My Three and Twentieth Year – What a drear!

The topsy-turvy ride that life is, it’s hard to maintain your composure in times of extreme pain, agony, conflict and misunderstandings. Moving on is never easy, whether its love and relationships or careers and mentors. The inferiority complex always knocks our hearts and slides inside when we see our peers and juniors getting ahead of us, in ever sphere. Whether that is really the real story or not is a matter of speculation. But, once the complex sets in, diverting you mind away from it is hard, very hard.

I can always vouch for the relevance of the letters which men of highest creative faculties believe in. Three years ago, when I read Milton’s poem, “On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty-Three” as part of my UG studies, I didn’t quite realize it’d hold true for me someday too. You see, back then, I had a plan. Plans never work out. But we make them anyway. I made too. The decision was made back in eighth grade when I failed to clear Maths paper in the 1st half yearly exams. I was confident enough to reply boldly that Humanities is the vocation for me every time somebody would question my choice. I was told that I was the only one in the entire batch that did not even appear for science entrance exams that year. I just knew what I wanted and I did not feel the need to explain it to people, including my teachers. I was ready to bear the taunts and the questions from the whole world. Believe me; if you are an Indian and you choose to study Humanities, literally the whole world questions you!

I miss that confidence. Growing up, things took a completely different shape and I could realize how far the notion of the world being a vicious place holds true.  Backbenchers usually have successful careers, mainly because they are used to handling pressure and failures. On the other hand, toppers of school and college lose their composure quite easily when faced with the complexities of life. I was never the brilliant one in school, at least, in the academics.  College was a different story though. I was determined to have a good academic record, mainly because in school many students and teachers thought I was a good student, academically, but I was not! I was good in extra-curricular activities, but never studies, except in subjects like English, Hindi and Social Studies. I resolved to have that in +2 and +3. The decision to study English major was not taken with a pinch of salt or a benefit of doubt by anyone though some did say that taking up a mark-fetching subject would have been better. Anyway, I was used to this.

As soon as the ‘honeymoon period’ got over and I began interning and working that life took a different shape. It should, you know. There’s no profession in the world which promises one thing and delivers the same. “Jo dikhta hai wo hota nahi, aur jo hota hai wo dikhta nahi!” is the rule everywhere, including marriage! I had set up Mass Communication to be the next target. But, things changed, somehow, when I realized, thanks to my mentor and the job, that the nitty-gritty, dreary, technical, limited sphere of journalistic writing was not for me. I have always wanted to be a free bird. Now, when you are a girl and you live in India, that’s not really possible. So, I found an alternative. Since free speech is also pretty much non-existent in this mad country, writing for my own pleasure became a big way of letting me come to terms with stuff. Of course, unlike other writers, I really, truly live in a fantastical world, which is crumbling down these days, but, it kept the little bit of sanity in me alive! And I wish to keep it or else you won’t see me alive!

But then again, it’s not just the external world playing down on you. It’s the internal aspect, the place you belong, the genes you carry and the hereditary instincts you have that too play their role. Insecurity brews insecurity. It slowly seeps inside your system and begins haunting you. Things get tougher when you see yourself all alone with expectations of looking after the family, being the next torch-bearer and fulfilling responsibilities. It’s funny how those who are the younger ones in the family struggle to prove that they are capable of handling responsibilities while the ones who are oldest, like me, struggle with those unwanted, undesirable responsibilities. Ego also comes into play. And the social scheming too. There’s a reason why I detest gender biased people. They don’t realize how deep their bias can run into someone’s blood and mind. I had always heard my mom wishing me to be the younger one and my brother to be the older one. What’s so wrong with men being the younger ones? Is it because they have to carry out daily outside chores of the family? So, they are just to be used to get your groceries, print-outs and fetch younger siblings from school/college? Seems very selfish, you know, these gender roles!

Then comes the biggest of them all! The dilemma – whether to continue with your studies or take up a job and learn skills needed because, as my mentor used to say, you don’t learn with degrees, you learn on the job! Man! Was he right! Within six months of working in a news portal, I got to know that journalism was not for me. Though I’m yet to figure out if studying further is a compromise I’m making for the sake of the elders, I know this one thing for sure, at least!

They say, “Fake it till you make it.” Most of us early twenty-somethings have to resort to that to survive in this ever competitive world! I wonder why our parents were not given sex education and why was there no knowledge about contraceptives and the ill effects of over population. Because, we, the new generation (so many of us, you see) are having such a tough time living up to the competition.

Add to that all the technological demons we have created in the name of devices. The “why isn’t he replying” queries, the incessant posts, vidoes and photo sharing and the most deadly of them all, “traveled here…..started working there…..got engaged…..got married….” There’s no end to this list at all. I love it when I have friends calling me up to wish on my birthday or for any special event. Whenever  there’s anything serious to talk, it has to be a call, not a whatsapp message or facebook chat. I have seen the side-effects of all these so much in my inter-personal and, more recently, professional relationship that I literally hold my ears like a kid when I’m asked to talk about something important online. This literally blasts up your relationship, leaving just ashes and smoke! So, never!

But the emotionally unstable person that I am and the deep fear of being ridiculed for my feminine side always almost unconsciously forces me to try and hide stuff, especially emotions. So, yeah, the “I love you” and the “I’m sorry” and “I miss you” are rare to come out. Mind you, when they do, know that you are a very dear person and in danger too. Technology has made romantic relationships quite easy to get and easy to go out of the window too. And, it’s so natural these days to fall for the lure. The temptation is perhaps at its peak now.

1200 words already, the entire day gone in a swoosh! Yes, we have so much to do! I’m more or less at the same place I was two years ago. It’s natural to be here. Not everyone has to be so lost as me, but most have to, at some point or the other in their lives. As I struggle to find my ways, I try not to be like a lost Milton, but, I know I’ll have to be. There is a price to pay when you decide to take the road not taken. If things have to make “all the difference”, you’ll have to walk down a different path too, where you get rejected, have to use connections to get across editorial boards, lose some connections in the process, upset and hurt lots of people and suffer from inferiority complex at every step. And still, life may not turn out to be the way you want it to be. You never know if the way it’ll turn out to be will be good or you’ll have to make a compromise. There is no life without risks and compromise, right? Ask the elders, if you may.

I’m including a few lines of the poem On His Being Arrived to the age of Twenty Three here. Milton gave us a hard time with his work. And he had a hard life too. But, when is life easy? Like, the TV character Dr House says, “Life is pain!”

On His Being Arrived to the age of Twenty Three – John Milton

HOW soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,         

  Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!      

  My hasting days fly on with full career,        

  But my late spring no bud or blossom shew’th.       

Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,                 5

  That I to manhood am arrived so near,       

  And inward ripeness doth much less appear,           

  That some more timely-happy spirits indu’th.          

Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,          

  It shall be still in strictest measure even                10

  To that same lot, however mean or high,     

Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven,         

  All is, if I have grace to use it so,      

  As ever in my great Task-master’s eye


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