(Just as with my face, even if I don’t like it it’s the only one I get, so I’ve got to make do) “As I’ve grown older, I’ve naturally come to terms with this. You open the fridge and can make a nice – actually even a pretty smart – meal with leftovers. All that’s left is an apple, an onion, cheese, and eggs, but you don’t complain. You make do with what you have. As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That’s one of the few good points of growing older.”
– Haruki Murakami, What I talk about when I talk about running
My teenage was a pretty insignificant event, except to me. It marked not only the cusp of a childhood and a tide of changes that I was not entirely at home with (am still not, by the way; that whole period was and is still a total blur – of things forgotten and things I want forgotten and the latter, not just by myself). I’m sure that’s the case with a whole lot of people, unfortunate ones I may add. But teenage was also, for me, the cusp of a carefree life and that of what we now know as the dragon of consumerism that’s breathing fire from every news update we receive on the cell phone – over the last 15 years or so we have left such milestones behind as greeting cards, diaries, radio, pagers, walkmans, discmans, newspapers, talcum powder, “uncles and aunties”, Madhuri Dixit et al that even bluetooth is no longer a spec we look for and asking someone: [so are you on Whatsapp?] is more like an accusation than a question.
Growing old, my grandmother used to say, was never going to be easy. I don’t think she ever imagined times when the focus would be not on the oldest but on the latest. She belonged to a time when one wore that silvery wreath on their forehead with pride; a time when wrinkles bunched up into respect and reverence; the number of years one lived a matter of experience rather than excuses. Today, if I look at myself – and I turned 32 a few weeks back – I see I’ve grown older and I also see I hanker for the latest. I have a lot in common with a teenager of the day – I want my cellphone in the same room as I am at all times (even though I may not admit this during family dinners), the first thing I ask upon spending some time at a friend’s place is: So what’s your wifi pswd?; and the last thing I want to do is to be held accountable for things I deem not worth my time, which is better spent checking Twitter feeds of fake Salman Rushdie account, newsfeed on my FB, and news, the quintessential reality show.
So remember those times when hair dyes first made it to the shelves in India? – Their ads had older-looking men and women being referred to as ‘uncle’ and ‘aunty’… the first instance of chipping away of local culture, where age was a matter of respect. That was then, now it’s just ugliness. Remember those times when shampoos (Nyle, I remember, with amla, shikakai and whatnot), displaced Crowning Glory, which used the allure of Dimple Kapadia’s shining locks to sell? Remember also, the first ever show on beauty and fashion in India – Lakme’s Khoobsurat? There were creams and soaps with doodh, kheera, nariyal paani, and the essential jadibootis, in them of course!
My grandmother had a nice thing to say about all those nutrition-packed creams and soaps – “I dare you to have them for lunch!”
She had another thumb rule: “Don’t buy any food item that appears in an advertisement”. I used to laugh at her old-fashioned-ness since I loved Maggi and Dairy Milk and Perk, all the goodies that had been introduced into the market while I was still a child. But then when I grew up, I realised the wisdom in those words. It happened through a reading of Fast Food Nation and later, Rujuta Diwekar’s books.
So yes, as for getting older, it’s now, by far, a lot easier than before to turn a critical eye to the world, to sift through the reality, without as well as within. I accept myself now in a way I had never imagined myself to be capable of, even 5 years ago. And this is the best part of this 32nd B’day. The worry, no more, is that time is passing me by or that the clock is ticking but more about how I can be more at peace with myself day by day, in prioritising what all things I am doing for myself as against what all for others… I think that’s a step closer to freedom.
One of those things is that I’ve quit colouring my hair 🙂 and it’s already turning grey (I can hear my grandmom from above chiding me for dousing my unruly mop for years in infernal shampoos while all I had to do was soak a mix of amla, reetha, and shikakai overnight and then boil it the following day for use as shampoo) at the corners, and I’m okay with that. Let’s see how nice a meal I manage to put together out of the leftovers I have.