Very often we measure our arrival to certain dates according to the weather. For example, it is raining now in Chennai, and if it is raining in Chennai, it must be the onset of winter in the rest of India. And if winter has arrived, it means my birthday is not too far away. And that's why I hate the rains this year.
This December-end, I shall turn 39. In other words, I just have a little over a year to be entitled to the privilege of prefixing my age with the letter '3'. After that I step into the forties. Wasn't it just the other day, when I wrote a piece in the New Sunday Express, about how it is one thing to be 29 and quite another to be 30, even though the gap is of just one year, or twelve months? How time flies! -- well, the flight of time has become a cliche now. It has to fly: you can do zilch about it; all you can do is maybe follow time in another, albeit slower, aircraft, so that you don't feel too bad about being left behind.
But feel bad you must. It was only the other day when I noticed something grey on my father's chest. I remember telling myself, "I think he is finally getting old." Today, no matter how much I sculpt my chest, there is nothing to save me from being distressed about the fact that I have discovered a couple of grey strands on my pectorals too. Am I getting old? Of course I am!
But maybe I am getting old faster than my father because unlike him, who has always been a non-smoker and a teetotaller, I smoke some 25 cigarettes a day and can empty half a bottle of whisky without even batting an eyelid if I am in the mood to write, even if it means writing just a blog post (by monetary calculation, writing each post costs me at least Rs 300). Also unlike my father, I am gripped by this urge to do something in life: if nothing else, at least share my thoughts with a few dozen people. And if, of those few dozens, even half a dozen lend an ear to you and like what you have to say, your life becomes worthwhile. My father, at the age of 40, had made peace with life: the future of his rather grown-up sons mattered more to him more than his personal ambitions. The average Indian householder, in any case, is not supposed to pursue personal ambitions after he has attained a certain age or has acquired a kid or two: those who do either become outcaste or go on to become legends.
Legends are meant to be worshipped, not emulated. Which sane Indian family man would want to be a drunkard like Neeraj, who wrote the immortal song, "Phoolon ke rang se, dil ki kalam se..."? Which sane Indian family man would like to be a chain-smoker like Sahir Ludhianvi, who wrote the songs for Pyaasa and Kabhie Kabhie? The Punjabi writer, Amrita Pritam, would relight the cigarette stubs left behind by Sahir whenever he left her place after paying a visit: just to feel his breath in her lungs.
I don't want to slip into the routine of a family man, and at the same time I am nowhere near being a Sahir. It is the fear of being neither here nor there, even at the age of 40, that worries me a lot. I will have to work very, very hard.