Being 50.


50 was just another number till I went to my doctor for my physical. A little special perhaps, but still more or less another number like 49 or 51. But my doctor’s ‘wit’ hit home the truth. Wow, I made it to 50! She said, “Here is the slip for getting your colonoscopy done. And your bone density scan. Happy birthday!”

What does being 50 mean to me? I thought of this as I drove home from the doctor’s office.

Memories of youth have started fading so I try to think of them often, or write them here. My futile attempt to hold on to the beautiful ones and relinquish the ones that are not so beautiful.

Being 50 is looking at the mirror thinking, “I look darn good for a 50 year old” and then looking at a photo of me thinking “Jeez, look at those bags under my eyes!.”

Being 50 means insomnia often. But there are plenty of books to read so the quiet of night and sleeplessness bother me less. The tiredness on the following day does though.

Being 50 means seeming slow to my fast moving children when it comes to technology.

Being 50 means desire to travel intensifying – post Covid, of course.

Being 50 means being sad sometimes for no apparent reason.

Being 50 means not feeling invincible anymore.

Being 50 means glimpses of my mortality and surprisingly being unafraid of the thought.

Being 50 is losing myself in my memories of childhood, youth and young romance with my handsome beau.

Being 50 means realizing that my children need me less and less.

Being 50 means being picked up and twirled around by my 15 year old son when he realizes he is close to getting in trouble. I invariably laugh. He does not dare if he IS in trouble.

Being 50 is caring more for doing my part in the world AND caring less about slights/snubs/insults.

Being 50 is also being thankful for the opportunities that I have been given.

Being 50 is being freer in thoughts.

Being 50 is being confident.

Being 50 is creaking of joints.

Being 50 is groaning a little while getting up as the knee twinges.

Being 50 is being afraid of losing loved ones.

Being 50 is shedding superficial relationships.

Being 50 is enjoying silence.

Being 50 also means starting to think of how life will be in the next phase.

Being 50 is giving thanks to be alive on a gorgeous day amidst nature.

Being 50 means finally finding my “good side” for selfie, directed by the daughter of course.

Being 50 means not quite understanding how being 50 should feel!

Blouses.


I am not showing you my bare back without reason. I promise there is a story. Many moons ago, when I was a little girl, sleeveless blouses were revolutionary and scandalous. In my middle class upbringing, the idea of women showing their bare arms or wearing the saree in a way that the midriff shows was a big taboo. So what did my gorgeous mother do, despite the hushed whispers and raised eyebrows? She bought and wore sleeveless blouses. She wore it with style and grace laughing at all the snickers and criticism.

I, however, never ventured to wear sleeveless anything because my arms were like two thin sticks growing up. Also I was timid and conformist despite my firebrand mom constantly urging me to be confident. When I wore a saree for a special occasion, I always wore blouses with “airhostess sleeves”. When we went to get blouses tailored in my childhood/youth, the tailor invariably asked if we wanted airhostess hata (sleeves). That style was adopted by the stewards of Air India, the only international government airlines of the country. The sleeves of this particular style of blouse were long, the back was severe and covered. A saree, which is 6 yards of fabric, with an airhostess style blouse, if properly donned, could cover every inch of the woman’s skin. It was all very propah, professional and may I say, severe? When I left India in the mid nineties, I came away with that one style of blouse in my head and in my suitcase. I knew no other.

Unbeknownst to me, India burst into the fashion world with its textiles, talented designers, bold cuts, fusion designs and subsequently blouses for sarees saw tremendous improvement in terms of variety and cut. I was completely unaware of all the changes, being far removed from any kind of fashion. One year, I went back home and needed to get a couple of blouses stitched. I sought the help of my fashionista cousin sister. My little cousin took me under her wings like she always has since we were children when it came to fashion. She is a gorgeous woman who really knows clothes and style. Since she was probably 4 years old she had a pronounced sense of fashion and make up which only improved with age. She was tireless in her efforts to bring me up to snuff with make up and fashion. “Didi, wear your hair this way.” “Apply the kajol that way, it will showcase your eyes better.” “Use brown liner instead of black for a natural look.”… so on and so forth. She always urged me to color my hair to hide the white that are getting prominent each day. Except last year, when I went home and she saw my silver highlights, she approved. These silver strands in black hair is the popular trend, I was told. I felt elated to finally have her approval in matter of fashion!! My reluctance to learn how to apply make up did not deter her from trying, bless her heart!

Anyway, she took me to this tailoring shop called Senorita near Hazra road in Kolkata, gave them instructions on the type of blouse she wants for me, sat in a chair and started her scrutiny. The attendant listened to her directions and called the tailor to take measurements. The tailor who walked in was a man. I gulped! A man will be taking my measurements for a short, tight-fitting blouse? After the first few seconds of unease, I relaxed. He was a professional and knew what he was doing without making me feel uncomfortable. Then I yelped! I felt his measuring tape going way down my back, seeking permission from my sister where to stop, which meant how deep the cut of the back of the blouse was going to be.

As his tape went further down my back, I exclaimed, “No, no! Not that much! That is too much exposed. Stop!”

Now, I wear short dresses, shorts and I often wore my sarees in the past to show off my midriff and flat stomach (also a thing of the past). I have no inhibitions about showing my legs so why not the back? You have to understand, someone who wore severe blouses all her life and covered every inch of her back, this deep cut was indeed scandalous. I don’t know why such inhibitions (prudery?) about showing my back while I show my bare legs with no qualms.

Both my cousin and the attendant of the shop, however, paid no heed to my protests, promising me the cut at the back was classy and just right, very fashionable and not exposing any extra flesh that does not need to be exposed. I gave in. And you see the result.