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.
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.”