As one turns the bend at the age of 40, one is supposed to know oneself better. They say that generations are now taking longer to grow up. This becomes knotty if you take into account that nowadays, none of us are too sure as to what ‘growing up’ exactly is. Our cells multiply and we grow up, but is that growing up?
In some ways, I prefer the stability of the previous generation. It’s also true that it’s because of the stability that they provided— and continue to provide—that some of us can take longer to figure out what we like or want to do. From a distance, I’m envious of the certainties that came naturally to my parents’ generation. The rebels settled down young. ‘Settling down’ wasn’t such a fluid thing as it is now. You found your partner, a job and your vocation by the time you were 22. Well done, folks. And I’m not being ironic.
When I was 13, there was something about me that worried my father. I took ages to decide between choices of two. I am a Libran, and Librans are indecisive, but let’s be scientific and rational and leave star signs out of this. It took me a week to decide which pair of shoes to buy. These were socialist times, and the family budget was limited, but a week to decide between a pair of Pumas and a pair of Lottos was a bit much. I took my sweet time. Now, at 40, I’m still struggling with my choices. Here are three adult see-saws I play on every year.
Firstly, alcohol, the old temptress. There are times I meet my friends, hang out, socialise and not drink a drop. But then, there are times you want to go back to alcohol’s arms; you allow yourself sweet surrender and the accompanying oblivion. The warm or cold liquid; the clarity and confusion; the burning insides and startling epiphanies. Whiplash good bye. No craving for weeks. One ordinary day, the mad craving for the taste of Pilsner. Do I drink? Yes and no.
Secondly, small towns vs big cities. Most are clear about this by 40. There are two distinct types: ‘I hate the city’ and those who say ‘I hate small towns.’ Both eye each other with suspicion. I live in Delhi and Dehradun, spending chunks of time in both. When I’m in the city, I crave the quiet and greenery. Indian cities are such sapping monsters. But when I’m in the middle of the quiet and green, it can all get a bit too much. One craves people—strangers, chance encounters and random conversations that only the big city can offer.
Still, often in the city I find one can start losing one’s sense of self. The swarming crowds. Everyone so tired. People always meeting people in the evenings, or going to events. Do city-types ever manage to find a sense of quiet in the middle of this swirl? I’m sure they do. I just keep hopping from my left foot to the right.
Thirdly, women. Not to compare girls with shoes, not at all, but the problem these days in looking for a partner is that there are far too many choices. Every day, dating and marriage websites and apps, not to mention good old life, will throw up a hundred matches. Making a shortlist, slotting meetings into your calendar—it all seems so ridiculously corporate that sometimes one finds it easier to let it all go by the window.
Meanwhile, people judge each other all the time (without having met), based on WhatsApp double ticks and social media profiles. While you take time to decide, the other person has already made a decision, but the next day your inbox will fill up with a hundred new profiles. Does anyone feel a pang?
The wise ones will advise: stop bobbing in the sea of options; even the sea is finite. Life too will run its course. But we will keep our options open till the end of time. When Death comes knocking, it might give us lucky indecisive few an option, and we will laugh all the way to heaven or to hell.
(The writer is the editor of House Spirit: Drinking in India, published by Speaking Tiger)