You realize you are in your forties the moment you start to look achingly at the butter cookie and Gulab Jamun and start wondering – how many calories?!
Remembered all those Gulab Jamuns I gobbled in my childhood. God, how nice if time stopped then. The best part of that period was that I could eat anything without dying thousand deaths of the guilt. But the worst part of that period was ‘studies’.
Studies were sacrosanct and boring; the unintelligible physics to the mind-boggling maths. There were these crazy kids who used to make it to tuitions after school, then study, and then even write down to check whether they got it right. Used to feel exasperated, as most of the time I was summed up by their successes. I lived in a university’s staff quarters, which translates to good boys and girls, hard-working uncles serious at their research and well-informed aunties. So life in staff quarters is like a captive audience for torture. After every public exam, it is a nightmare to step out of the house. Every uncle and aunty stops by to ask what you have scored in the exam and your entire worth depends on that score. Many a time, I was dismissed as a misfit because of my insignificant scores.
Preoccupation with good marks and obedient behaviour is an obsession. It starts with minor everyday demands – get up early, have a bath as soon as you get up, study in the morning, eat all vegetables, eat curd, oil hair, comb it back, don’t tell lies, draw well, dance well, sing well, and then it edges towards the mega demand, score 95 out of 100 – the list is endless.
When I look back, I wonder what happened to all those good boys and girls; have they made it? Bathed every day, immaculately dressed, oiled and combed back hair; learnt all slokas, danced like a dream, sang like a cuckoo, scored a perfect 100 – are they at their peak of success? Well, the question is, by whose standard are we defining success? So let me rephrase. Are they happy? In whosoever’s definition, happiness can be felt, radiating from the inner souls. They must be blissfully happy for by the scorecard and all their good behaviours. But the intriguing question is – are they?