When I was very young, very very young, my mother used to pick out what I was to wear each day and lay it on the bed. I hated it. One of my earliest memories is praying to God that he’d make me an adult fast so I could choose what to wear. Memories of my mother fade with each passing year. Blame it on the silver things that crop up each time I comb my hair. Or maybe its time.
When I rifle through old photographs and search my brain for forgotten memories, I see a gangly version of myself, gazing into the future. I used to read Readers Digest, not understand a word,laugh out loud and reserve understanding to the future.I would paint lines and circles and a renowned artist would call it Abstract Art. I would become a teacher and pile up assignments on my students. I aspired to be the girl in the advertisement, sipping chocolate margherita on a colonial balcony, my tresses billowing behind me. I would be one of those bikini-clad women who all look alike on a Goan beach.
At some time, without my knowledge, the future arrived. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like anything I planned. I am not a teacher nor the girl in the advertisement . I exist in a continuum of endless cups of tea! I am 30. I cannot drive a car. I cannot speak a foreign language. I haven’t written a book, yet. Young nephews and nieces have graduated from calling me ‘chechi’ (a Malayalam coinage for ‘elder sister’) to aunty.Ugh! I still have no idea how shares work and can no longer put it down to my innocence and young age. It has its perks of course. I have now learned the art of doing bottoms up and am legally allowed to do so. I can multi-task. I can wake up as early as 5 am. Earlier, I pretend-laughed at people’s jokes because I didn’t get them. Now I pretend-laugh at their jokes because I get them.
Still, everything seems to be happening in a rush. I’m not ready to be a 30-year-old. Mentally. I’m not ready to be served wine/vodka at a restaurant; I want good old coca cola. I’m not ready to be asked my opinion on the nuclear situation in Pakistan. I don’t want to whine and sulk about paying bills and running errands. I hate acting old! I don’t want to.
I wish I could go back in time and narrate a few life lessons to my 18-year-old self: don’t smile so smugly at the camera. In ten years’ time, you’re going to look at yourself and wonder at your own gawkiness. If you thought you got high on chocolate, wait for the real deal. Don’t be scared to talk to that boy you like. For that matter, don’t be scared about speaking your mind or doing what you think is right. Everything is fugacious.
In another ten years, you’ll wonder at your stupidity aggrandising someone who turned out to be just like you. Don’t take everything in life so seriously. Have fun, do something illegal. Remember: Your past becomes the raw material for the anecdotes of your future. Your dreams may be rooted in fantasy but your plans are rooted in reality. 10 years from today, you wouldn’t want to look at a photo and think that you too could’ve been part of it.
Oh, and tell your future self: stop trying to be profound. Dont be afraid to act your age. Not a minute older, not a minute younger. Age gracefully.