We all have our own mental categories about these things…age, time. Till 9 its early morning, 10-11 is late morning, 2-3 afternoon, 4 onwards evening and after 10 it was late night because that had always been my curfew.
It was the same thing with age. Till 6 years was the baby stage, 7-13 was the child, 13-21 the teenager (I know that goes against the whole nomenclature of the word ‘teenager’, but that’s how personal mental categories are, they don’t follow rules of nomenclature). But 22, oh god, now 22 was an adult! All my life I had categorized people above 21 as “dada-didi”, facing the world with a job, ready to get married and have children. And I was now approaching 22 with F1 speed and I spotted no pit-stops.
My most stark realization of growing up, funnily enough, was, not my periods or finishing school or my first boyfriend, but the bizarre realization that I now had to stop calling bus conductors, shop keepers and strangers Kaku, and had to call them Dada instead. And now that I was turning 22 I had to brace myself to be addressed as “Didi”, or maybe even… (shudder)… “Aunty”!
So I guess, this is one of those retrospective points of life. So I got a big mug of coffee and sat looking out the window at the first rains drenching Kolkata’s hottest summer in a decade. A romantic picture. And anyway, that’s how they all did their thinking in the movies. But my coffee finished, it stopped raining, but I hadn’t gotten anywhere with the retrospection. What had I done in these 22 years to be remembered, that was significant? Something that was different today as a result of the 22 years I had spent on this planet? I sifted through every achievement of my life, every item on my resume, every certificate I had, at night when I couldn’t sleep, in the day when the bus wouldn’t move in the traffic, at night as the IPL game crawled along.
Nothing. I wasn’t the world champion or even the state or school champion at any sports. I had never been on T. V. or the radio and obviously not the movies. I had been unable to publish any of my work, in spite of my confident childhood dreams of being a writer. I hadn’t gone to any fancy and famous foreign university. I hadn’t raised $ 500, 000 by the age of 12 for the impoverished around the world, or started an sms campaign to put bowls of water on verandahs to save the lives of birds dying of thirst. In short, if I hadn’t ever been born, it wouldn’t have a made a tiniest bit of difference. And suddenly it was like the 22 years of my life had never been because it had made no difference.
And, oh no, don’t try telling me I’m only 22 and it’s still too early to have made a difference, and that I have my whole life ahead of me to make my life significant, because there have been people a lot younger than me who have done way more. Bilal Rajan is the 12 year old who has raised the $ 500, 000 and is a UN representative to Canada. And he was 4 years old when he sold fruits to raise money for the Gujrat earthquake victims. There’s Robin, who’s been to 52 countries, served the military and managed to finish her masters too, all by 24 years. And there have been child sports and music and art protégées. I might have another 50 years of life left to make significant changes to this world for the better, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that I have wasted 22 years already. Doing what? Getting good grades in school and college, being a good daughter and making my parents proud, being supportive, funny and therefore popular with friends? Reading, watching movies, listening to music in the name of gathering knowledge so one day I could make a difference. But don’t you see, I have done nothing with that knowledge. All I have done anything for is myself- good grades so I would get a good job and be rich, be a good daughter so my parents would get me new phones and iPods and laptops. I have only taken from everyone, the world, society all these years and have given back nothing.
My mother, quite disturbed by my self-defeating article, tried convincing me that the 22 years were not a waste. That I was apparently preparing myself to make a difference. Well then, I think 22 years is about enough to prepare someone to jump into the world. And I was going to make excuses no longer.