To live on for the moments that take one's breath away


May 6, 2013

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When I decided to call my call column Life Begins At 80, my wife asked: "Do you want to admit to the world you are past 80?" I understand that would be a sin for a woman!

By Burjor Patel | DNA India

When I decided to call my call column Life Begins At  80, my wife asked: “Do you want to admit to the  world you are past 80?” I understand that would be a sin for a woman!

I recall reading an article by George Carlin on his views on ageing. It started off saying that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we are  kids.

If you are less than 10 years old, you are so excited about ageing that you even start thinking in terms of fractions.

“How old are you?”

“I’m four-and-a-half”

Or even when you enter teenage.

“How old are you?”

“I’m gonna be 16”, though you are 13.

And, then you hit 30. Oh! What happened?

“How old are you?”

With a broad grin, “I’m 25”. And at 40 you are 35 and this goes on till you are 80 when you become a kid again.

When I turned 79, I boasted I was 80. And today at 82, I always say I’m 83.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. So let me talk about a few such moments in my life.

After 20 years abroad amid the glitz and glamour of Dubai, we were back to the chaos that is our dearly beloved Mumbai. The warmth, laughter and camaraderie with our children, grandchildren and friends more than made up for all of Mumbai’s drawbacks.

When we left India in 1988, both my wife Ruby and I were household names among

Mumbai’s theatre audience. Our return in 2009 was a blessing for Meher Marfatia who was working on a book on the last 50 years of Parsi Theatre.

Meher also sought my assistance in launching the book. We thought of an evening called ‘Laughter in the House’, which was also the title of the book.

Adi Marzban used to be a popular name among Parsi audiences of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. So, we decided to devote an evening to Adi’s repertoire of plays and musical revues.

Adi had never published his works and it was a Herculean task to locate them.

Fortunately, some of the veteran actors of that era — we call them Golden Oldies — had some of his works. Scanning the pages, we finally arrived at what would be the nucleus for that evening’s performance. We invited some talented new Parsi actors to join the Golden Oldies. Since the new actors couldn’t read Gujarati, we had to write Gujarati in Roman English.

After a month of gruelling rehearsals, the opening date was announced. Plans were to open the next day at the Tata Theatre at 9am. Then news came at 12 noon that the tickets for the entire 1000-plus seats were sold out. It seems people had stood in queue from 6am. I was teary-eyed. That indeed was one moment that took my breath away.

And then came the evening. We had butterflies in our stomach. Some of the Golden Oldies were performing after years.

You could see it written on the faces of the audience: We are here to have a good time, and we will. It was almost as though the show had been adopted by the audience and the theatre was just one big stage with everyone on it.

As the orchestra begun, the claps started. When the full team of actors entered the stage there was an uproar. The evening began with the team singing Enjoy Yourself followed by the Parsi anthem. Each item brought roars of laughter and applause. The show culminated with the Marzban-style Parsi qawali, which pitted the sari-clad women against the pyjama-and-red- velvet-topi-wearing men.

Who says life can’t begin at 80?

The author is a well-known stage personality.