It was around Christmas and I happened to be in London for work. After a long day, I went wandering along Thames with a resident colleague when he walked into a place while I sat on a bench watching the river flow. He came back with two warm glasses of mulled wine, handed me mine and wished me Happy Christmas. We had talked enough through the day and I was thoroughly enjoying the comfort of finding no pressing need for small talk when he quipped – “Go ahead and mull over the mulled wine”.
I smiled in gratitude.
20 years hence on my 40th Christmas, I am recreating the same mulling – only harder – and minus the English mulled wine. Yet I manifestly see the Thames of life flowing past me. 40 is a magnificent milestone where you have a lesser number of insecurities and a far higher degree of self-assurance.
Before all of you 30-somethings think that the 40th year comes with a certain awakening, however, let me assure you that it doesn’t. It just comes after some serious amount of miscarriages (that is if you truly showed up for life) and appreciation for them which usually results in reduced pretence and reduced hesitation.
As for me, this year certainly calls for a candid self-audit on the years gone by to usher in my next couple of decades with lesser charade.
Last year, something rather morbid occurred to me. Dr Kalam had sadly just passed away and I couldn’t help but remember his statement – “Decide what you would like to be remembered for”. Strangely, it drove me to picture my own death.
I essentially wrote my thoughts down and before the note concluded I had an impelling belief that regardless of my long list of friends I would eventually be left with a handful of people. People whose life would change completely and forever if I were absent. The same philosophy of ‘five close people’ was highlighted by Shah Rukh Khan in Dear Zindagi and presents to me my very first learning. I have decided to make a mindful effort to know the people who didn’t leave my side – even when being with me was tiresome. The ones who chose to stay close when I was at my foolish best should hold the key to my world – and I’d gladly hand them the key before Thames meets the North Sea.
The more one interacts with people the more one learns that strength is a measure of breeziness and moderation of emotions.
Self-audit tells me that it’s actually seen as an imperfection. But I choose to stay unashamedly imperfect. I will not seize taking things seriously. I and only I choose when I cry and when I laugh, when I speak and how much I do. It’s not my weakness. It is conceivably my biggest strength.
When technology invaded our lives, it also fabricated a certain safe haven for us – albeit virtual. Especially for the pragmatism of new-age virtual relationships. I can spew what I feel on social platforms and merrily get away with it, without having to face the heat of my own words. As the other extreme of this situation, I can also dodge people and completely escape looming conversations because I have the convenient option of hiding behind my screen. My ‘answerability’ per se has gone down dramatically. I am far removed from the implications and can feign living in my own sweet world where irresponsibility is certified.
My third learning is to get back to the old world’s fading art of face-to-face conversations however tough it is. I will meet more people in the next leg of my life and invest my energy in them and not just my airtime.
On a short trip recently, I spent a night at someone’s house and I was given the room that belongs to their daughter, who now has moved to a hostel in a different city. Her room’s walls have numerous post-its with scribbles that say – “smile more, don’t miss breakfast” and one telling her to wake up, which, she logically can only read after she wakes up.
This tells me much about the extent of our investment in ‘me time’ and a conscious effort to lessen our reliance on others. I am not sure if it is self-dependence or aversion to dependence in the backdrop of a raging discourse on societal and financial individuality, for men and women likewise. I too have had my share of debacles and my next learning is to strive to keep my faith and assume dependence.
Faith in others and faith in self are not mutually exclusive. I can very well have both.
One most obvious implication of ageing is its bearing on one’s fitness. I am no different and cannot take for granted what I am blessed with today – health of my body, mind and soul. I am cognizant that my metabolism will go down sooner or later and I need to be ready. Also, there could be more damages to be incurred in future. So what can I do now? The answer is, do my best and simply admit to not being impervious. Also, accept that some damages would probably be irreversible. This assent is enormously liberating. Every damage will seed a whole new invulnerability.
We are all made with the same matter and feel the very same feelings at some or another point of time. Some articulate it, some don’t. I sincerely hope my learnings come in handy! Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!