Veteran actor Waheeda Rehman was in news recently, for taking up wildlife photography at the age of 81. I just got exhausted merely reading her travel itinerary which enabled her to put up her first photography exhibition. Our society is very quick in labelling 70 plus women as redundant, inactive. The image we are fed is that of an old woman, watching a saas-bahu serial on television, or doing puja, wrapped in woollens from head to toe, or even bed-ridden, constantly complaining of joint pain. But is that all there is today to getting old. Does turning 60 or 70 or 80 mean that women must retire from active social life, or quit pursuing their passion or speaking their mind?
- Women over seventy have been in news this year for reclaiming public spaces and following their passion.
- Ageing is often seen as a curse among women, which pushes them out of the spotlight.
- But a lot of women are challenging social stigmas to live their life on their terms, no matter what their age.
- Spending a better part of their life to appease everyone, ageing gives women the agency to have a say in how they want to live.
Does turning 60 or 70 or 80 mean that women must retire from active social life, or quit pursuing their passion or speaking their mind?
Rehman isn’t the only female actor over seventy has been in news. The very charming 72-year-old Asha Parekh gave a candid interview about being “self-partnered,” Author Shobha De isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, writing books and columns, attending fests and being very active on social media. In fact, in 2017, she wrote a book titled Seventy . . .: And to Hell With It! Then there’s Surekha Sikri who won a national award this year for her performance in the 2018 film Bhadhaai Ho. But one doesn’t just have to women in limelight to realise of the portrayal of women over seventy is in stark contrast to how they are leading active and fulfilling lives.
My paternal grandmother took to learning Sanskrit in her seventies so that she could read scriptures in depth. She started with my school books to get her basics right and slowly brush up her command on the language. My seventy-something grandma then gave me a very important lesson, just with her persistence; that age is never a barrier in pursuing knowledge or doing what you want to do.
The sense of relevance that comes from leading lives on their own terms has given them the confidence to not care much about what others have to say about them.
In fact, for most women, life actually begins being fun in the post-retirement phase. Their youth and middle age often end up being devoted to raising children, earning paychecks, and managing their homes. Who has any time for hobbies? But by the time they are past sixties, the kids are settled in their own adult lives and financial matters are somewhat sorted, plus you have time on your hands. Which means older women are following their passion, continuing to work because they want to. They are travelling more than ever and they voice their opinion loudly.
We are in the age of cool grandmas, who can discuss web-series and memes with you, who are running marathons and managing homestays. The sense of relevance that comes from leading lives on their own terms has given them the confidence to not care much about what others have to say about them. Of course, there are those who want them to retire quietly. To do gardening or watch television, or simply look after their grandkids. But here’s the deal, women over seventies are finally in a phase where they are done and dusted with their duties and thus they are accountable to no one. They can do as they please, and while they’ll babysit their grandkids, it doesn’t mean they not compromise on a weekend getaway with friends.
I wish more and more women realised that ageing is a beautiful thing. It liberates you from stigmas and duties. We women spend our youth catering to social and familial demands and stereotypes. Why must we do so in old age too? What’s wrong in putting your foot down and finally doing as you please?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.