It was Residents’ Association’s biennial sports day. I walked into the premises of the community hall, leaving back all other activities to take part in the social event (one of my greatest moves as part of trying to be more ‘sociable’ – unlike the real me).Girls and boys of my generation had occupied parapets along the sides of the not-too-small sports ground – gossiping and rumoring (not all, most of them though).A group of ‘youthful’ boys was seen at a corner surrounding stylish motorbikes. I was seeing most of them after years. In my mind they were still those obedient, studious, bookish kids who accompanied me in tuition centers. Now, they have all turned hippies! It was quite difficult for me to distinguish between boys and girls – like how it is when one goes to an intellectual atmosphere like film festivals where Boys are seen having long, colored (even straightened) hair, pierced ears, long kurtas, and shawls if possible. Oh the girls! Not any less when they enter tomboy’ism’ – boy cut hair style, t-shirts, shoes, sans-earrings and the like. Boy or girl? I don’t mind asking on the face. The sports day was not any intellectuals’ event apparently. It was more like a family meet –lively and colorful all together. Kids, dressed up in sport suits were anxiously waiting for the running race which was the first item of the day.
Quite away from the gloss and glitter of the sports day, I observed a committed group of ‘oldies’ (most of them nearing 70) who I knew were behind the functioning of the Residents’ Association. They were on the ground, busily carrying out various arrangements for the first item. Among them I spotted an Apooppan (definitely 65 plus). He was dividing the ground into tracks using a white powder. I could see that his slightly weak body was not completely permitting him to do that. But that feeling of mine died out in split seconds as I noticed his face –filled with total enthusiasm and love –he was serving, ‘youthfully’. It was a service which didn’t look like a service. No one below sixty was seen on the ground. All the organizers and helpers were big men –all of them in their retirement life phase. Being just a participant of the sports day I stood observing those loving hearts. Many a times my heart offered a helping hand to them. But I preferred watching them and imbibing some wisdom from them. I was carried away by the scene. There was no sign of tediousness on any of their faces though their bodies spoke loud –this I think is youthfulness. The oldies who devoted themselves wholly for the ‘youth’ that we are, were the real youths that day. None of them were in-charge of anything other than administration. They could have peacefully sat on the parapets enjoying sports. But it was their preference to work like the working class on a social event like that. I am sure that our Residents’ Association had enough and more financial support which it could have used for hiring people to organize the event. It was sheer preference and willingness –or the ‘shamelessness’ (as we might think) to do ‘any’ task keeping aside one’s personal prestige and social status. Awesome Youthfulness! When you see that PhD wala’s son serving water at the marriage reception and helping workers get at ease, don’t think it is shamelessness –he is from the youth!
I doubt whether this kind of unconditional youthfulness exist in today’s run-after-money-and- fame world. Every celebration or work was a group activity in our forefathers’ days. Aren’t we shrinking into our individual shells today? –not realizing the power of a group. There were many instances on the sports day when those oldies needed help. Not a single one from the so-called young age band bothered to offer a hand. I was not surprised, because I was also one among them. But it was indeed a realization. What shocked me was extremely unbearable. Most of the boys participated in the sports actively. But not a single girl except Saasha had come forward to chip in. All that they did was giving weird expressions –an ‘Attitude’ display. Attitude, I think is the most misunderstood word among youths.
“That is my attitude!”
“Cool Attitude!”
“What an attitude, dude!”
A hell lot of such ‘spoiling’ attitudes are ruling the young generation.
They try to display a lot of it during teen ages. It then takes a hell lot of time to take the right and meaningful direction –which is maturity (far away from the concept of attitudes meant for image display and self-branding) itself.
“Finally you have won the attitude war!”
I happened to read this comment posted by someone on my schoolmate’s Facebook . I still fail to understand what that new combination of words mean –attitude war! And as I anticipated, the ‘youthful’ comment won a hell lot of ‘likes’.
“The more attitudes, the more youthfulness” –present day’s slogan for the youth, by the youth….! Of the youth? I wonder !
Tug-of-war, thread and needle, sack race etc were so cheap for them to even look at, i guess. It was clear from their faces. The thought of ‘West is best’ happens to be Indians’ most difficult psychological barrier in life. When we ape various things (style, looks, accent, mannerisms, and clothing) from the west, we forget to internalize the most required feature from them –open mindedness. This is where we fail terribly.
Sadly, Sack race for girls passed by without much participation. When the Sack race for boys/men was announced, the first one to come running to the ground was the Apooppan who had drawn all those long tracks for the running race. I was a little worried to see him inside the long sack. As soon as the whistle blew, he hopped, oohed and aahed. I rose from my seat and encouraged him with loud phrases –by which he moved even faster. I failed to contain my happiness. When he almost reached the finish line the sack got entangled between his foot and he fell terribly hitting his nose on the ground. My eyes popped out at the sight. There was complete silence on the ground at that sorrowful moment. I was wrong when i thought he wouldn’t continue. Very soon after the accident, he rose energetically with both hands high on air, waving at the crowd –he had won the race. Wow, A classic scene! Everyone praised him highly, applauded crazily and a few boys ran to the ground to offer warm hugs. Those were moments of love and ‘togetherness’. I was silently imbibing a lot from it.
The sports day was coming to an end. The dusted atmosphere was slowly clearing up. It was time for prize distribution. Through someone’s conversations I came to know that Apooppan was the prize sponsor. Prizes were announced and distributed. Apooppan was not seen anywhere near the stage to take credits of sponsorship. Boys and girls received their prizes from the stage decently.
“First prize for sack race, men’s category… “
Even before the name was announced someone howled from behind with peaking liveliness. All of us looked back. It was him there –Apooppan. He came running to the stage ‘shamelessly’ expressing all his feelings like a child and accepted the gift. I clapped my hands, too enthusiastically, till he got down the stage and sat immediately next to me. I shook hands with him in delight. Waves of youthfulness passed from him to me. My heart smiled at his. Time passed and I got out to leave home. There, at a corner I spotted that Apooppan once again. He was standing beside a kid. He kissed the child and hugged him warmly after giving away the gift wrapped prize he had received for the race to the child. It was in reality, a divine scene. Someone had said at some time in life,
“Love the youth and respect the elders”
When we are young we must with no doubt do the latter, and with the passage of time, as we become life-experienced oldies, we must do the former. If you think you are life-experienced ‘hippies’ even at your tender ages, start doing the both now.

*Apooppan: old man

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