At a wedding, my wife’s relative peered at my face and asked my age. I wondered if it was time to give up eating sweets.
For some reason which I am unable to fathom, I am defensive about my age, especially since we hired a new driver. Whenever I go shopping he keeps jumping out of the parked car and runs towards me and snatches the shopping bags out of my hand as if I am about to collapse on the road.
It was even more insulting when he once attempted to hold my elbow and help me cross the busy street. Peeved at his helpfulness, I told my wife how he seems like the creepy salesman at a clothing store who follows you silently in every aisle and jumps at you when you touch a shirt you like.
I tried to side-step the question and told the relative that there are three things you must never ask a man: his salary, how old he is and his height.
“Someone asked me many years ago, how come you have such a radiant face? I said I work hard and I sweat so much that I massage my face with it and it gives me a glow,” the prime minister said
A doctor in Saudi Arabia once looked at me and said my wife and I would have tall babies, as I was tall.
I smirked at my wife when we were out of the clinic, as she keeps telling me that I am short, and she said, the doctor was speaking about her, not me. “But he looked at me and said I was tall,” I said.
“He’s a super polite Malayali doctor,” said my wife, who always thought I was as tall as Tom Cruise, Aamir Khan, or Nawazuddin in the comedy ‘Motichoor Chaknachoor’. (Incidentally, the film is about an average-looking, short, Indian expat from Dubai, who tries desperately to find a wife, a life partner, back home).
Obscenely large pay package
Money was another embarrassing thing for me since I was working in Saudi Arabia and everyone at home in India wanted to know how much I was earning. It was embarrassing as it was an obscenely large pay package at that time (much before the Gulf War) and I would lie that I was being worked very hard for the money.
The relative persisted and when I finally told her my age, she said incredulously, “No. Really? No way,” and then called over another relative, a lawyer, and shouted out my age to him over the crowd of people.
“I don’t believe it,” said the lawyer cousin. “I need to see the birth certificate,” and that cracked me up because a birth certificate is now a standing joke in India and has become a very precious document in a country where earlier nobody really cared about how old they are, or where they were born.
Now age and complexion seem to have suddenly become important and recently Indian Prime Minister Modi himself spoke about his great complexion when meeting a group of students.
He initially began by advising them to work hard and to “sweat hard”. “You should sweat at least four times a day,” he said, sounding like a gym instructor.
Then out of the blue, he told the students the secret of his ‘radiant face’. “Someone asked me many years ago, how come you have such a radiant face? I said I work hard and I sweat so much that I massage my face with it and it gives me a glow,” the prime minister said.
I checked with a beautician and she said the secret of a great complexion and to halt ageing is simple: Wash your face twice a day, drink lots of water, massage your face, wear sunscreen when venturing out, and get enough sleep.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi