all the answers. But what I knew was certain is the fact that I had to take the first step even if I didn’t know the entire way. I wore my thinking cap and went through some physical and mental turmoil till I turned 43. I decided to move away from this sickening society for a while so my mind could think without being clouded of the age accusations. I also consistently prayed to God to help me become what I had always aspired to be – a writer, to help me get past this age barrier, to help me live before I died, to help me defeat those who wish me dead before my death.

Why in the name of God would you mind older people feeling young and the experienced individuals still working? All these questions rang a bell in my head and I realized it is the youth which needs to be schooled and not us or people older than me. It is the youth that was complexed and not the matured ones. And most of it is our fault (the parents I mean). We let our children decide – when we have to put a full stop to our lives. The retired fathers and housewife mothers are the best method for children to feel their youth. Why can’t parents continue to live even after their children graduate? Why can’t children let parents study when they themselves are about to marry? Why do we need to put an age barrier on our dreams? Why do the dreams have to expire according to our date of birth? Were we manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies? NO! We have been created by ALLAH to live till our last breath and everyone has an equal right without a precondition of a certain figure!

What exactly helped me finally to come out of this unnecessary ‘gift of complex’ was when I stopped talking and started thinking. Silence is magical. It takes you in a spiritual trance of reality. Not the reality that we see on the surface. Something much above. Where it liberates you, unshackles you from the burden of Asian societies or your self-imposed handcuffs of ‘age’.

It struck me like lightening that how ‘bruised’ my youth was and that it is only now that I am free to smile, breathe, write, give, receive, help, love, and live my life to the fullest with the basic joy in my heart – The Joy of Allah!

Who will come forward and challenge me or stop me from doing that? Menopause, family members, friends, colleagues, bosses, younger generation? Nobody! For the reason that, I know what it means when someone said, “Age is just a Number!” There is nothing more accurate than this. What needs to be modified is our mindset to not confine our minds to act according to our ages (whatever that means) or live according to the norms decided by society in view of the number. I am not remonstrating against it, neither am I asking for the youth’s permission to let us ‘aunties’ live; because we were born with this right, to live by means of our youth (that never dies within). All I’m saying is, get a life and come out of your boxes. Life is way broader and more beautiful than just the question, ‘what number are you?’

Sweet youngsters, with lots of prayers, I’d like to educate you – “I’m not an Aunty, I’m a Lady who has earned every centimeter of her wrinkles and is proud of every silver lining visible on my head. As I embrace the process of ageing, the little girl in me plans to live till her last breath.”

Do you mind? Never mind!

2 Comments

  • Natasha Ali

    I Like it

  • Muhammad Shafiq adil

    I respect ur feelings . I think u have sensitive heart with innocent thinkings. Be happy and Stay blessed.

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Where to find me

I’m currently based in Karachi, Pakistan. I can be contacted via email on:
nazihamali@gmail.com