LoveRules @40

Urmi was looking out of her bedroom window, sipping coffee. This was her favourite part of the day when the fading daylight brushes past night, soft darkness envelopes the world. Today being a Saturday, she had the luxury of enjoying the enigmatic twilight hours. Urmi hadn’t switched on the lights yet, she was enjoying the soft kiss of semi-darkness. In the quiet of the evening, her mind kept wandering back to her breakfast with Manju masi and her alarm on learning that Urmi has turned 42 this year. “And you are still single? Who will marry you now, some sad divorcee? What about children?”, Urmi was amused by her exclamation. Manju masi kept shaking her head as if Urmi has been hit by some grave misfortune. “You are pretty enough, why couldn’t you find a husband,” she said again pouring Urmi her second cup of tea. “I am happy on my own Manju masi,” said Urmi smiling trying to put an end to the discussion. Next Manju masi would try to pair her with all the single men in 40s she could think of, and Urmi dreaded that. She knew it was futile trying to tell her that she wasn’t looking for a husband, it’s smarter to change the topic.

She took out the saree that her mom had sent for Manju Masi as her birthday gift, Dhakai jamdani purchased from the weavers. Urmi’s mom and Manu masi grew up together, they were best of friends. While her mom got married soon after college, Manju Masi having suddenly lost her dad was burdened with the responsibility of her family. She took up a job in a school for the sake of her younger siblings. Once they grew up and got married, Manju Masi was left all alone. She was almost 40 by then, too late for her to get married in those days. A few decades back 40s was almost the end of all good things in life, definitely the end of love and romance. Urmi’s mom had always stayed in touch with Manju Masi, she often lamented the fact that her selfish siblings didn’t bother to help her find a husband. 

Image courtesy doplr.com

As Urmi looked at Manju Masi she felt sorry for the lonely life that she has been leading for the last 30 years. She felt fortunate to be living in a time when she could script a bold new story in her 40s. While Manju Masi and her likes were termed as spinsters in their 40s (middle-aged single women with no prospect of marriage), Urmi, on the other hand, has never felt more desirable. Some years back, she did struggle with the fact that she was nearing 40 and her love life was going nowhere. The constant reminders from her mom and aunts that her biological clock was ticking didn’t really help. Finally, she told her mom firmly that she couldn’t get married just for the sake of getting married and having children was not be all and end all of a girl’s life. Liberated from the constant pressure of marriage and motherhood, she walked confidently into her 40s – happy, successful and brimming with confidence. The world has started embracing the change and lauding the new-found self-assurance of the 40s. Urmi learned to ignore those who didn’t, they didn’t really bother her.

“Look at me Urmi. Living alone for all these years has not been easy,” lamented Manju masi. Urmi wasn’t sure how to tell her she didn’t feel alone; she was quite happy and content with her life. Male attention has never been a problem for Urmi. When she was young, she has loved in earnest and broken her heart more than once. Love was more platonic then, holding hands, a few kisses at the most.  Looking back, she sometimes wishes she was bolder then but those few stealthy kisses had their own charm. She remembers her first love that was meant to last forever. For when we are young, we believe in one true love and when that ends it hurts like hell. She has been hurt, lonely and sad. There were times when she would be gripped with fear and anxiety that she would probably be all alone for the rest of her life. In her quest for the perfect man, she made so many mistakes.

But the 40s were strangely liberating. They liberated her from the quest of marriage and motherhood. She was confident enough to pursue bold relationships, she could enjoy sex and intimacy without moral compunctions. She realized it was possible to have a beautiful relationship where marriage was not the prerequisite. With years, Urmi has gained the maturity and the poise to be in a relationship in her own terms without bothering about the societal norms. She has learned to love herself and value her space and privacy. She did feel lucky to have come across a man who complements her, be there for her while respecting each other’s space.

Relationships at each stage have their own set of challenges. In her 40s it was more about accepting each other and respecting each other for the way they are. Romance is more mature now, it’s more about enjoying the companionship, without unnecessarily fretting about the future. Surer of herself, Urmi knows she can deal with the future as it comes along.

To the fabulous 40s

One day, before I knew it, I was 40. I had dreaded that day once. Turning 40 is the official declaration of waning youth, or so I vainly thought in my early twenties – just stepped out of college, managed to get a job, new-found independence, many friends, budding romance, when the world seemed perfect. Forget 40s, even 30s seemed jaded then. In my youthful insolence, in my urgency to achieve everything before I was too ‘old’ I was rushing through life, never stopping, never looking back. I did enjoy every bit of it, though in the haste of youth I made so many silly mistakes, wrong choices, broke my heart several times. At times I would be angry that the perfect life that I had meticulously planned wasn’t turning out to be so perfect.

Sumana40s

And then, when I turned 40 something strange happened. Though the first flush of youth may have faded and there are a few streaks of grey, I felt wonderful. Life seemed perfect regardless its many imperfections. I didn’t feel older, instead I feel more confident, beautiful and happier. Unlike my younger years, I don’t much care for makeup anymore, my trips to beauty parlours are becoming less and less frequent. I don’t fret over fashion anymore. My younger self and her obsession with fashion amuses me, scanning the fashion magazines, rushing to crowded Sarojini Nagar market to grab the export rejects. To be well turned out in fashionable western attire in limited resources was the challenge then. Anything less was considered ‘aunty’ or behenji’. Indian outfits were an absolute no, no.

Not that I am badly turned out now, or don’t care for care for good clothes. In fact, I spend more on clothes and jewelry less guided by fashion trends and more by my taste. I can walk into a pub or a bar in sari or a salwar kameez, I can wear a dress or a skirt to a family do. I have suddenly started caring less and less about people’s opinion and more and more about myself. Uncomfortable questions don’t annoy me anymore, I can handle them with a smile. I choose my battles carefully and my arguments even more carefully. You can have the last word; I have a life to lead.

At times I do stop to look back fondly at the years gone by. 40s have lent me the maturity to understand and appreciate what I may have left behind, carelessly tossed aside. I am equally optimistic about what is to come. I often look forward to the days filled with sweet nothingness like Charles Lamb’s “The Superannuated Man”, the essay in which he brilliantly paints the picture of his eagerly awaited retired life. I do wait for those days when I would have all the time in the world to walk the hills, to sit on the beach, sip a cup of coffee leisurely, read a book, write a poem or do whatever I please.

I am in no rush; I take life at my own pace as far as possible. “40s are the new 20s,” so I often hear. I would say 40s are better than 20s. As a friend of mine said, “40s are great! I so wish I had the wisdom of 40s in my 20s.”