Monday, February 8, 2016

What I Say When K.S.Radhakrishnan Turns Sixty Years Old

(Sculptor K.S.Radhakrishnan cutting his 60th Birthday cake at the Ojas Art Gallery, New Delhi)

Internationally acclaimed sculptor K.S.Radhakrishnan turned sixty years old yesterday. I did not ask him how it felt; the transition from fifty nine to sixty. If asked about age most of the people would say, ‘Age is just a number,’ or ‘age is in one’s thinking’ and so on so forth. If I had asked K.S.Radhakrishnan, he would have said something in his characteristic style; ‘The transition is just like a day turning into night and again a day, natural and beautiful. Have you seen how the molten bronze of the setting sun is poured into the mould of horizon and on the next morning a new sun coming out of it? It feels exactly the same.’ He would not have chosen any other analogy for expressing his views on ageing as his art comes out of the moulds into which he pours the molten bronze. Thirty five long years he did the same, almost resisting the temptations or pressures of working in other mediums. Ram Kinkar Baij was his Guru and Sarbari Roy Chowdhury was his mentor; however, while making no distinctions between them, he chose the medium practiced by the latter than the gravel throwing gleefully practiced by the former.

In Kerala, from where K.S.Radhakrishnan hails, turning sixty is a ‘historical’ moment in everybody’s life. They call it ‘Shashtipurthy’ (completion of sixty years); next milestone is ‘Navati’ (completion of Ninety years). After that a person is called ‘Poornakaman’ (one who has fulfilled all the duties and desires in life). If so the intervening thirty years between sixty and ninety, for a person there must be still duties and desires to fulfill. Not really so. In the Indian way of life, sixty years is a milestone because by this age, one would have fulfilled the familial duties and it is the time to think about leaving the ‘urban’ life and entering into the phase of ‘vanaprastha’ (living in forest). In those days, living in forest did mean that shedding of worldly desires. In forest, once again you become one with the nature. Your duties are not to the forest/nature and your desires are not different from those of the nature. You could be accompanied by your wife but you should leave the domestic pleasures behind. Then as you age further, you take up Sannyasa (penance for redemption). What develops in one’s mind during the years of Vanaprastha becomes the phase of wisdom when one embraces sannyasa. Then one is on the way to nirvana/moksha/deliverance/redemption.

(Ojas Art Gallery director Anubhav Nath and Sanjoy Roy of JLF cheering the KSR couple)

We no longer live in those old days. At the age of sixty, people are still young. The celebrities in our society supply us with examples of good, healthy and youthful living. So they say, sixty is the new forty. What could be the forty then, the new twenties? Then what would be the present twenty, ten or five? Health care and education have helped people increase their living age. But is it necessary to grow in the reverse order? Why should one be forty when one is sixty? One could be sixty and still be sixty, live sixty and feel sixty and there is no parameter how one should feel and live at the age of sixty. If you are healthy you could live a healthy and vigorous life. If your body is not coping with the desires in your mind, then definitely you could slow down. Always hark to what the body and the mind have to say unto you. Sixty is a beautiful age when a normal householder starts his journey to the path of wisdom. It is so ridiculous to see people coloring their hair, pumping iron and wear ill fitting clothes just to look young even at an advanced age. There is a grace in ageing and there are so many advantages in growing in age. If we grow in reverse process the earth will be a living hell. All the old people will behave like young people and all the youngsters will behave like kids. A young society does not mean  a society that behaves young. A young society means a healthy one both in mind and body.

The biggest advantage of growing old is the slow waning of competition with oneself and the world. But for that one has to accept the age. All the new age gurus tell people that they should set up parameters for excelling in their own fields and these parameters should be raised at each step. When you are ready to age, you no longer feel the need to raise these parameters of excellence. You are happy in what you are. You need not dress for the society but you could dress for your comfort. You need not brag about anything because the very idea of bragging would sound useless after certain age. The moment one fulfills the duties and desires even within the domestic front, then he/she would never feel the need to fulfill any other duties elsewhere. The primary aim of a living being is to be happy and healthy. One need not become a social worker; one need not become a philanthropist after the age of sixty. One could just think about one’s own happiness. I am not preaching selfishness here. The moment one looks after his/her comforts and happiness after removing the idea of competition from the minds, then rest of the world would take care of itself. When you do not splurge on food, you leave a lot of food for others. When you do not squander your money, a lot of money is left for others. When you do not indulge in money making projects, others automatically get chance to involve in them and build their lives.

(KSR with his trusted Studio team)

A calm and collected society could be generated only when we accept the ageing process. Look at the people who exhort the semi-literate fringe population in our societies to take up cudgel against other human beings in the name of politics and religion or vice versa , we could see most of them are good old gentlemen. What are they trying to achieve by building a mosque or a temple? What are they going to achieve by wrenching political power in the name of an ideology? Are they going to serve the young and growing population in our country? Are these young people really interested in such things? In fact, the young people have started taking a hostile attitude against the older people not just because of the Freudian psychological reasons but because they find these oldies as a hindrance for their movement upwards in the social scale. If the people were ageing gracefully and paving way for the youngsters, then the world would have been much better, calmer and devoid of strife. It is so sad to see the old people occupying the social space in the name of organizations and communities and leaving no space for the youngsters to express their opinions or act out. If a pair of young lovers hold hands, it is not really the young people who get offended, but the moral ideologies spread out by the oldies. If they let the lovers to be lovers and let them hold hands or kiss in public, then the world would have been a better place. We say that three fourths of the Indian population is young and also a majority is living in the cities. There too we see the old men pointing guns at the heads of the youngsters and asking them to behave. What an irony it is!

When I say this, I do not demand the old people to go to the forest and cease to exist. What I say here is that after the age of sixty they should be thinking only about themselves. They need not become presidents and secretaries or cultural wing advisers of the local residency associations even. Most of the people do this because they want to be active and still hold on to some kind of power. Why don’t they instead tend the garden, look at the flowers, read, write, sing, create art, meditate, go for long vacations and give space to the young populations to make the world a better place? The old people with their age and experience, wealth and fame in their hands should focus completely on their happiness and comfort. They should become gurus of the society. It is the most ridiculous sight in the world to see an old man pretending to be very young. One could be young at heart and in thoughts. But those things should be expressed in their choicest mediums and they should not be in confrontation with the ideas and expressions, however immature they look. Old people could lead the march by making way for the youngsters to march on.

 (KSR with the 'rare' art collector Parimal Roy)

Sixty as we have seen earlier should not be treated as new forty. This is the falsification of the consumerist society. The corporates that make consumer products, health care products and life style apparatuses want more and more people addicted to be those things. For that the people should be told that they look young, vibrant, sexy and sexual even in their old age. This false notion makes them to strive for an imaginary youthfulness and even after achieving it through health care and exercise and spending money over the products, they are made to believe that the more they become youthful the more they become desirable. None in the world wants to be undesirable. They want to be desired by others and also they want to be useful in the world. But in my view, the best way to be useful for the world and still desirous and desirable is to pave way for the new people to come in. One need not do it deliberately by eschewing life or creativity. One should just do what one could do best. If you are a sixty year old dancer you should dance to the satisfaction of your heart and mind. You should not stop some other dancer getting a chance in showcasing their talents on a stage. You should be the guru who gives a platform by seeing their talent from your own abode of doing. You no longer need to practice. You just need to be in. The world will follow your dance. If you are a singer the world will follow your song.  If you are a sculptor the world will wait for your new sculpture.

Do not believe in the idea of sixty being the new forty. It is the trick of the celebrities who are simply the stooges of the corporate markets. They are the bodies through which the market economy sends its ideas across. Good life is healthy and happy life. Good life is when you do the things that you want to do irrespective of your age. Good life is when you become the inspiration for many. Good life is when the others see your life worth following. And I see that in Radhakrishnan’s life. A person who has no competition with anybody, a sculptor who promotes other talents, a human being who does not push himself onto any platform and a guru who has wise sayings for the seeking people- that’s K.S.Radhakrishnan for me and for many others. A few friends who attended the sixtieth birthday celebrations of K.S.Radhakrishnan at the Ojas Art Gallery, New Delhi asked me whether he turned ‘only’ sixty yesterday. Some of them thought he was much more than that. K.S.Radhakrishnan exudes the aura of a wise man, of a guru, a caring human being, a welcoming host, a smiling savant and an inspired creator. He cannot be thirty, he cannot be forty, he cannot be fifty, not even sixty. Like the Zen masters he should be ageless in ageing. K.S.Radhakrishan is one such Zen master amidst us. Happy I am for being with him and in the vicinity of his wisdom.  

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