The second innings
Age is no barrier when you follow your heart, discovers W. SREELALITHA
Photo B. Jothi Ramalingam
LEARNING Is a continuous process
S. Chandramouli had friends who migrated from Pakistan, and had been fascinated by Urdu ever since. Through the Organisation for Promotion of Urdu Language, he sat for examinations for three semesters, and secured a commendable 78 per cent in Urdu. You may ask, ‘so what?’ Well, Chandramouli, was 74 years old when he appeared for the examinations two years ago!
Unlike what most of us would like to believe, age does not seem to be a barrier when it comes to learning.
Though the reasons could be plenty, the one thing that drives them is the desire to learn, and the thirst and passion for knowledge.
Take for instance, 57-year-old writer Lakshmi Shri. She is learning Telugu. For a person who writes about music concerts and is passionate about Carnatic music, she is learning the language to understand and appreciate the krithis better, as most of them are in Telugu. “Learning at this age is a great joy as you are not answerable to anyone nor is there any obligation. You feel young when you learn something new. People treat you with respect, and encourage you. Also, you can learn at your own pace.”
Agrees Chandramouli, former executive of ONGC. “You have plenty of time in hand. Further, studies have shown that constant learning has the ability to keep dementia at bay. By giving work to your brain, you are not idle and don’t give way to depression. You spend your time following your interests.”
Jayashree Gopalakrishnan, at 50, did M.Sc Ecology and Environment. A teacher of Environmental Systems at Chinmaya International Residential School, she says: “The course helped me keep abreast of environment scenario, and gave an insight into laws I was not aware of. At a higher level, studying at this age helps you be more alive and occupied. The whole experience of taking notes, preparing for the examinations and the investigatory project was thoroughly enjoyable.”
Kamakshi Mahalingam, a retired bank official, gave her examinations for MA Sanskrit at the age of 51. And, bagged the eighth rank in the University! She also completed up to sahithya, the third level in Sanskrit. “I enjoy chanting slokas, and wanted to learn Sanskrit to get pronunciations right and understand the meaning of the mantras better. The whole thing was wonderful, as I was not looking at marks or rank when I enrolled. In fact, it was my Sanskrit teacher who egged me on to enrol.”
She narrates how she found an 82-year-old man sitting for examinations along with her, “driven only by the sheer love of Sanskrit”.
Interestingly, we learn that there is no age limit for those pursuing education in the distance learning mode. That explains why 65-year-olds rub shoulders with 25-year-olds at the contact programme classes!
However, not all is hunky dory when it comes to pursuing your passion at a higher age. Chandramouli had a tough time finding the right teacher to teach him Urdu, while Kamakshi says one’s memory may take a beating as one ages.
However, she adds it is not totally a disadvantage as one can do anything if one wills it. Lakshmi says she was learning the veena, her “great love”, till a short while ago. But, now she practises at home, as she cannot travel that long anymore. “A few could discourage you by pointing out to physical ailments, general weakness or lack of alertness and speed,” says Lakshmi.
Help from technology
But, thanks to the growth of technology, even the problem of mobility is taken care of. “Everything is available online these days, and you can learn anything at the click of a mouse,” says G. Thiruvasagam, Vice-Chancellor of Bharathiar University.
In fact, the likes of Chandramouli believe that opportunities these days are plenty. Seconds Lakshmi. “I can find swarams with sahithyams online. So it is easy for me to practise veena at home.” As Thiruvasagam puts it: “Learning is a continuous process, and age has nothing to do with it.”
Incidentally, as I was talking to the VC, a district rehabilitation officer, aged well over 50, had just given his viva-voce for his research programme! And, as for Chandramouli, he’s now working on ‘How to read and write Kannada in 30 days’!
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