You are 27 or 28 right? It is very tough to live at that age. When nothing is sure. I have sympathy with you.
Twenty eight is not tough. After years of weariness with same boring flaws and anxieties that gnawed me for as long as I can remember, I made peace. This is it. This is the best that could be. The moment I stopped wrestling with the universe, I was rewarded. I felt welcome in a new city with a familiar smile, I found a room on the roof by chance, it never started raining before I reached home, the landlady’s dog became my friend, I found a kind auto driver who asked me how I was managing in a new city, the not so long journey on a hot summer afternoon carrying my life’s possessions was made easy with shared anecdotes, a chance ride on the same train from a nondescript town for few more hours of conversation-all are gifts. For years, I meticulously planned and then spent time moping tears when they went awry-the job that didn’t materialize, the fellowship that never fell through, the grand plans of moving seven seas and thirteen rivers away to escape, the trip that I never took even though I could, the experiments that never showed results in a laboratory two hour train ride away from home, a relationship that took a heavy toll on an unworldly twenty one year old, a reluctantly chosen career path just to run away from the mountains that seemed to close in on me, trying to make sense of statics and dynamics, vectors and scalars, spatial arrangements of molecules when I should’ve been reading aloud poetry by Dushyant Kumar and Dinkar!
It has not been easy, to let go, to not have the faintest inkling of what’s next. When I wasn’t looking, I found a new escape where the language is comfortingly familiar, where women sell malli puvu and kanakamram at street corners and freshly washed streets are adorned with kollam which I am careful not to step on in the morning. The avenue leading up to my room on the roof is lined with Gulmohar and Jacarandas. Pudina, tulsi and curry leaves on the terrace listen to my off key renditions of ‘Yellow’. When I wasn’t looking, I found a distraction over date and cheeku smoothie and little too much old fashioned- ephemeral encounters that I am grateful for, not mistaking to read too much in to them. When I wasn’t looking, I stumbled into Julia’s kitchen with six burner stoves and skillet to cook filet mignon. When I wasn’t looking, I fell for the familiar mannerisms and was surprisingly relieved when the affections were not returned. When I wasn’t looking, I found succor in that Neverland hidden in the mountains, strewn with pine cones. When I wasn’t looking, I found solace in clichéd Tagore, ‘Majhe majhe tobo dekha pai, chiro din keno paai na’. When I wasn’t looking I grew up from the gawky child-woman to someone who gets things done- the gas connection, the electricity bill, the rent on time, the countless airline, train and bus tickets, the trip itineraries that couldn’t be better, the timely phone calls, the perfect coffee cake and malai methi paneer. When I wasn’t looking, the frail shoulders became stronger than I ever imagined, not afraid to have the last word, always the chin up.
Twenty eight is solid. I am past the 27 Club; there is nothing to fear anymore. I pulled out the lone grey hair defiantly standing out, baked my own birthday cake, slept alone on a fluffy bed surrounded by way too many pillows, played Kanye West on full blast when the silence got little too deafening, ate meals and drank coffee not hiding under a book or smart phone, smiled at strangers, winked at all the kids, unashamedly eyed the men who read Gore Vidal and Percy Jackson at airports and metro stations, nursed a stiff drink on a very cold Delhi winter night without drowning in sorrows-real and imagined.
Twenty eight is like deep exhalation after holding my breath for years, holding on to blame games I played endlessly in my mind. Now I know that every little thing counts- the kindnesses, the words that should’ve been said when there was time, the untimely cruel and unnecessary laugh, every denial and evasion. Knowing that no one will have my back, I tread softly, forgive easily, and judge a little less as I would never walk a mile in their shoes.
Eighteen till I die never made sense, but twenty eight could be permanent. As they say in my favourite village, twenty eight is peace.