## Old and the Asymptote

At the moment I’m haunted by the word Asymptote. The image of a curve approaching an asymptote, being persistently hanging over my head, I have selected the topic of `Old and the asymptote’. The asymptote is a line parallel to x-axis (horizontal) or y-axis (vertical) or it could be slant but in all cases the graph approaches the asymptote but cannot touch.

Sudoku and Scramble Riddles in Times of India are my favourite pastimes, to keep at bay the monotony. I came across one Scramble- riddle recently which struck me as controversial. The same1 is given below:

`Never knock on Death’s door; ring the bell and run away! Death really hates that.’

Now to get at the link between the first and second paragraphs, let us turn to Demographics of the old that  keeps on increasing proportionately, enough to need further classification as `young –old’, `middle-old’ and `old-old’. Gulping down daily about half a dozen of medicines and receiving modern health care, at least a part of the Indian urban population has not to worry about the usual life expectancy at birth say, 68 years.  Situation analysis of the elderly2 discloses that at 60 years, a person has 18 more years and at 70 years, 12 more years to be expected to live based on the age-specific death rates.

The asymptote or the threshold has thus to be revised upwards and that is what is called the upper asymptote3. For a person who is 82 years or more, he has knocked at Death’s door thrice and there is sufficient reason for Death’s rage.

`Ring the bell and run away!’ would mean either surviving the shock received from the knock or boldly surpassing the asymptote, set by span of life. But the caution set by `Never knock on Death’s door’ has virtually no meaning as all human beings are mortal and knocking is inevitable. It could be a caution for the accident prone persons, well below the threshold imposed by the span of life. But why should Death hate the accident prone persons or the survivors? Is it because Death has an allergy towards asymptotes and wants its hungry jaws to take lives even before the thresholds?

Or else, there is no controversy and Death has no feelings like love or hate, acrimony or goodwill. That is, it is a non-issue; the lines quoted carry no sense.

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1. Since the author’s name was not given, further searches later on revealed that these lines were said by the actor and singer Matt Frewer in `Doctor, Doctor’).
2. Situation Analysis of the elderly in India, C.S.O., Min of Statistics & Prog. Implementation, G.O.I, June 2011
3. As the level of expectation of life becomes greater, the annual change in expectation of life increases at a diminishing pace.

Random Thoughts     -a free verse

What is `present’?

With engulfing past as prefix

And unpredictable future as suffix

Sandwiched between the known and the unknown

Three mutually exclusive cases

Come to my mind.

With present as an interregnum

Between a recent past and immediate future

Carpe-diem follows as a corollary

Enjoy to the fullest

As there is no morrow

In contrast, the present

As a long line segment on the number line

Suffices to formulate and plan

Learning from failures to attain success,

Where remote past will not disturb

Nor the distant future enthrall.

The third way of looking at present,

`The future starts today,

Not tomorrow’ as Pope had said.

Meant probably for only workaholics,

For me, future is a distant past

Living on bonus, dodging thrice

The jaws of death, statistically1

Ought to be future birthday wishes

In cricketing parlance,

I’m in the eighteenth over in a T20 match

Facing Y(B)umraj(hh) at the death- over

Slogging and chasing an indefinable target,

The risk of being `yorked’

Or caught at the boundary

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1.` The old and the asymptote’, Salil Sanyal, 9Aug 2016, Word Press. com; Situation analysis of the elderly discloses that at 60 years, a person has 18 more years and at 70 years, 12 more years to be expected to live based on age-specific death rates. So, for a person who is 82 years or more, he has knocked at Death’s door thrice and there is sufficient reason for Death’s rage.

## Excerpts(6)

At a pre-decided time, Dinesh muttered to his wife:

‘I find Mrs Solkar pouring out her heart on your first child. Haven’t you noticed that she doesn’t want to miss him even for a moment.’

‘Yes, her love for our Bunty is unusual. Probably because she is childless,’ replied Tarang, without any emotion.

‘We should take pity on her and give her your Bunty for good. In any case, we have our own Monty,’ drawled Dinesh, his eyes fixed on Tarang’s. The words ‘your Bunty’ and ‘our own Monty’ were not lost on her. Tarang’s eyes filled with tears. She had no reproach towards her husband, wondering why he had been silent on the issue all along. And why did he want to give away the child to Suman? After a few moments of silence, she broke down.

‘Your suggestion is cruel. Please allow me to keep him with me. I know you have no affection for Bunty and you are justified, too. But it’s heartbreaking for me,’ said Tarang and began crying.

When she found Suman’s caressing hands wiping her tears, she felt a little embarrassed. Pushing away Suman’s hands, she got up and shouted at Suman: ‘So it’s you who planned to use my womb to get your son by proxy. Scheming lady, aren’t you ashamed. Why do you think I would give Bunty to you?’

Suman waited for a few minutes before replying calmly: ‘Okay, don’t give me Bunty. If Dinesh is unwilling to part with Bunty, I will not ask for him again. Both of you think over it. I’m not in a hurry.’

With these words, Suman departed as dramatically as she had arrived.

## Excerpts(5)

From the book `A Morsel of Different Shades’

“From riches to rags, what a downfall, thought Malini. Her own brother had done this to her. In no time one’s fate could somersault and bring that person down. She was lucky, however, to get the junior teacher’s job, though she could feel the lustful eyes of some of the male members of the interview board. It’s a strange world where the near ones are hard to decipher and strangers out to pounce on you, she thought. Any selfless do-gooders left? No, she was still to come by any such noble creature. Sympathisers, a galore. A widow with children, perhaps, attracted more attention from the sympathisers who poured out sweet words, but in the end, when it came to providing any real help, vanished into thin air.”

*                                 *                             *

‘With all the gibberish about women’s independence, the fact stands out clearly that a woman should have a man, and that marriage alone works as a safeguard and cushion against disasters; two is more than one by one and that was of great help. God has ordained the marital relationship, perhaps, with great thought. But what if one loses her spouse and is exposed to external disturbances. This externality leads to different paradigms; diversity of these paradigms is the handiwork of God. Hers is only one of the variations and, therefore, should have its own solution, a solution for survival. A man has to come in the picture,’ she was lost in her thoughts.

At thirty-five, she found herself unsuitable for marriage. She looked at herself in the full-length mirror of her dressing table. No, by God’s grace, she was left with some youth even now; though she had never considered this asset important. A figure to conjure with, contours still impressive, in fact, she was better endowed than Reshma or Sneha, though she was not as beautiful as Mayawati. Transfixed, beleaguered and depressed, she returned to her thoughts about Prithvi’s future.”

*                               *                                 *

“After returning from school, she took care to dress up in a carefully careless manner. Somehow, symmetry didn’t appeal to her aesthetic sense. It took her about fifteen minutes to set her locks of hair in desired places so as not to make the hairstyle on either side of the parting exactly similar to give a symmetric appearance. Her hairstyle matched the asymmetry in her face that made her look even more exotic – an upturned nose with two unequal nostrils, the gradient of the upper and lower lips slightly dissimilar, the sparkling teeth having asymmetry on either side of the nasal axis and a dimple that graced only her left cheek. She had a measly wardrobe with not much to choose from. She preferred green to other shades but she opted for a deeper shade of red – maroon – for her sari, a printed one. Then she opted for a matching blouse exposing more of her back than front, ———— for her meeting with Badri. Turning halfway on both sides by turn, she took a final look at herself in the full-length mirror, and called out to her children: ‘I will be a little late. The food is there on the table. You take your dinner at the scheduled time.’ And she moved out of the room in rapid strides.”

## Excerpts(4)

From the book `A Morsel of Different Shades’

“Sumi, in her cogitative mood, was relaxing in her inclined cane chair and viewing the purple and maroon bougainvillaea and, as if ordained, the squirrels were running about and chasing the sparrows. Sitting on one branch, a sparrow was pecking at an almost ripe pomegranate hanging precariously by a thin loose offshoot of another branch. The pomegranate started swinging like a pendulum. Every time the pomegranate came within its reach, the sparrow pecked at almost the same spot. It was not long before Sumi noticed an irregular hole appearing over the smooth, shiny surface of the fruit and lo! Behold, the squirrel came in one swift movement, chased the sparrow away, caught the pomegranate in one hand and nibbled at it with an over-eager, unquenchable appetite. The sparrow looked at it from a distance. Sumi, distressed at the girl trafficking being carried out, at once became conscious of the sparrows in the school doing the preparatory work for the royal dignitary squirrels. She raised her arms over the back of her head in utter helplessness and shuddered at the fate of Helen Smith, a mystery that would remain a mystery. Through the disappearance of Helen, a message as if was conveyed to her to not poke her bloody nose in such affairs. Let the sparrows do their work.

## Excerpts(3)

From the book `A Morsel of Different Shades’

Helen, the tall hefty Rajasthani Thakur converted to Christianity was synonymous with what fashion was in Domod. Dressed immaculately with matching shoes, her presence in the school as well as the society was unmistakable.—————-.However, she was painfully aware of some of the unsettling facts.————–

She felt disgusted and counted the number of days to her retirement. But where would she go? She was a loner; Domod was not the place of her choice. She had spent her career in the education line at places like Jabalpur, Sagar and Lakshminagar, all bigger constellations than Domod. She had been unhappy then. She was no better now. Her happiest moments were those before the mirror when she could spend hours in setting her face perfect, her curls in proper places, feeling great content in matching the shade of a blouse with a sari from her wardrobe and arranging her sari. Then, the biggest of her fancies, she would select a pair of shoes from her shoe-rack that held over two hundred pairs, acquired from the shoe-marts of each of the big cities she had visited. The loner was lost in the selection of sari, blouse and shoes, in that order, and subsequently, the lipstick, with occasional changes in her hairstyle at the beauty parlour. In all such activities, she forgot the world and had a dedication unmatched but with no ulterior motive to set the male world to look aghast at such beauty or set her aside as a unique specimen in the female world. No, she was simply a worshipper of beauty and could not see any disorder or disharmony. She had no remorse that her minute, flawless upkeep of her person was misspent in a small town like Domod. She ignored the compliments she received at the Officers’ Club and dismissed them with a measured smile.

Two vital issues obsessed Helen: what to do after retirement and where to spend the rest of her life? Each night she dreamt and dreamt so much that she hurried to go to bed to know her future. But alas, she didn’t remember her dreams. The very fact that the dreams, that is, her surreal existence, occupied one-third of her time gave her great satisfaction. Considering the added one-third of her time spent on her person examining the wardrobe and the shoe-rack and looking at herself in the mirror, she had been able to obtrude two-thirds of her time from the quotidian. The school matters that consumed the remaining one-third of her time would not be there when she retired.

## Excerpts

From the new release `A Morsel of Different Shades’

“It was a hot summer afternoon. Sneha tried to take a short nap, partially beset with the heinous project Reshma had mentioned and the consequences thereof. She felt very hot, and inadvertently, her sight fell on the floor. The dust particles, scraps of rolled paper, a few strands of hair were all static, showing no attempt to move as if they were able to resist the air thrown up by the fan moving with the same monotonous drone as always. Sneha felt mesmerized in the hot afternoon in the bed. Was she hallucinating? She got up from the bed, put off the fan, and then put it on again. Then, she entered a reverie. Reshma, the succubus, appeared before her with eyes angry and seductive, body exposed and aggressive. She exploded in laughter, advanced towards her, held her hair firmly and took her to bed. She shrieked, laughed and kneaded her like dough, saying: ‘There is no escape for you. You are in it up to the knees.’

The dull droning sound of the fan woke up Sneha. There seemed to be no respite for her. She went out of the house and called an electrician who immediately set the blades in order and lo! Dust particles began flying, the hair strands curled up and moved in circles and the paper rolls stirred, the cool air providing her some relief from the heat. However, her moments of relief were numbered. There was a knock on the door and to Sneha’s bewilderment, Reshma stood before her in a low-cut blouse and chiffon sari, face all made up with a purplish jab on the lips. This was reality, Reshma at her seductive best. It took a few seconds for Sneha to let it sink in.

‘Please come in,’ she said simply.

## Excerpts

From `A Morsel of Different Shades’ by S.K.Sanyal

“Suraiya was shaking Reshma with both hands when the latter was

relieved from her trance. The daughter wisely manufactured some

stories depicting her over-eagerness towards studies and succeeded

in convincing her mother about her seriousness as a student.

‘Do you know, Amma, in the English language, if a word,

whichever way you read it, forward or reverse, is the same, it is

called a palindrome, like noon or deed. And Amma, this sweet word

amma is itself a palindrome, abba, too. Our home city, Domod, is

also a palindrome.’

‘That is funny. We ignoramuses have heard of aerodromes but

not palindromes,’ saying, Suraiya left to complete her household

chores. Reshma burst into laughter muttering to herself, ‘I can give

you more examples– but then you will start asking me the meanings

and will have the inevitable suspicion about me being involved in

some affair. Though you will not be far from truth, Amma. I’m sorry,

but you don’t know that evil I dwell, lewd I live, the philosophic

palindrome some genius has discovered, just about circumscribes

my present attitude to life.’

Again, she entered her reverie where only Saras and Anna (both

names cut short to palindromes) existed; the outside world had no

meaning.”