Why age does not wither us
Binoo K Johnn
CUSTOM MAY stale our infinite variety but age never withers us. We plod along unwilling to give up. When Mahesh Bhupathi at 38, won his 12th Grand Slam title we were all proud. The youngest player at the French Open was 21-year-old David Goffin. His mixed-doubles partner Sania Mirza termed him the best doubles player in the world. For anyone that is a fabulous achievement. It is all the more for Bhupathi since it took him all these years to achieve what he has, and also he has shown a great quality of never giving up. This applies mostly to sports and politics.
There is nothing derogatory in that. Almost all our achievers are above or nearing 40s, unlike Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire at 24. Almost all our romantic actors who play 20 on screen are inching towards 50. The reason for this is that people get used to certain actors. Sharman Joshi, one of the upcoming actors, didn’t get a big role for the last three years until Ferrari Ka Sawaari. It is a particular Indian trait that we do not trust the youth. The 40s is just about okay an age. The higher you want to climb, the older you must be. Both or all of our presidential aspirants are past 70 or nearing 80. We love the wisdom that comes with age and we are willing to forgive the minor mental aberrations that come with age.
In the West too age is fancied, but youth is preferred. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama became presidents in their early 50s or late 40s, though George Bush was a bit older. In India there are a lot of young dynastic examples, but otherwise it is difficult for a young politician to make any headway. It is also because at the age of 50, we have just a few accomplishments to show. In the West, they believe that people should move on. No one can be US president for more than two terms, but no such law exists here.
Fear of losing the stardom keeps our sportsperson going on and on
All said and done, there is something to be said for age. There are many lessons for us in a Leander Paes on the verge of his sixth Olympics. He has only a bronze medal to show. But the greater lesson for us is the sheer perseverance and pain he has been through when he could easily have sat back. To play at the top level (though in doubles) calls for tremendous fitness, focus and discipline. Many Western sportsperson fade away easily because of lack of discipline.
To play high level sport after the age of 35, is quite an achievement. It shows tenacity and immense self belief. True Jimmy Connors played till 40, but few American sportsperson played till 35. Most of the US tennis biggies left in their earlier 30s including Pete Sampras at 31. They have this passionate belief in quitting while at the top. No such fear envelopes Indian sportsmen. An entire generation of tennis players who played with Paes and Bhupathi have retired but they are still in the game.
What then is the larger picture? What makes Bhupathi, Paes and Tendulkar go on and on? The basic reason is that here we have only one goal. Our parameters of achievement are limited, our goal more than often just one. In more developed societies, goals change often, which is why few people work in an office for more than five years in the US. For by that time they have set themselves new goals, which an office work does not allow them to achieve. This unremitting search for success is a pointer of life in highly developed societies, which is why these people find themselves in such societies in the first place.
Fear of losing the glare of stardom is the primary factor that keeps our sportsperson going on and on. Many sportsperson have crumbled after retirement unable to come to terms with their loss of stardom. Another factor is the fear of finishing badly. They don’t have the capacity to build a second life. For stars, it is a terrible reality to confront. To see a faded and badly-aged Rajesh Khanna, in the Havells ad on air now, is to be reminded of what awaits you. To finish so badly is a fear that haunts all of us.