For the human race, the journey through time or ageing as we know it, manifests itself in many subtle ways. It creeps up silently until one morning, the bathroom mirror reflects an image with a streak of grey, where none existed a few months ago or a weekend trek, up a wooded trail, appears longer and more breathlessly tiresome than it did last year. Different people react differently as realisation dawns upon them that climbing a staircase carrying their grandchild now takes some doing. The change triggers panic in some, while others with a more wholesome disposition welcome the transition as one that would add dignity and wisdom to their persona.

Take the case of a distant relative, who on seeing the first strands of silver in her hair, went into a state of depression that ultimately required psychological counselling. Mercifully enough, she is now fully cured and happy with her head of grey hair and new looks. Another acquaintance, went into a long drawn period of panic on discovering that his hair was beginning to turn grey. He was advised to let nature take its course, but ignoring good counsel, began dying his crop with the result that the growth on his head looks far out of place with the wrinkles on his skin. He claims that he is now destined to continue with the dyeing process as leaving it would leave his hair as white as snow. I am currently working on him (unsuccessfully) in a bid to convince him that white would resonate beautifully with the rest of him.

I am part of a group that loves the outdoors. Living in the Federal Capital gives us ample opportunity to satisfy our passion, a major part of which is trekking. I recently discovered that I could no longer go the regular distance as effortlessly as some time ago. Sitting down on a rock next to an iguana, I had a long talk with myself and we both came to the conclusion that time had come to shorten our range and reduce our speed. The lizard appeared to agree with us wholeheartedly, as he bobbed his green head a few times and disappeared into the undergrowth.

I have always maintained that there is a child in every adult and that this child must be set free at frequent intervals in order to maintain sanity. As one crosses the line into senior citizenship, keeping this child alive and well assumes paramount importance. My eldest male sibling is eight years my senior, lives with his children and grandchildren in Lahore and kept joviality at bay with a ten foot pole, until I decided to do something about it. It was on my insistence that he began spending a few weeks of his time with me and my family, away from the heat of the plains. I had often told my children stories about how my parents and their cousins played ‘caroms’ on weekends, when our house was usually full of relatives. This contest went on till late at night, accompanied by loud lighthearted fun. It was to keep up with tradition that a ‘caroms’ board with all its accessories was always at hand in my home. I saw the gleam in my brother’s eyes as he saw us setting up a game. Two boards later, he was sitting opposite me beating the hell out of our opponents and adding his voice to the shouting that accompanied the fun.

I recently joined a diminishing batch of class mates, who celebrated the golden jubilee of their high school graduation at our alma mater. It was as if we were young boys and girls once again, much to the embarrassment of our spouses. The experience reinforced the notion that age is a state of mind – a belief that sometimes invites criticism, which I consider unwarranted because I don’t dye my hair, wear clothes that I feel comfortable in, have had a successful professional career and am consulted by the family on all matters of importance. The fact that I bring out the child inside me very frequently is what prompts the comment, but then what would I be if I were not different.

The writer is a historian.