Mark Twain said, ‘Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’ I believe there is quite a lot of truth in that statement. The challenge though is that it often matters to others. At every stage of life from our first words and literally baby steps expectations of our behavior are intrinsically linked to our age. Yet while developmental milestones are keenly followed by parents and pediatricians, the process gets much more blurred and sometimes frustrating as the same trajectories are applied to expected behavior, careers, relationships and even financial portfolio.

At every stage of life from our first words and literally baby steps expectations of our behavior are intrinsically linked to our age.

Blessed by a kindergarten teacher who saw promise in a four-year-old and skipping a year in college, for much of my life I was the youngest in my class. The first time I realized that this was not an unalloyed blessing was when applying for further studies overseas. I found that the system required fifteen years of undergraduate education, anything less was not seen as a positive but a negative. Wonder how Doogie Howser MD managed?

Yet for the most part being younger than my peers was a blessing as there was much more time available to meet the expected milestones. When I joined the Oberoi Hotels as a management trainee, the fastest that anyone had moved through the ranks from Trainee to General Manager was seven years. At twenty-one keeping the same pace would make me twenty-eight— pretty good by any standard. But for my colleagues who were starting the journey at thirty, the pressure was huge because even if they managed the same trajectory they would be thirty seven or thirty eight; then when would they become Vice–Presidents? The race against time was already on!

Socially though there have been some instances of ‘age-misunderstandings’, nothing too serious, more hilarious than anything else.

As I look back I cannot really recall any instance of significance where age either the lack of it or increase of it has been a career obstacle, by God’s Grace my career moved steadily along so that both were more or less in sync with societal expectations. Though I have seen colleagues and peers get stuck along the way because their experience in terms of years became a handicap as their designations had not kept pace.

Socially though there have been some instances of ‘age-misunderstandings’, nothing too serious, more hilarious than anything else. For context I started going grey in my twenties so people often assumed I was older than I was. Once at the bank when my daughter was around two and I was around forty-three the bank teller asked me my ‘grand-daughter’s name! She quickly apologized though when I said Kea was my daughter.

Once at the bank when my daughter was around two and I was around forty-three the bank teller asked me my ‘grand-daughter’s name!

Then there were the many neighbours who would see my wife walking our dog in the evening and tell her that they saw ‘her father’ walking the dog in the morning! She never corrected them!

Now as I have crossed the sixty-year mark, two instances of age discrimination were re-financing our home to get a better mortgage with banks rather unwilling to extend facilities to anyone over sixty, and most recently being unable to do a web-check in on Air-India for my pre-booked seat, turned out their system automatically blocked anyone who is over sixty from sitting in the emergency exit row (I have avoided Air-India ever since).

In summary, I would like to quote Ann Landers, ‘At 20 we worry about what others think of us. At age forty we don’t care what they think of us, at age sixty we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all!