Relax! Everyone will grow old!
One of the hardest decisions in life is when to start middle age.' I borrowed that line from Herbert Prochnow and his son. But that is precisely the decision our elderly student leaders often find difficult to take. While the legendary Adu Bhai syndrome is common in all the political parties, we take the recent developments around Sudha Sadan as a case study.
When Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina drew the line above 29 years as the age for student leaders, her bold stance under the circumstances was appreciated by observers as a step in the right direction. Suffice it to say that if more political parties take the AL cue, the age-bar and not the ensuing protests, our political scenario is bound to improve.
Given that one's certificate age is usually less by two-three years than the actual day the child lit up the faces of their parents, even with the bar some in the new leadership are likely to be 30+ at oath-taking. Thirty years old? Student? PhD? Nahhh… B.A.! If I was pursuing a doctorate degree I would not have had the time to lead the sadharan students, one may say. They need a murubbi, not a comrade, his aide would second.
Despite the leniency of their leader, some old guards of Bangladesh Chaatra League hit the headlines with their protests. Others accepted the decision. One would never understand (?) the reason for the bizarre remonstration that went as far as bashing up a VP candidate, one of their own, and breaking vehicles (DS 4 April), particularly when there remains the scope to climb the youth, primary and other ladders of the party. If one has done well as a leader, which one assumes is the case because they want to continue to lead then such higher openings are a beckoning.
If the purpose of the student wing of party is to groom future leadership, the student leaders should annually step aside to make room for new leadership, if only to prove that the immediately precedent leadership had been effective and that the nation is now richer in values.
While not stretching the matter too far with Lady Astor's comment, 'I refuse to admit I'm more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate', we have seen too many family-type student leaders, much to the embarrassment of the concerned political office.
The problem is we never realise when we have grown past an age. Bernard Baruch framed it well when he said, 'Old age is always fifteen years older than I am'. In that case some of our student leaders may be looking at 45, or even 50, for retirement. That is not the problem. Now with beauty parlours for even men set up in the city, the greying and the wrinkling should be only a matter of some time and some money. The problem is of morality and of progress.
There must have been times when we all made funny faces at the mirror. Some of us even do it today. That's just to make you believe I am in the 15+ age bracket. But, there will come a time in everyone's life when the mirror gets even. Now you know why your auntie relies so much on the faded image of her old mirror. And uncle would rather depend on guesswork to pleat his hair.
You don't want to get stuck in a groove--the 30s, the 40s…, and look out of place. Just wait for a while and others will catch up. Don't be stupid enough to let the next generation overtake you as you struggle to get into your 10-year old trousers or pull hair from one side to cover the bare patch on the other. Be natural. Be as old as you are. Take pride in reality.
Let me mention a quote on a grave, 'Remember as you pass me by. As you are now so once was I. As I am now, one day you too will be'. Growing old and having to hand over the mantle to the next generation as a student leader is surely not death. It is an opportunity to grasp at other brighter options and bigger prospects that lie ahead to lead the nation. Take them. For in that lies the advancement for which you have strived.
My suggestion to the students who have been leaders is to put the nation above all else. Accept ageing as something natural and as a gift from Allah. Not everyone gets old. Some perish before that. Look forward and make way for those behind you. They are looking up at you. That is why you were their leader.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006