I was almost surprised that I made it till 40. Since childhood I always used to look at 40 year olds as ‘olds’. I was sure that’s about the age at which your bones start to crackle, secretions dry up, tears well up and flow at slightest provocation and you need a stick to walk around and “Soda Glasses” for the dimmed vision. The narrow arteries of the feeble heart muscle will choke up from all the greasy stuff I ate till date and the only way forward would be to write my will. Not that I have much to give away, but if you consider this blog to be an intellectual property worth a dime, then there is some literal wealth I can leave behind for the next gen in my family.
It all started changing on my 40th birthday a couple of years back. All I could feel that day and onwards is a sudden gush of energy, a sense of ‘ been there, done that’ for many mundane activities in life. This is about the time that you start being sure about where life is headed, you know it’s all finite out there and nothing will last forever. You start thinking of writing down the things you ‘have’ to do before you die. You know that there is still a large part of the world to be explored and a large number of things to eat and devour before the curtains fall. All of a sudden “Life is short” seems to be true.
I don’t know about many others but I for one have found it difficult to make new friends since the time grey hair has sprouted on my side locks. This is about the time that I realise that the bank of friends I have had so far must be cherished and lost friends found and reconnected with. That’s why; being a part of many reunions becomes important for your existence.
School reunions are supposed to be great fun; unfortunately for me I was having Alzheimer’s when I was I school. A very shy personality, I had tremendous low self-esteem issues as a kid and that did not allow me to build on friendships from school. I have a lot of acquaintances from those days and thanks to social media I have reconnected with many, and am slowing moving towards knowing my school friends better, but I just don’t have many memories of that time. I would conveniently blame that on late surge of my growth hormones and preference of the grey matter in my brain to keep everything from that period hazy and grey.
Then came two years of junior college and again thanks to social media I got in touch with many wonderful friends there with whom I had a chance to spend just about 2 years. Those bonds were weak to say the least for me but I now realise a lot of warmth there. May be they all liked me more than I liked myself.
For me life began when I joined professional college pursuing my undergraduate studies in dentistry. These are the friends I grew up with, I sang, I danced, fell in love several times (with almost every second girl who blinked at me; a side effect of being in an ‘all boys’ school) and generally did all the mischief I could. These are the friends who know me well enough to tell me anything they want and I will take that it in my stride. They have seen me at my best and my irritating worst. Most will not judge me and the best part is that if they do, I know enough now that I should ignore that and move on. Tolerance was never a virtue for me but the passage of time has given me that in abundance.
As I entered the reunion venue I kept feeling, OMG, I cannot believe 20 years have passed by, seems like a lifetime and so much has happened in these 20 years for all of us. Physically, many have improved their dressing styles and the way they groom, most of them look the same they used to or got better, but the greatest change happened in our approach towards each other. There was warmth that oozed in the conversations, a sense of acceptance for each other that may have been misplaced during our younger days. I found myself wanting to go and say ‘hello’ to some friends whom I have not met for 20years.
At that time I may not have really cared about all of them or would have taken them for granted and may be 10 years ago I would have still ignored them. But once I crossed the magic number, something within me told me that every person who has touched my life in some way, matters! It’s all about the relationships now and how many smiles I am able to be amidst before I die that will count the most.
As one after another friend started walking in there was a palpable excitement in the air as we all surged ahead and crowded around each new entrant to register our presence and ask them, “remember me”?.
As the afternoon progressed and the cruel time threatened to close in on us, I found myself asking several long lost friends about their families and their lives and was amazed to listen to all the success stories unfold around me. Some have achieved great heights in their professional lives while others have gladly let that take a back seat for the betterment of their families, but the beauty of our subject is such that it has allowed everyone interested to pursue their career as per convenience.
As we settled down we all found our comfort zones and sat around reminiscing the college days that were a cause of all our grief and happiness and now we could laugh at the silly things we did when we were 20 year olds. At regular intervals there was a cacophony of laughter that emerged from different corners of the room that charged up the atmosphere and like a contagion spread to all the corners of the venue. There were smiles everywhere and as someone commented later on, “we all may or may not have changed, but our Smiles have remained the same”…Such a content feeling I had when I heard that.
Reunions are a great yardstick to measure your own journeys and I am sure all of us found that we passed the test of life in things that mattered. The evening ended with some great songs of the past and left me humming the song that I love (the brilliance of Gulzar!!), the song that now tells life to embrace me just the way I have happily embraced everything that it has thrown in my way…(ऐ ज़िन्दगी गले लगाले…)
All of us in our early forties now believe that our best is yet to come and the next hand that life deals for us will be “All Aces” for all of us. It’s that hope on which the world clings on to and that will now bring the best out of us.
Here’s to being on the bright side of 40 with your college friends, the friends whose place can be taken by none other!!