Article by Sashi Satpathy

Review by Debi Prasad Mishra

Dear Ornetters:

The following Weekend Thoughts article provides a concoction of thoughtful humor blended with meaningful message for one and all. An article of excellent philosophy and rigid logic. A very honest and open discourse. Lest each one of us think in the line of Sashi Satpathy's thoughts.

Just browsing through the article by itself was a pleasant experience for me. It immediately reminded me of the late Oriya poet Bhaktakabi Madhusudan Rao's (my sincere gratitude to Manoranjan Satpathy for providing me with the poet's name) famous words from the book "Sahitya Prasanga":

"Rey Atman Nidraa Parihari
	Fedi Chintaara Lochana
		Kara Kara Nirikshana
			Nishabdey Jibana Shrota
				Dhaaunchi Kiparee
                        		Bhetibaaku Mrityu Shindhu
						Karaala Laharee".

I remember during my post-adolescent days (Not Weakened thoughts or Weak End-Thoughts) when a child used to call me uncle, I was really feeling proud that I have finally grown up to adulthood. In other words, I have made it. I am visibly adult.

Life is more complex than I had perceived. May be I need to grow up further in order to understand it better. This brings me back to Sashi Satpathy's thesis on Old Age. Is it the chronological age of a person that determines whether (s)he is young or old? Or is it the psychological, mental, spiritual, or some other age factor that makes a man young or old? This is a question for the psychologists to answer.

So it seems that there is a lot of factors besides chronology which makes a person young or old. Hence, by merely mentioning that someone is young or old doesn't mean anything. The only thing we oriyas have learnt during our childhood is respect the chronologically higher age because:

"Uppara Baradaa Khasuchhi
	Tala Baradaa Hasuchhi
		Majhi Baradaa Thai Kahuchhi
			Mo Belakala Aasuchhi".

Also, people of higher chronological age usually have more experience in life. At least they have seen more number of days in their lives than the ones younger to them. Hence, young and old are relative terms and from a materialistic point of view can be defined as:

Old, Young : Absolutely Relative.

Older, Younger : Relatively Relative.

Oldest, Youngest : Relatively Absolute.

Considering the millions of years earth has stood in the face of the universe, our life span is just a single point in time. Still we have to go through the struggle of growing up despite the parental pressure during the childhood always making it more and more difficult for us to achieve the grown up feeling. Then finally we are out of that bondage and we start feeling desolate for a little while. Then we start to realize that getting old is no fun. There starts the tussle between body and mind. Body rushes forward in arithmetic progression while mind runs backward in geometric progression. Perhaps this is the reason why we see hair turning grey, wrinkles on the skin, pain in the neck and back and much more. But still we don't admit that we are OLD.

May be Sashi Satpathy's brilliant thesis will bring about a different notion.


Debasmita Misra (06/02/95)

>>> Personal Introduction <<<

Although Sashi Satpathy doesn't need a formal introduction but still this has been included for uniformity of the articles. He has been an active participant in the ORNET. I am sure we will learn a lot from his contributions and wisdom.

Sashi Satpathy

B. Sc. (Ravenshaw, 1975)

M. Sc. (IIT, Kanpur, 1977)

Ph.D. (Illinois, Urbana, 1982)

Scientific Staff Member (Max-Planck Institute, Stuttgart and Xerox, Palo Alto, 1982-87).


Associate Professor of Physics, University of Missouri.

Originally from Kabisurya Nagar, grew up in Puri and Baripada.



Sashi Satpathy

In this Weekend Thoughts, I would like to advance the following thesis concerning old age:

     (1) Old age starts at the age of 40.
     (2) As a corollary, being old is NOT determined by how you 
         think, but merely by your age!
     (3) Old age is nothing to be ashamed of, but, rather, it is
         something to be proud of.

Now that I am going to be old in a few years, according to my own definition, it is time to collect my thoughts and present them as an amusement to the ornetters.

First of all, why forty? Well, the logic is clear. If we divide the human beings as either young or old and equally divide the life span of say eighty years into the two phases, then we come to the forty years figure. "But, wait a minute," some of the fifty-year-olds could say,"we are still very young, irrespective of what you think. Our mind is as dynamic as ever, and we will die young at the age of eighty five or however longer the good lord will allow us to live!"

"Baloney, Sir!" I say. Nobody says old men or women are not dynamic. That's a question of attitude. Some of the younger men are NOT dynamic and we never say they are old. So, why should I make the distinction for you and call you young? Rather, may I submit, Sir, that you may actually have an inferiority complex and are afraid of old age and death?

Shakespeare said, "The world is a stage." We are born as a child, grow up through the teen-ages, pass our primes (age 20 - 30), get married, grow a family, and finally exit the world. The same cycle continues on and on.

According to one of our own Oriya poets:

     "Kehi rahi nAhi rahiba nAhiti
                             bhaba ranga bhumi TaLe
      Sarbe nija nija kAma sabu sAri
                             bAhuDibe kALa baLe I"

There is no way you can change this cycle. So, you might as well accept this universal truth, accept your fate, and enjoy each stage of it - both young and old age. Nothing is served by self denial!

I argue in this article that old age (more than 40) is actually more enjoyable. First, you don't have to worry about so many things. Young age is a time of uncertainity and restlessness, a time when we are floating aimlessly and trying to establish ourselves in a trade. Age 30 is a typical time when people get out of their parents' household. Then begins the trouble of trying to establish one's new household. It is done by age 40 and now you are more settled. Life is more serene and you don't have to worry anymore about the road not taken. The voice of the young child in the family provides you with perhaps the best enjoyment a mortal can have. You are more mature and hopefully wise.

The emerging grey hair on your head, Sir, is a symbol of your knowledge and wisdom. Never dye your hair, Sir. If you must dye your hair, because you wish a uniform color, please dye it grey NOT black for the world to be aware of your old age and for it to be proud of you. Proud that a fellow human being has achieved old age, and is a source of knowledge and wisdom for the mankind.

I don't mean that to have knowledge means that you have to have a Ph. D. Far from it! The most uneducated or illiterate persons can be, and they often are, sources of infinite knowledge and wisdom. Formal education is merely a way of developing trained personnel to serve a specific need of the mankind. Don't you be proud that you are better just because you did a Ph.D. at Harvard or Yale and your good ol' grandma never went to school. If you hold such a view, then may I suggest that you, Sir, are the one who is dumb and prime material for hell?

And, finally, don't you be afraid of death. Death is something that will come to you, all your pretensions of being young aside. It is not something that happens to somebody else and will never happen to you. When it comes, be happy, and thank the Almighty, if you believe in Him, for having granted you such a wonderful life. For innumerable others were not as lucky as you have been.

Perhaps we all can find some solace in the wisdom contained in the following immemorable piece of poetry by Alan Seeger:

I have a rendezvous with Death At some disputed barricade When Spring comes round with rustling shade And apple blossoms fill the air. I have a rendezvous with Death When Spring brings back blue days and fair. It may be he shall take my hand And lead me into his dark land And close my eyes and quench my breath; It may be I shall pass him still. I have a rendezvous with Death On some scarred slope of battered hill, When Spring comes round again this year And the first meadow flowers appear. God knows 'twere better to be deep Pillowed in silk and scented down, Where love throbs out in blissful sleep, Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath, Where hushed awakenings are dear ... But I've a rendezvous with Death At midnight in some flaming town, When Spring trips north again this year, And I to my pledged word am true, I shall not fail that rendezvous.

       ------ "I have a Rendezvous with Death" by Alan Seeger

PS: Flames from both young and old are welcome. If you disagree with my thesis that old age starts at 40, you are hereby challenged to argue your viewpoint.

Reviewed By: Debi P Mishra

A refreshing article.

Old is a very rich word. As the author finds his meaning from it, I am sure everyone will find theirs. Being old means many things to people. For example, to my daughter it means a wonderful state of living. Because then you surely know everything and you are allowed to hold the baby boy without someone having to watch you and so on. In essence, the authors view includes this meaning and more. He adds humor and rich poetry to this interpretation.

Will I call myself old? Not really. Why not? Meanings and feelings. One day I will feel old. That is, I will look behind more and look forward less. I will prefer being driven rather than drive. And may be even watch a soap on TV. Then, and ONLY then, will I call myself old.

The author entertains a meaning that makes "being old" synonymous with AGE >= 40. While this is as valid as any other meaning, it reduces the word OLD to a known status such as Male/female or 4th Grader Vs. 5th Grader.

Old or young, the inherent philosophy in the article is one I believe in. It emphasizes the value of PRESENT notwithstanding ones age. Each age has its style and flavor of life. In order to see the smile of a grand child if I have to be old, then so be it. Whatever will be, will be. Many oriya couplets come to mind. For each I miss couple of words and cant quote. Looks like my oriya has grown OLD. What a shame!

I asked my daughter. "Hey, what do you think of us? Do you think we are old?". She said "Yes daddy, you and mommy are old. But then you know, Bapa (grandpa) is very old. You are not very old. You are just old."

That sounded awful to start with and then sunk in. Well, in five years, I am not going to be very old. Just OLD.

But Hey, OLD is GOLD. So I will be rich in 5 years.

Enjoy .................


Your comments are always welcome...

Sashi Satpathy

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