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.”

Somethings Missing

The old Bakul tree next to our gate is missing
The mildly fragrant Bakul flowers that would be strewn under the tree through the year are missing
Missing are the garlands that I used to string out of those flowers as a little girl
The bedroom of our beautiful concrete house sighs peacefully where once the old Bakul tree spread its fragrant breath
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My grandmother smiles peacefully from a picture in our living room, her loving warmth is missing
Missing are her many stories, her gentle touch, the many delicacies that she would dish out for us
I enter my old bedroom, the old box with many a colourful hair clips and pins are missing
My old dolls and toys are missing, and the box with all my old letters and greeting cards

The thatched tin roof of our old house is missing and the sound of the pitter patter rain
Missing are the lazy rainy afternoons, the paper boats, the deluged courtyard
The simple pleasures of kichudi and maaach bhaja - a rainy day meal
The stories, the laughter’s and the indoor games. The happiness of a day wasted is missing

Annual summer break to Dadur Bari in Lucknow is missing
Missing are those long train journeys with mom and sisters
The screeching, whistling steam engines are missing
Missing are the hawkers, hot tea served in earthen pots, the rhythmic, dreamy slumber in a moving train

Smiling Dadu waiting for us at the station is missing and the exited and chirpy tanga rides
Didun and her many delicacies are missing, the home-made achars and aam papads, sandesh, moya, nadu and nimkees
The sprawling bungalow in the Railway Colony with huge front yard and back yard is missing
Missing are those khatiyas, those beautiful long nights under the stars
The laughing, fun-filled afternoons with cousins are missing
Missing are those trips to the zoo in a tanga with homemade puri, sabzi and achar
The Eagle who swooped at my puri and snatched it from me is missing

Missing and resurfacing is the little girl who cried and chased the Eagle away
Who counted stars at night and hummed to the music of pitter patter rain, who dreamt for hours of sweet nothings
The girl in me who’s too scared to walk down the lanes of her childhood, lest the sweet memories go missing!