The title sounds a little paradoxical, right? But that is what I learnt and realized after visiting the S.S. Old-Age Home in Thane. There were about 20 old people, each one of them being above 65 years, who were living happily in a home away from their home! Some had paralysis, some had a weak vision, some were mentally-challenged, yet each one of them was much more able than we are!
An old lady who was almost 90 years was much more active than a young person could be! She kept on saying that she was illiterate but her experience in life overshadowed the really low years of schooling! I asked whether she had a son and her immediate reply was ‘why to think of the things you don’t have!’ That one simple answer taught me so much in a matter of seconds. She hugged each one of us and told us about how everything is destined and no matter what, life isn’t unfair. She proudly claimed that she was old just by age but her heart was as young as it could be! However, she didn’t fear death; in fact, she was ready to be taken when called! She didn’t even fear loneliness but she did crave humans around; she kept on mentioning that all of us were her grandsons and granddaughters and how she wants that there are always people around her to talk and chat. She even recited a few poems in Marathi which weren’t coherent enough but clear enough to make you realize that life is beautiful; you just need to accept your destiny positively.
Another man, who was paralyzed from one side, was another lesson for life! He was a teacher and kept on working until the day his body gave up on him. Since he was a bachelor and partially-disabled, he had no choice but to stay in an old-age home. He gave us lessons on how to live a healthy life and how important it is to always take care of yourself. He didn’t have any regrets about staying alone but he regretted not walking and not working; he regretted being dependent on others especially when he had dealt with his life all alone for so many years. The paralysis attack had scared him so much that when I was standing he told me to sit since the fact that he couldn’t do the same pained him. One stroke changed his life forever! I cannot imagine how he accepted such a harsh phase of his life; it would have certainly been really difficult but his hopes hadn’t shattered yet. Even at 65, he had hopes that his new physiotherapy sessions would make him better soon and he could again live a life he always did.
Contrary to what I had expected, none of them cribbed about their spoilt children who didn’t keep them or about how unfair life is and how difficult it is to survive alone at such a place with so many illnesses. The only thing everybody spoke about was how happy they were at their young age and how good life had been to them. They had no regrets, no envy and no bitter feelings for anybody. All they had was a pure heart!
Yes, there is immense inequality in this world. Everybody is struggling with some or the other issues in life. Some don’t have parents and some are orphans in spite of their parents being alive! Some are sleeping on beds full of money and for some the open sky is their bed. Some are throwing tons of food in the garbage and some are struggling to search even a small morsel from that same garbage! However, at the end everybody reaches the same destination- the coffin. Thus, what matters is how happily you live and how accepting you are.
It’s not that those old people hadn’t faced any hardships or they weren’t unhappy. But they knew how to live and more importantly, how to die. They accepted their destiny with open arms. The smile on their face was so pleasant and soothing that it could make anybody forget their personal issues. They had nothing to give but only love- a love so pure, a love so unconditional! I can never forget the lessons I learnt and the knowledge I gained in those 2-3 hours of interaction with the people I never saw or knew.
One quote that can describe them is-
“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”
And they certainly loved much deeply!