Time and tide wait for none. This age-old adage, while being a stark reminder of how incredibly fast time flies, also hints at old age being just another phase in life that is marked by a different set of opportunities and challenges. While French public artist Martin Firrell writes on old age “ageing is a privilege, not a predicament”, dystopian writer Aldous Huxley says, “the secret of the genius is to carry the spirit of youth into old age, which means never losing out on enthusiasm”.
Mohan Sehgal (62) has a similar take on life. He and his wife, Nayantara (58), a retired teacher, have been married for 35 years and make it a point to look at the brighter side of life. Despite their advancing years, this South Mumbai couple has an active lifestyle that is an inspiration to couples much younger than them.
Mohan, a retired Class I government employee says that one must like be child like in old age, never losing one’s enthusiasm. It cannot get any better if you and your partner are growing old together, he smiles. He says it is quite natural for the body to need extra care with age. This helps it resist disease and maintains immunity.
In other words, health is non-negotiable. When Nayantara puts off going for her regular walks, Mohan turns into an impromptu fitness coach, reminding her that ‘’kal kare so aaj kar!”
This adorable couple gets many compliments on their visits to the park. That makes it worth the effort, Nayantara gushes. Mr. Saxena, a long time neighbour is unabashed in his admiration for the couple. He says the couple is so active that it motivates him to look back on my own life and introspect. Ageing can be a beautiful experience. It is not the restrictive phase it is made out to be, he observes.
The Seghals are honorary members of the local Rotary Club and devote a lot of their time teaching English to the underprivileged kids from the slums nearby. Nayantara, who once ran a thriving coaching class for primary school children regards teaching as a life-long vocation. She still feels the obligation to serve society by imparting knowledge.
For his part, Mohan is the treasurer of the housing society they live in and is the go to person for administrative matters. He is held in high regard for his problem solving ability. His knack for injecting humour into the most sombre of situations has helped him stave off a number of disagreements and deadlocks within the society’s managing committee.
Between the two of them, the Sehgals have a collective professional experience of more than 100 years. Rather than let their teaching and administrative skills atrophy during old age, they have found a productive outlet that keeps them sharp and happily engaged.
When she isn’t teaching in the evenings, Nayantara tends to her mini-garden that she has painstakingly developed after months of trial and error. The results have been gratifying. The lively looking cherry tomatoes peeking out over the balcony are a sight to witness. She is delighted to add that her grandkids had taken to gardening too and had been spending entire weekends tending to her plants.
Sipping a cup of tea, she explains that volunteering or pro bono consulting can help seniors make good use of the accumulated skills, expertise and experience amassed in their youth. Becoming a member of a hobby or activity group is refreshing and therapeutic at the same time.
To vary the pace of activity, she recommends engaging in both left and right brained activity. Don’t limit yourself to exercise only. Learning the mandolin or a dance form can be stimulating, she says. A hobby, which you may have been compelled to neglect, can finally blossom during retirement.
A visit to your native home or travelling to new destinations can feel as if life has come full circle, Mohan signs off with a smile.