190129 ageism
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Suddenly, everyone is nice to me and I know why; they are all out to get my money.

My wife and I were at Lal Bagh, Bengaluru, on Indian Republic Day, admiring tribal handicraft, but the planter made from bottle gourd and decorated with fish motif, was expensive.

The salesman looked at me and said he does not do this usually because the tribal barely makes money out of their folk art, which he said was slowly dying. “But for you I will give a senior citizen’s discount,” he said after pretending to press buttons on his huge calculator.

“Great,” I thought, reaching for my plastic card, when it finally hit me at what he had just said. My feeling was similar to what movie star Katrina Kaif or politician Smriti Irani felt after being called ‘auntie’ by a fan.

Flustered I blurted out, “My wife is also a senior, can’t you add up our discounts?” and the salesman looked at me thinking he was being gypped by elderly con artists.

Like a kid who has discovered a secret, I am now on the lookout for discounts everywhere. “Hey, this airline with a Maharaja as a mascot is giving a 50 per cent discount on tickets for guys like us,” I told my wife. “That will be a big saving on our trip to Gurugram.”

My wife looked at me with an alarmed look on her face. “Don’t be silly,” she said. The last time my wife booked a flight on this airline, she sent me a WhatsApp with a short video from the runway at Delhi Airport.

The video was of passengers revolting aboard the aircraft. “We want an answer”, someone was shouting. “Why is no one talking? We have been sitting here for one hour. I will miss my onward flight in Kolkata.”

When we finally got a measly discount of six per cent on one airline, it would not allow us to get our boarding pass online. It had said: Avoid long lines at the airport, travel hassle-free, check online. In small print somewhere, it added: No online check-in if you are a senior citizen, (or disabled and are on a stretcher) “enjoy the airport experience like other mere mortals”.

Special schemes

While trying to make a fixed deposit in a bank I learnt that the post offices gave 9 per cent interest in special savings schemes for seniors. “Wow, that’s much more than the measly 6.25 per cent in banks,” I said to myself and directed the driver to take me to the nearest post office.

After about 30 minutes he turned to me puzzled and said apologetically, “It used to be here, I don’t know what happened.” We got down and then saw the sign; it said that this location is closed and has been shifted downtown.

Apparently, not many people were using the post office. “Shall I take you to a courier?” the driver asked. “I won’t get 9 per cent and sending a one-page document will cost me Rs100,” I said, making the driver nervous.

Time passes, and people get old or turn into senior citizens, the more politically correct term for doddering folk who forget where they placed their dentures when they go out for a meal at a restaurant.

While people generally are trying to be nice and not lock up the elderly in old-age homes, ageism is now the new sexism as the world population gets longer in the tooth.

But unlike the West where the rapidly ageing population is retiring and there is a huge shortage of workers in various sectors, there is a fast-growing younger population in India.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.