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Vol. XXXIII No. 23, March 16-31, 2024

Danger – Talking Greyheads Ahead

-- by Ranjitha Ashok

You know how it is with us senior/ super-senior citizens…we like to talk.

We have stories to tell, memories to share … as we should.

But perhaps we need some rules in place? Especially since self-regulation is such a laughable concept for us most times.

Like while reminiscing, for instance.

Stories that have been repeatedly told to almost the same set of people, (give or take a few NRI relatives, and certain unwary newbies who tend to randomly float in and out) – such stories should come with an expiry date, no? If a story has been told ten times in five years, then that’s it – you cannot repeat that story anymore – or not for another five years at least.

A system of alarms would prove useful – could the much-mentioned AI whizzes help here? Bells ringing, sirens going off the second Poes-Garden Periappa goes, “Back in the summer of…”. Wouldn’t that be neat?

But nothing too loud or sudden – vital organs that have been around for a while can’t handle the shock. Something gentle, yet sharp enough for failing ears. The Raconteur Police would then appear and gently move the still-babbling, anecdote-ing senior away to a safe distance.

How about numbering each story? This way, others are spared the torture of having to listen to the entire saga…again.

You quaver: ‘Number 57!’, and everyone laughs uproariously, reminding each other what a blast that was, with a few succumbing to an ill-advised fit of the giggles, putting themselves in imminent danger of either twisting their gut or swallowing their recently acquired front teeth.

Of course, there would be objections, only to be expected at a senior gathering, especially if it’s family.

“Not 57.” Goes Chetpet Chithi, who must always know one better than everyone else. “That was either 65 or 66. We were still in St Mary’s Road.”

“No.” A voice pipes up. “You were in T Nagar at the time.”

Long argument between C Chitthi and Piper-Voice about C Chitthi’s residence, with P-V deliberately ignoring the fact that perhaps C Chitthi is a better authority on where she stayed when.

Well, the convictions of seniors are absolute.

Of course, those who don’t normally hang out with this lot may be a touch mystified by this method, but in a group dominated by senior citizens, a bit of leeway is always offered.

And now for a truly important rule.

If a younger relative wants to share a light-hearted anecdote, she must be allowed to do so without constant interruptions.

Seniors, please note: the keyword in being part of conversations is ‘part’ – as in ‘not whole’.

So, the temptation to mutate into conversation bullies must be resisted.

Let’s assume this Younger Relative’s story goes like this: Guess what? You remember I had dinner with old friends Bangalore-Couple a few nights ago? And they were telling me all about their shopping experience at Must-be-seen-at-Boutique? I ran into Next-Door Aunty’s daughter yesterday, and she was wearing this lovely outfit, and she told me that’s where she had picked it up, and when I told her that someone I met recently was also raving about this place, she immediately asked if it was Bangalore-Couple, because she saw them there and it turns out that she did post-grad with Female-Bangalore-Couple, while her husband happened to know the Male-Half from way back. Small world, no?

Simple, right?

Pretty standard over-a-meal-at-the-dining-table conversation?

So you think.

But in reality…

Now, Younger Relative (YR), since learning how to talk, has never really known what it’s like to speak a series of sentences without leaping over interruptions and dodging sudden introductions of side topics.

A pretty common experience while dealing with this bunch for most…but there she goes, braving all.

YR: Guess what? You remember I had dinner with old friends Bangalore-Couple a few nights ago…

Senior 1: Why that boy decided to change jobs, I’ll never know. How much I advised him.

Senior 2: Must have been That Woman. His mother. Have known her from school. Appah – ego means E.G.O. (Spreading her hands out) Always interfering.

Senior 5 leaves the table, cell phone to ear.

Senior 2: Feel so sorry for his wife. Such a nice family she comes from.

YR: (biting her lower lip during this exchange) … and they were telling me all about their shopping experience at Must-be-seen-at-Boutique…

Senior 1: Always thought that kid needed a guide.

Senior 5: (returning to table) Who died?

Senior 1: Huh? No one. What are you talking?

Senior 5: You only said someone died.

Senior 1: I didn’t but ultimately, we all will, no?

(Laughs uproariously while everyone else gives him the stink eye)

YR: (desperately) Must-be-seen-at-Boutique…

Senior 5 leaves the table, cell phone to ear.

Senior 3: (with a sly smile) You know who owns that over-expensive place, no?

YR: (raising her voice in an attempt to control the situation): I RAN INTO NEXT-DOOR AUNTY’S DAUGHTER…



Doesn’t make the tiniest dent in this collective mass of toughened senior skin.

Senior 4: Huh! What I can tell you about owner-girl’s mother. 3rd Cross Street Kamalakshi. Used to be V B Kamalakshi. Then got all ‘society’, straightened her hair, and emerged as Kamal V Balu. (Sneering) Kamal V Balu, it seems. Smart daughter though. Very good business head.

YR: (refusing to give up) …yesterday, and she was wearing this lovely….

Senior 6: Yes, yes, saw her and Next-Door Shobha two days ago. Daughter is here for a couple of weeks, it seems? Wasn’t she in college with you, YR?

YR: (long-suffering sigh): Yes…

Senior 6: (laughing) Remember when the parents were going around secretly, and we used to help them meet? Old man Subbu, Shobha’s Dad, found out, and chased all of us, including his future son-in-law, down Sriramnagar 5th Street. We had to hide in corner Bhuma Stores, much to owner Kooling-Glass-Kanaka’s amusement.

For a second, YR is distracted.

YR: Really? Shobha Aunty and Ramu Uncle?

Senior 2: (laughing) Yep! Shows it can be done!

Senior 1: Kooling Glass Kanaka! ‘With a ‘K’. Haven’t heard that name in decades.

Senior 4: Used to get the best kadalai-urundai there. Perfect, melt-in-mouth.

YR (getting back on track – and deciding now to rush her fences ): …and-she-was-wearing-this-lovely-outfit-and-she-told-me-that’s-where-she-had-picked-it-up-and-when-I-told-her-that-someone-I-met-recently-was-also-raving-about-this-place-she-immediately-asked-if-it-was-Bangalore-Couple-because-she-saw-them-there-and-it-turns-out-that-she-did-post-grad-with-Female-Bangalore-Couple-while-her-husband-happened-to-know-the-Male-Half-from-way-back-Small-world-no?

She pauses to catch her breath.

Senior 2: Small-a? I’ll tell you how small. They ‘saw’ Male-Half’s father for Shobha. No chance! She stood on one leg and insisted only Ramu. ‘Lovvu’ – ‘o’-‘Lovvu’!

The seniors roar with laughter.

YR (mutters): I think it’s sweet.

At that moment, Senior 5 returns, and says, “What ‘lovvu’? Who Male-Half? Which Shobha?”

YR’s forehead hits the dining table with a small thud as she doubles up in despair, rattling all the tableware, especially the steel tumblers.

Seniors, please note. Your memories have no business intruding into someone else’s narrative.

Remember all those eye rolls you exchanged with your peers back when your elders prattled on and on?

Well, you, who once thought you were born to be wild, have become your seniors.

That rumbling you hear?

That’s the sound of all the eye rolls heading your way.

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