Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Children

Clocks and calendars can give you the time and date, but what marks the passage of time? Many things you can think of -- such as the grey spot on your chin, a few more greys on your sideburns, the tyre around your waist. But the most defining markers, according to me, are children. And this struck me this evening, when I was out drinking with a colleague in one of the dirty bars (will write about them in a subsequent post) that are attached to Chennai's booze shops.
I have a strange relationship with this colleague. When we are sober, we make minimum and polite conversation. But once we have downed two drinks, we are like long-lost brothers. I have occasionally been the recipient of drink-induced, affectionate kisses from him. But this evening we were stark sober when we pulled the plastic stools closer to the rickety table and ordered our drinks. The drinks were on him this evening because he was happy for some reason -- a reason which would not find any relevance here. In any case, he is always a great host. Just the other day, he had invited the entire department for his son's first birthday party. On the menu was both: mutton biryani and chicken biryani. Even a fussy meat-eater like me had hogged.
So there we were, sitting at the rickety table and waiting for our drinks. Time for small talk. He started.
"You know, today very tiring day, pa! I slept at five in the morning, and then I had to go to the school for the parent-teacher meeting. Stupid thing!"
"School?" I asked, "is your son going to school?"
"Yeah man... He is terrrible pain!"
"How old is your son?"
"He is four now."
Four years! That shook me. I was still imagining the boy to be a toddler. I mean it was just the other day we went for his first birthday party. Which means three years have passed. Three whole years without even my realising it! Maybe I had realised it through my own devices, but presently the passage of time was striking me like a hammer.
"But when was that birthday party?" I asked, unable to hide my bewilderment.
"That was 2003. Eh, what man, you don't remember?" Today the son is four. Which means three years have been added to the age of everyone who had attended that birthday party. I was 32 then, now 35. The colleague was 29 then, now 32.
Come to think of it, that's how we measure our ages once a child is born. In any case, once the child arrives, your forget everything else, even your year of birth. From then on, the calculation takes place like this: If my son is 12, then I must be 32. If my daughter is 20, I must be 45. If my son is 30, I must be 50. And so on.
And a child's arrival changes the dynamics of human existence in other ways too. A 32-year-old man becomes a 32-year-old father. And a 25-year-old woman becomes simply a mother. And a 50-year-old woman, whose yoga abs might make even a 15-year-old jealous, becomes, in one stroke, a grandmother.
In short, your children are the ones who eventually make you realise that you are ageing -- a fact no one, quite paradoxically, is ever willing to accept. Should one, then, have kids, or should one not? I really do not have an answer to that. Maybe you, the reader of this post, has an answer.
Personally, I love kids. I adore them. And I get along supremely well with anyone below the age of 10. But then, I would hate to be the father of a 10-year-old, even though it would have been biologically possible to be so had I married at the age of 25. Without a wife and a child, I am today 25 at the age of 35. And I have inspiration to be childless at 35: V.S. Naipaul, one of my favourite writers, chose not to have a child because he thought it would interfere with his writing. He took the decision after he saw, during a literary trip, Graham Greene losing it after receiving a telegram from home which said that his son was not keeping well.
In other words, no child, no tension. And no child, no ageing. No one is there to mark your age, rather your progressing age. But is that what you really want? As in no one to tell you how old are you, and that whether you have become a father or a grandfather? I do not know. But I think such reminders are also necessary so that you behave your age and not act like a 25-year-old at 45.
But then, when have die-hard romantics recognised age? Or age barriers, for that matter?

10 comments:

Maya said...

Die-hard romantics, eh? Are you one BG? I dunno abt all of that but I can say for sure there is never going to be a substitute for age because of the experience that comes with it. You can be smart and wise (to a certain extent) when young but you can never have the humility laced with supreme confidence that only age can provide.

Well, spoken like a old person I hope ;->

Lax said...

Children or no children, we are sure to remain romantic till the end, 'cos it is how we are made.Children make the life purposeful, atleast that is what I think. Life is incomplete if you have not experienced all the khaandas. Keep going, you are sure to discover more.

Arundhati said...

As a woman, I know, a woman is beautiful at any age. So aging does not bother me.

As for children and age - age is age, regardless of children, what matters is what you make of it!

Usha said...

Hey, I am 47. Have been married for 26 years. Have a 24 year old son.
But do you think any of this has interfered with me thinking and feeling like a 25 year old?
At the bottom you remain what you are - these other events and roles come and go - the trick is to retain your spirit!!
At agelessbonding I bond as effortlessly with an 18 year old as a 70 year old...well, that is what the whole site is about right?

Anonymous said...

It is all about how you perceive and view yourself. Wife, children, responsibilities, life with all its paradoxes; all these aspects can make you a more experienced person. But where it is written, that you forget your innocence in the process (can you see here the experience versus innocence paradox?). You can still chase your dreams; you can still stay in you romantic world; you can still be yourself; even when you are a father of 24 year old lass!
Age is in the mind, and it is better to confront the truth than to stay in illusion. Hope you have got the point: Get married soon, BG. :)

visithra said...

Isnt age just a number?

I would so hate not to have kids

Id rather be the chic cool mom then the aunt that loves and showers but never take cares nor repriminds ;)

Leya said...

Of course you are right, I have always heard my mother saying that once you have children all your life revolves around them. But I feel when you are having a baby of your own,there would be a certain feeling of immense satisfaction,of bringing a life to earth, of someone you can truly call your own in every sense, of the love that made the life...And I have had friends tell me about that special feeling after giving birth or becoming a dad the first time.In any case you just get one life, so, BG go get married and have a baby!!As for the age, it is all in the mind, just keep it young!

Anonymous said...

It's a miraculous escape. While having a wonderful family life, one can easily tranform himself to a bachelor. Naipaul must have his own reasons to remain issuless, which is unquestionable. But he tried to impose his 'imaginations' upon Graham Greene's life. Did Greene experience such difficulty? we dont know.
Its easy to remain as a bachelor or issuless. At the same time, its very difficult to strike the balance between a bachelor and a father.

Anonymous said...

i think you should get real BG...at 35 u are sounding like the classic single male whose life is spent in complete self absorption...where the whole world revolves around your small space...where nothing else or nobody apart from you is worth a moment...i shudder to think how u will sound at 50! Get married and hae children...they will make you human...make you feel that there are other things apart from you which are important in life...

Medical Blog said...

Even a fussy meat-eater like me had hogged.