Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

Friday - - Contents -

For our colum­nist Suresh Menon, age is all about ben­e­fits.

You al­ways re­mem­ber the first time. The first time you beat a par­ent at chess, the first car, the first time some­one calls you a se­nior cit­i­zen. ‘Don’t in­sult me, I am not a se­nior cit­i­zen,’ I told the kindly bank em­ployee who was only be­ing help­ful as I stood in a queue to ex­change my old cur­rency notes for new ones, thanks to the re­cent de­mon­eti­sa­tion in In­dia. Sim­i­lar to Aladdin, who once mem­o­rably did the same with his lamp and man­aged to set off a se­ries of ad­ven­tures that ended with him get­ting trapped be­tween the cov­ers of a chil­dren’s book.

‘I am ac­tu­ally only 24, just pre­ma­turely grey,’ I ex­plained. Well, the se­cond half of the sen­tence was partly true. I was once pre­ma­turely grey but now I am quite ma­turely grey. I wasn’t sure just how I should es­tab­lish my non-se­nior cit­i­zen­hood, though. Touch my toes? Run up and down the stairs? Do a cart­wheel? Punch the side of the build­ing? Read mes­sages off my twit­ter ac­count? Watch a re­al­ity show on my phone?

I was re­minded of the char­ac­ter in Bern­hard Sch­link’s The Reader, who would rather go to jail as a crim­i­nal than re­veal that she was il­lit­er­ate and there­fore could not have writ­ten the di­ary on which her con­vic­tion was based. I would rather stand in the back of the queue than be un­masked as a se­nior cit­i­zen, with those around me speak­ing just that bit louder and closer to my ear.

In the end I re­lented, for it meant a dif­fer­ent queue, faster ser­vice, and a re­mark­able tol­er­ance for my in­abil­ity to fill in forms cor­rectly the first time, a con­di­tion I have been suf­fer­ing from since the age of 10 but which seems jus­ti­fied and age-ap­pro­pri­ate now. What good­ies can I look for­ward to when I fi­nally turn 60 many (many) years from now? Per­haps the bank will send its staff to stand in a queue out­side my house hold­ing new cur­rency notes while I search for old notes that I know I have kept safely some­where.

Af­ter years of ris­ing for se­nior cit­i­zens in our buses and bistros, I look for­ward to be­ing stood up for. Af­ter years of al­low­ing older peo­ple to go ahead of me at the

Af­ter years of RIS­ING for se­nior cit­i­zens in buses, I look for­ward to be­ing stood up for. Af­ter years of al­low­ing OLDER peo­ple to go AHEAD of me at su­per­mar­kets, I look for­ward to mov­ing to the head of queues by RIGHT

su­per­mar­ket cash reg­is­ters, I look for­ward to mov­ing to the head of the queue by right.

There was a time when peo­ple with grey hair spent a for­tune on black­en­ing it. Now the traf­fic is in the other di­rec­tion. A young­ster at the back of the queue at the bank dis­ap­peared for a while, and re­turned look­ing older, grey hair and all. Or I may have imag­ined it. We se­nior cit­i­zens are like that some­times.

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