If age is just a number, then mine is up!
There is nothing that makes me feel my age more than a long haul flight. Gone are the days when I would look forward to spending nine to 12 hours in an airplane, getting stuck into the champagne and watching one crappy movie after another until it was time to land. The length of the queues at immigration never succeeded in getting me down. And the moment I checked into a hotel, I was pulling clothes out of my suitcase to head out for a fancy meal.
That, suffice to say, is no longer the case. Now, much as I enjoy going on holiday, the very thought of a long-haul flight is enough to strike terror into my heart, which I try to quell by preparing for every eventuality. I put together an in-flight medicine bag full of anti-histamines and other sleeping aids – which I consume with the only glass of champagne I allow myself (drinking any more than that plays havoc with my sugar levels). I carry my own blanket so that I don’t get allergies from the ones provided by the airlines. And I pack a neck pillow to keep my neck supported while I read a book or watch a movie in an attempt to fall asleep.
But no matter how hard I try to have a restful flight that will allow me to hit the ground running at the other end, it never works out that way. The tiredness starts hitting me half-way through the flight and just gets worse and worse with every passing hour. By the time the flight lands, my back is hurting, my legs are cramping, my nose is stuffy, and I feel like a hundred years old.
By the time I have negotiated the horrors of the airport and got to the hotel, all I can do is collapse weakly on the bed and whisper, “Room service?” to my husband (who, annoyingly enough, is raring to go out and explore some restaurant he has checked out on the Internet). It takes one good night’s sleep in a normal bed before, well, normal service can be resumed, as far as I am concerned.
Sadly, this is not the only instance of my age finally catching up with me. These days, my life is littered with these daily indignities of ageing, all of them designed to make me feel every one of my decades and remind me that old age will be upon me sooner than I dared hope.
Here is just a random sampling of the age markers that are a part of my life now. If any of them sound familiar, well then welcome to the Club of Creaking Middle-Agers. (If they don’t, enjoy your youth while it lasts!)
• I visited a gurudwara after a long time recently, and as is the custom, did what we Punjabis call ‘matha teko’. That went off reasonably well, but trying to get upright afterwards was another story altogether. It took about five tries, my muscles creaking protest all the while, before I could get up from all fours. All of this rendered all the more horrific by the pile-up of people waiting behind me and the sympathetic eyes of those who witnessed my pitiful attempts.
• Low chairs and sofas have turned into my mortal enemies while I wasn’t paying attention. Now, they suck me into their contours so efficiently that more often than not I have to ask for a helping hand (or two) to get out of them. The same humiliation awaits when the seating has squishy cushions, the kind you sink into thankfully when you arrive and struggle to get out of when it is time to leave.
• Stairs are no longer my friends. Instead they have morphed into a torture device that I attempt at my own peril. I am breathless after two flights (it’s the asthma, I tell myself reassuringly) and every flight after that brings me closer to that state when your heart is beating so loudly that you think it will burst out of your chest. And the way down is no easier, with my knees twinging with every step.
• My days of drinking like a fish and eating like a pig are over. Oh okay, I exaggerate. The truth is that I still go on binges and benders once in a while. But I no longer wake up fresh as a daisy the next day. Instead, it takes me a week to recover from a day’s excesses, and every single time that happens, it seems less and less worthwhile to indulge myself in the first place.
• Then, to add insult to injury, there is my slowing metabolism. No matter how many calories I cut from my diet and how many steps I add to my Fitbit, the stubborn bulges around my body simply refuse to budge. And while it gets easier and easier to put on weight – even an extra piece of toast at breakfast does the trick – it has become nigh impossible to lose it.
• And finally, there is the insomnia that keeps me tossing and turning until the early hours of the morning, and makes me wake up tired every day. But this cloud, at least, has a silver lining. I can get a lot of reading done while the rest of the household sleeps, and somehow that makes it all worthwhile.