December 11, 2019

Sudha Menon author of Feisty at Fifty talks on why life after 50 should be without baggage

This is an author feature and we were simply intrigued by the book title itself and the theme she has written on living life. Meet Sudha Menon, a former journalist, a mum, an author who loves to unabashedly proclaim her age, her mind, her attitude and living life the fullest in fifties.

Author of Fiesty at Fifty, Sudha Menon shares with Mums and Stories on her decision to write the book, “ My decades as a journalist and later, as an author has trained me to be a keen observer of things around me. As I entered my late forties I watched in fascination the changes that my own body and my emotions were undergoing- I was in the thick of  the dreaded years of pre-menopause, the sense of losing control over myself self and of thing around me. It was one hell of a roller coaster ride till I gradually trained myself to look at the funny side of being fifty plus. The fifties might be the end of perky and the beginning of a free fall with everything, including the moraIe drooping but the scramble to make the best we can out of what we have can be adventurous, challenging and exhilarating.

At almost fifty I could not identify with all the things I had heard about women of that age. I did not believe I was over the hill and I certainly was not ready to hang up my boots and disappear. Two years since I hit the Big Five-Oh, I am having the time of my life with work and my many projects. I have rediscovered long lost friends, I am bonding with my amma, my sisters, my family and cooking up plans for the rest of my life. I feel a sense of liberation and exhilaration because I no longer care to fit into any boxes that societal norms expect me,  nor do I care what judgements are passed on labels fixed on me. I want to tell everyone that the fifties and the rest of our lives can be the most fabulous part of our life.”
When asked on recommendations for mums in their fifties to do, this interesting author mum shares, “ Women in their fifties, indeed, those at any age, must make sure they have a life beyond their families and their responsibilities at home. Nurture your friendships, hold them close because these are the relationships that will help you get past the lows of life, the challenges that come your way. Rediscover your relationship with your mother and your sisters-you will be surprised how much joy will come your way from simply being in their company. Cultivate an interest of your own, be it learning to sing, paint, swim or dance or trekking. Make that your own private world with no spill over from family. This is your ‘Me Time’.

Reignite your passion by working out, exercising and keeping yourself fit- the energy that comes from this will help you with all the stuff you have to do in your everyday life.

Have your own money. This is really, really important. Find something to do that will get you an income.”

Talking on her stance of being a mum Sudha shares, “ Three years into my fifties I find myself being blindsided by well meaning friends and my mother, all of them insisting that my daughter is now ready to be married off. It is difficult to stand up to them or even argue and it is sad to hear the reasons why they think my daughter has to be married now: “she will be left behind”, says one while the other goes “nobody wants to marry older women.” And when nothing else works with me they say: “the biological clock is ticking away” etc. But I am not biting this bait just now.

My fledgling is just 27 and  building up a career she is passionate about and she will marry when she is ready and not a day before that. And yes, if she tells me she is ready to marry tomorrow, that is great as well. Her life, her decisions, though, I must confess, I have in the recent past been tempted to point out some interesting proposals that have been coming for her.

Am I a liberal parent? I think so. I have raised her to think differently, think out of the narrow boundaries of conservative, orthodox thinking and I have always encouraged her to follow her passion. But I have also been the mother who kept tabs when she went out for parties, who she hung out with and who were the people she spent the most time with. It was helicopter parenting largely to ensure she was safe but over the years I have learnt to let go and look after herself. It is necessary to be available to your kids no matter what age they are at.

The trouble is, it is a very fine line between being available and being a very unwelcome guest in their life!

I do think a lot of us women burden ourselves with pressures-most of them self-created- and this gets in the way of the real things we want to achieve in life. Unrealistic expectations and burdens create guilt and that is a very corrosive thing that eats away our insides.

Ditch the guilt and own up to what you want to do with your life is my battle hymn.

If there is one thing I have learnt in 52 years on this earth, it is to look for solutions within us for the problems that we face. Developing a strong sense of self-worth, loving our body and ourselves before looking out at the world for validation is the key. We could, of course, all of us do well if we learn to be a bit more sensitive to the realities in the lives of others.”

 

Talking on her book,  Feisty at Fifty  was entirely written around my own experiences as a woman of fifty plus. I never imagined it would get the kind of enthusiastic support that it has from women across ages. I have had women write to me saying the book was the story of their lives and that they are glad they are not alone in facing the situations I have described in the book. Countless women have sent me images of them reading the book and laughing out aloud at railway stations, on flights and during lunch hour at work. Young girls have bought it for their moms, older men for their wives and friends have gifted the books to women they felt would benefit from reading it.

Writing Feisty At Fifty taught me to listen to my instincts. I have been wanting to write a book about ageing and the circus our lives become after our forties but did not write it till now because I worried nobody would read it. The book’s success also taught me that there is a universality about the lives of women that reached out to women who read it.’

We at Mums and Stories haven’t read it yet and would be doing so shortly. Meanwhile here’s an excerpt shared by the author.

” My FOMO seems to be getting worse by the day. In the last few months the list of things I want to do has grown really long. To begin with I want to be a radio jockey. I know a couple of them personally and they have the best lives, meeting with all sorts of interesting folks and having half of the city clamouring to be invited on their talk shows. I also want to become an actor. For as far long as I can remember I have dreamt of being on the silver screen, singing soulful songs with Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra for some time, then Kumar Gaurav, followed by the love of my life, Shah Rukh Khan. It is altogether another matter that these days that dream has been considerably downgraded. I am now willing to even play SRK’s sister.

But, no, I will not play his mother. Even fifty-year-olds have their dignity. And while we are on the topic I would like to be Kangana Ranaut too. I like how sassy she is and how her newsworthiness goes up exponentially with every outrageous new disclosure she makes. When I say outrageous things, even if they be God’s truth, I only get shushed by the daughter and the spouse. ‘You don’t have to verbalize everything that comes to your mind, Mom,’ the daughter says and Hassled Harry nods in complete agreement.

When I get time off from being actor and RJ, I want to try my hand at pottery. And I think I can be the best Latin American dancer on the subcontinent (when I am home alone and bored to death, I stand in front of the mirror and pretend I am one). I want to be a singer too, and when I see pictures of women who abandon the chaos of city life to live in splendid isolation in the hills, where they hold the most exciting literary salons, I want to do that too.

The other day I read about a woman who wore her great-grandmother’s wedding saree for her own nuptials and I roundly cursed my mother who, in a fit of mad decluttering of our home, sold her wedding saree to the ‘kabadiwallah’ for five hundred rupees. Since I have taken the marriage vows twice in the last thirty years, I felt doubly cheated out of the opportunity to be known as the diva who is a restorer of antique sarees.

Then there are full-length articles about India’s most-followed celebrity writers who move about in charmed circles with similarly privileged writers and publishers, live in picture-perfect homes where they host their ilk with wine and cheese, and discuss the state of publishing, the next big author they discovered, or the rare talent of one of their sons or daughters, a literary protégé in the making. Or, there are write-ups about high-profile authors who got together to bring out anthologies that they talk about in a tone that clearly implies that if you are one of the miserable ones who did not get invited to contribute to it, you have no business being in the business. Go disappear into your hole is what they want to say.

Newspapers and the media have a social responsibility. If the first thing their product does to unsuspecting readers in the morning is to pull down their spirit and make them feel persecuted and unworthy, they should do well to change what they put in their publications. I begin most of my mornings eating humble pie because I fall into none of the above categories.  I am not rich and while I am mildly famous in my own city, I am nowhere near as famous as the folks who flock together for cheese and wine soirees. I am in no anthology or at the cocktail dinners of powerful publishers and authors, even though I have written a clutch of popular books that resonate with readers.

I am tired of being the author with no connections with the big bosses of big-ticket lit fests who will not give me the time of the day, leave alone a chance to speak on one of their panels because I am simply too small-town for them. But heck, I am also the one who gets emails and letters from readers who write to tell me that my books have magically transformed their lives, given them the motivation to carry on despite the hurdles, and taught them to be more compassionate, loving, and positive. I feel grateful to be in their good books, even though I am not in the pages of the newspapers, trying to shoulder my way into a P3 picture. I might not be able to post Insta or FB images of receiving awards, sounding off on the telly, or breaking bread with the bold and the beautiful but I have the pure joy of women approaching me at bookstores, airports, or the neighbourhood mall and telling me they are awaiting my next book so that they can gift it to a beloved daughter, sister, or wife.

‘Ma’am, when I read your books I feel you have written it just for me. Your books gave me hope at a time I was really struggling with self-doubt,’ one young techie told me some time ago aft er reading one of my books. Meanwhile, since I am not busy doing one important thing after the other, I can hang around and enjoy my time, and occasionally watch my pastry-chef daughter bake the most gorgeous cakes and pastries.

Speaking of which, where the hell is my phone? I have to post an image of that cake on Insta. Right now!
Mothers get bragging rights, don’t they?

 

 

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