The Long and Short of going Grey!

“Grey Hair doesn’t mean you’ve let go! It just means you’ve let loose.”

What’s it like to go from staying black to going natural grey with silver strands? I thought I’d create a timeline of sorts with the most asked questions from acquaintances.

The transformation was complete. I was quite happy with it. My hair was completely Silver. I had accepted aging with grace.

A friend told me that it takes guts to go completely silver. I laughed when she said that, ” As long as you are comfortable and don’t get a fright when you see your face in the mirror, you’re OK.”

I had reasoned with myself that we cannot go on looking young. And why should you not look your age? At 67, I was in fact now proud of my silver crown. The advantages of short, silver hair were many.

Here are a few that I’ve quickly penned down :

 I was easily spotted and recognized

I could wash my hair every day. It would dry in a jiffy.

I think it has helped me to look distinguished and certainly a little glamorous.

People would graciously give their seats for me in a train or bus, sure now that I was a senior citizen.

Being a proud member of The SilverSurfers’ Club, I qualify to be a member so perfectly now. A Silver Surfer in the true sense!

My mind took me back to the time when I think I was about 30 years old. I had screamed one early morning. My mother had come running into the room ready to admonish me thinking that, I was as usual, screaming at the sight of a ghastly lizard or that of a harmless, but disgusting cockroach. No it wasn’t that. My problem was much worse. I had just caught sight of the first strand of silver hair in my beautiful, thick and curly jet black hair, worn shoulder length at that time.

I was upset and couldn’t accept the fact that I was beginning to grey. A sign of aging wasn’t it?My mother laughed at my silliness and got back to her daily chores, which I had interrupted.

But I was determined to fight the single strand of grey hair. So off to the chemist shop I went and equipped myself with a bottle of Godrej Hair dye (black), a pair of gloves, a packet of Mehendi and a brush to apply the vicious hair Dye.

After shampooing and drying my hair, I mixed the hair dye in the correct proportions and on a war footing applied the dye, followed by a coat of Mehendi. After an hour, I washed my hair again and was happy to see that the silver strand of hair was not to be seen.

I had spent one and a half hours in the process of hair dyeing and shampooing to cover up just one strand of silver hair.  The bottle had said permanent hair colour. But after a month the silver strand made its appearance again along with a few more. The strands kept increasing. Finally, it was down to colouring my hair every 20 days.

It was the most tiring thing to do. But, my vanity got the better of me and I was determined not to look a day older than I actually was. This activity was carried out tirelessly for 35 odd years of my life.

Many friends and colleagues had started going grey and were comfortable with their looks. I told myself a hundred times to follow suit. But no, when I had to attend any function or club meeting, out would come the tubes of L’Oreal and another tiring three hours would be spent in the ordeal.

Finally at the age of 67, I decided I had had enough. One day, I took my friend with me, marched into Bounce – a fancy salon for ladies in Bangalore, and had my hair chopped short.  I had never worn my hair so short in all my life and wasn’t sure I had done the right thing. But now, the hair had been cut and nothing could change that.   

It was a total transformation. I reached home and the first person to see me was our security. He gave me an odd look but dared not cross his limits.

At a wedding, someone asked me whether I had cut my hair as a ‘mannath’ or a vow. I was annoyed and retorted as politely as I could that I had cut my hair to be fashionable. 

I had many sleepless nights. Had I done the right thing? Had I done something foolish? These thoughts kept plaguing me for the first couple of days and continued to do so for almost six months.

My friends were saying, “It is 2018. Why do you care?” I avoided relatives for quite some time. But how long could I hide? I had to attend weddings and gatherings. I had cut my hair to stop colouring my hair and to look glamorous. I am glad now that I stuck to the decision. I had wanted a pepper and salt look, the in thing for senior citizens, but within six months my hair had turned completely and beautifully silver with not a strand of black hair. The transformation to a silver senior  had been complete and I was quite proud of the new look.

Some people liked it and some didn’t. But for God’s sake, I hadn’t gone short and silver to please others. And I hated the thought of going back to black. I think, I would scream at seeing myself with a single streak of black hair, now!

Usha R

As written and contributed by Usha R. : Author, Silver Surfer, Blog Contributor, Actor.

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At 17 and hearing impaired she travelled alone as a Rotary Exchange Student to the US. Today as founder of Deaf Aid Society that celebrated 50 years of changing the lives of those partially or completely deaf, she battles Parkinsons. Meet our Super Senior this week – Aban Unvalla.

At 17 and hearing impaired she travelled alone as a  Rotary Exchange Student to the US. Today as founder of Deaf Aid Society that celebrated 50 years of changing the lives of those partially or completely deaf, she battles Parkinsons. Meet our Super Senior this week – Aban Unvalla.

“Today’s society, across the globe — whether driven by genuine altruism or mere political correctness — has evolved less judgmental ways of referring to and dealing with fellow-humans who have one or other form of disability. Take, for instance, terms like ‘specially abled’ or ‘differently abled’.

But long before such terms came into vogue, and at a time when societal understanding or resources in these matters was nowhere like what it is today, a young Parsi girl envisioned a school for children who, like her, were fated to face life with perhaps the most cruel disability of all – that of being cut off from one’s fellow beings by an impregnable wall of silence.”

Presenting to you our Guest Silver for the week – Aban Unvalla, sister of our very own Silver Surfer – Yezdi Unvalla

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Down Memory Lane

“Aban Unvalla initially studied at the Little Flower Convent in (then) Madras from the time she was five-years-old. Aban was all of 17 when she went to the United States in 1960 as a Rotary Exchange Student with the help of the late Behramsha Sidhwa. She spent three years studying at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and a year at Gallaudet College in Washington and, on her return, worked with hearing-impaired
children at the Little Flower Convent.

Aban 1

Though she was qualified as a trained teacher for the deaf, the government
refused to recognize that a deaf person could teach another deaf person.
This was in spite of the fact that her school made a representation to the government that it is a unique understanding that deaf persons have amongst themselves.
It was during her American sojourn that a deep desire to open a school for
similarly disadvantaged children in Bangalore started to take shape in
Aban’s mind. Her parents, Dasturji Nadirshah and Manijeh, set the ball rolling and,
with the support of some like-minded friends, the Deaf Aid Society was established on September 12, 1967. In a notable endorsement of the moral force of the initiative, Bangalore’s very own classical violinist par excellence, Philomena Thumboo Chetty (whose daughter was hearing-impaired), was a founding member of the Society.
Help, either as donations of cash or teaching aids, was not long in com-
ing. Among the several who chipped in were Aban’s Pennsylvania school headmaster, John Nace, her American guardians Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Leech, a family friend of the Unvallas, Mrs. Cariappa, who offered the use of her house for the proposed school, and
an Australian lady, Pat Pengilley, who provided valuable pedagogic inputs.

Most crucially, the Little Flower Convent deputed one of its own trained staff, Sister Rachel, as the very first teacher. The school, which started functioning on June 5, 1967, passed another milestone when it was christened the Sheila Kothavala Institute for the
Deaf (SKID) after the late Mr. and Mrs. Zal Kothavala offered a plot of land for
the building.”

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Cut to 2017,  a whole half-century later, and SKID – an affectionate acronym among alumni, parents and well-wishers alike – marked its Golden Jubilee, in September. At an early bird function organized by the old students on July 30 this year, and attended by former principals Margaret Joseph, Asha Dey and P.J. Christopher, and incumbent principal Jessy Samuel, the audience was treated to performances and presentations, which would have been the envy of many ‘normal’ participants!

Needless to say, the young girl whose vision started it all was the cynosure of
all eyes at the function. All of 75 today, and unfortunately beset with a Parkinson’s-related disorder since some months, Aban was ferried to the venue
by her close-knit and caring family –her brothers Adil and Yezdi, sister-in-
law Kamal and niece Kainaz.

It was a moment to savour as all those in attendance, her own contemporaries and the younger lot, gave her a standing ovation and milled around her.

The palpable sense of devotion and indebtedness was hardly surprising, considering that over the years virtually all the alumni have gone on to make successful careers for themselves in various occupations.

Indeed, one can say with conviction that Aban, who was the first hearing-disabled person to get a job in Canara Bank and earned her employer’s praise for her hard work and diligence throughout her long innings, was instrumental in opening the eyes of the banking sector to the intrinsic employability of others with a similar handicap.

Today, SKID’s journey has come full circle, as it were. In 2001, the school got its first hearing-impaired teacher, Srinivas M.N., who has a Master’s in History and Economics from Mysore University and a B.Ed from Lucknow University.

At her recent felicitation, old friends of Aban were visibly dismayed at having
to see her cope with another cruel twist of fate in her life. But they can, and
should, lift up their hearts and rejoice in the knowledge that their fellow-in-
disability planted a seed that has, over the course of half a century, blossomed
into a source of hope and opportunity for the hundreds of hearing-impaired
children who have passed through its portals.

And in the stillness of her spirit – untrammeled by the cruel caprices of nature, guarded over by the ruwans of her beloved parents, and safe in the all encompassing bosom of Ahura Mazda – Aban Unvalla will have found a way to smile along with them.”

Aban 2

As stated by the Jam-e-Jamshed.

She is Alzheimer’s!

She is Alzheimer’s!

She started by forgetting the little things in life, though she could recite what she learned several decades ago.

She went on to forgetting the routes to her favourite places, though she could clearly recollect the route from her house to her school.

We blamed it on old age cause we weren’t aware.

She greeted everyone with a broad smile and sometimes a grumpy face, when everything was normal with the world.

She was asked by everyone if she remembered them. She looked back blankly and said, of course quick-wittedly.

We blamed it on old age cause we weren’t aware.

She started forgetting how to go about her daily activities, never once giving up on her fight to live life.

She began asking our names several times every couple of minutes, just to engage in a healthy conversation.

We blamed it on old age cause we weren’t aware.

She tried her level best to stay active and engage in all the activities she could, even if it meant reading her Granddaughters comic books.

She could no longer speak as fluently and as fast as she could, but she held on to those dear lines lest she didn’t know what to say –

“See you soon.

God Bless you, my dear.


We blamed it on old age cause we weren’t aware.

She could no longer recite all her favourite verses from the Bible, verses which she knew by heart and had taught two full generations the same.

She felt neglected and she was physically abused by the maid but she drowned in her confusion, not knowing if it had ever happened.

We didn’t blame it on old age anymore cause we were aware.

She is Alzheimer’s.

40 million people worldwide and a cure still eludes researchers.


To the victims of Alzheimer’s, who are unable to speak up for themselves and the caregivers of these patients who are too worn out to advocate for change – Join the Silver Surfers in continuing to celebrate age and help speak up for them.

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Bucket List Goals for Millenials – Mix Solo Travel and the Elderly

As part of my mission to strike things off my bucket list for the year 2017, I just had to make a pitstop to Beijing for a couple of days. Why Beijing? The Great Wall of China, of course. Travelling solo I have realized that I am drawn to groups with the elderly than with them young guns. Post this trip and the learnings which came along with it – I would urge every millennial to be daring and travel with the elderly. It’s going to be an eye-opener and an epic adventure.


Here is my list of “The Top Things I learned on my Solo Travel about the Elderly” which reasons out why this definitely is a bucket list goal –

They are game for absolutely anything – You want a selfie with them. Their selfie face is A-game and reminds you they were present several decades before you even came into existence. Some even want to ride the toboggan with you from the Great Wall all the way to the bottom. Trust me, it’s one scary ride all the way to the bottom.

They tug on your heart strings – This was a photo I took of an elderly lady.


The young ladies around her seemed to have been super distracted taking pictures of their pretty faces and ensuring their pouts and eyebrow angles were on fleek. When I went up to them and asked them whether I could take a photo of the elderly lady. Their face was a mix of confusion and amusement and they went ahead and said, “Shi”. I went up to the elderly lady and showed her the photo I had taken and her face lit up. My heart was full.

Which brings me to my next point –

It’s the simple things which fill your memory box and not the big things – I trekked the Great Wall of China. It was on my bucket list for the longest time and it got crossed off. But what blew my mind away were the little things – The excitement on the gentle lady’s face, the fact that my trekking partner was a 65-year-old and she could walk down absolutely anything without fear. The fact that innumerous children brought their elderly parents to walk the Great Wall or even ride the Great Wall on their wheelchair. This made me want to salute their bravado. Trekking the wall was one helluva roller coaster for us, Millenials but trekking with wheelchairs and the elderly was just awe inspiring.

They know how to have fun – They can teach you a thing or two about life in general and also give you a run for your fun quotient if you allow them to show you yours. They have a wealth of knowledge to share with you and they most definitely don’t want you being a spoilt stuck up millennial who thinks no end of themselves. This, in turn, changes something in us. Travelling with the elderly exposes what doesn’t come forth in the comfortable routines of life.


They teach you things unknowingly – Being on planet earth for two scores more than you. They are bound to teach you a thing or two especially about patience and grace. Trekking alongside with a silver and with others who had silvers along, I realized that it was definitely a test of patience. Watching them walk up the stairs along the Great Wall with dignity and grace makes you want to grow old like them. They teach you to be flexible as they tell you about the fireballs they dodged in their life. They make you realize what an easy life we have now and how we can create whatever we set our minds to as long as we are dedicated.


IMHO, YOLO. Experience Life – ALL OF IT!



Guest Post – Marvellous Mondays with Joyce

Guest Post – Marvellous Mondays with Joyce

When The Silver Surfers Club had their first walkathon challenging ageism and bringing about a positive twist to it. We couldn’t help but reach out to Joyce as a fellow blogger to want to know her thoughts on “The International Day for Older Persons.”


Why we reached out to Joyce Williams? – Joyce Williams has travelled the world, written books, been a physical therapist and TV Presenter. She is a grandmother and was once a technophobe. At the age of 80, she took up blogging about being “ancient in a modern world” and experiencing everyday ageism. 

Down Memory Lane – Grandma Williams as she is popularly known reminisces the day she decided to take up blogging with pride. “I noticed that a class called Blogging for Beginners was about to start. I doubt they expected an 80-year-old to turn up. Clutching the rail, as you do at 80+ I hesitantly descended to be greeted warmly by a cheerful bearded young man. He turned out to be Paul. I think he was shocked by what his advert had turned up. I asked if it was Ok for me to come in. ”Of course!” was the answer.”

“Their patience was superb even when my first question was, “Could you please explain what a blog actually is?”” After her first couple of posts, her glass began to overflow and Joyce had found her niche. “I wanted to write about what it was like being old.” Hastening to reassure everyone, Joyce adds, “Much to my surprise and delight, being ancient is proving to be a great time of my life. Really! I found I wanted to challenge the unthinking ageism in today’s world.” She’s also got a big fan in her husband, who dotingly reads what she writes and corrects statements when needed.


With ageism seeing an all-time high, we speak about “Why we should celebrate Old Age?” Read on to find out what Joyce has to say. 

“Let’s begin with that word “we”. Who are “we”? Interesting question! The word can have two meanings: we the people of the world, and us, we the people who are old. A  look at success and achievement from the two angles and we realise both have every reason to celebrate.  Old age has become one of the world’s success stories.

Since  1950, we have added 26 years to UK Life Expectancy. UK Life expectancy at birth is now 79.2 for a boy and 82.9 for a girl. 100 years ago it was 54 and 57. Celebration due indeed!

Never have we had such a large healthy active group of older people, thoroughly enjoying bonus years and yet significantly contributing to society and the economy.

It isn’t just that many continue to work as reliable, skilled and enthusiastic employees, but of serious significance is their grandparent babysitting role in allowing younger women to pursue their careers. Have a look around Museums, Heritage sites and Parks during school holidays. Full of joyous granddads playing and cherishing grandmas patiently explaining.  Everyone, all generations, happy!

And such benefit to children. Older people are living history aren’t they? Have you ever thought about it? I am 82. My grandmother, who could talk to me about her grandmother’s life, was born in 1870! The ability to view life on that scale provides both children and modern society with a wonderful balance.


Though perhaps the key contribution of older people in the West is in the world of volunteering. Thousands and thousands of hours, thousands of hours, worth millions of pounds, are put in by older people in every aspect of community life. Some are formal, Oxfam, Marie Curie, Befriending, Fundraising, National Trust, RSPB, Age UK, Friends of Museums etc.  And none of these institutions could run without them. But the unsung, often unnoticed and certainly undervalued millions of hours Older People provide are as Carers, Good Neighbours (and even as local litter pickers! Met one the other day who does a half day per week ensuring a beautiful public space stays that way) are crucial to the economy and today’s society.

Take a trip back into the life of most of the UKs 80 year olds. They are the ultimate survivors! Born just as war broke out, their future was indeed dodgy. Fathers, relatives and homes were lost. If you survived the bombs and the Blitz, you had to get through a childhood of measles (it was really serious back then), chicken pox and diphtheria, polio, and TB. It was of course before the world acquired penicillin. Post War, the NHS and modern medicine improved life chances. But we lived with nightmare housing shortage, food rationing and clothing coupons for years. That’s what probably toughened us! But we did it. Brought up our families and with them created this amazing modern world we are all now exploring.

We made it! We got through! Three score years and ten, plus bonus years.  And now to enjoy them. This wonderful creation of a long healthy active old age as part of normal life is a credit to everyone to our society. So yes, these are not ‘rubbish, dustbin years’. They are quality life years. Quite right that we should be celebrating, us, we the Oldies.”

Golden Nuggets of Wisdom to the Millenials – “There is nothing much left to die of! You, youngsters, have got it really easy. Go out there and make the difference, if I can start blogging at the age of 80 and change the views of a few people on ageism. What you do and how you make a difference with so many more years is all up to you.”

Reach out to Grandma Joyce and add to her long list of unthinking everyday ageisms –

Grandma Williams Blog

Grandma Williams Twitter Handle