A young lady half my age offered to carry my bag. On seeing me recoil, she reached out to grab it and we tugged a bit, my sense of independence rivalling her classy upbringing. She resolved the impasse by insisting her driver see me to the car.
The second event took place as I entered the British Council Creative Writing class room. Another young watched me set up my laptop before declaring solemnly, “I am very impressed with you!” My heart fluttered with delight, steadying itself in readiness for praises of my writing. She exclaimed, “It is wonderful that you have so much enthusiasm for learning at your age!”
At your age!
I have been hearing this phrase of late and have formulated a reason.
It has to do with my veering off the course, I am certain. There is a view of life stages we Indians cherish; the celibate student, the married family man, the hermit in retreat and the wandering ascetic. And even though social realities have transformed beyond recognition, the four stage view remains the bedrock of Hindu socio-religious tradition. Having seen my kids through for instance, I should by extension be throttling back to enjoy life’s hard earned siesta. I am being told in other words that there is a role cut out for me. Be aunty like, content and supportive of the status-quo around me!
Instead I have jumped off headlong into ever growing adventures. I have taken up new fields of study, am working at acquiring new skills, and am busy exploring new situations. There is so much more time to reach in that the radius of my capacity to reach out has been expanding. It in fact is oddly liberating to have this authentic world view that comes from living a full life to come back to rest where it started, with me! My reflection becomes sharper with every challenge I take up and the process puts me in ever greater touch with myself.
Is this not life, in the final analysis. After all, the familiar, non-threatening and limiting orbits are not getting anyone far; there is only so much that you will gain by driving the same path, sitting in the same chair and meeting the same people, over and over. It is safe yes, but it is also numbing and stunting to be in a sanitized environment full of order and convenience.
You live so that you may know yourself. You breathe so you can shape yourself better. You engage for the permission to nurture yourself. You therefore need to continue growing and learning to the end of your life.
Oh yes, if you loved yourself enough, you would hear what life has to say: you owe yourself big time!