Bhagyasree’s “Qaid Mein Hain Bulbul.” Sunil Gavaskar curled up like an armadillo defending against Wayne Daniel. Imran Khan sending Michael Veletta’s stumps walking. Vinod Kambli crying in Kolkata. Zico missing that kick. A man in front of a blackboard and a long wooden stick explaining election results on DD. News of Indira Gandhi’s assassination stopping the commentary of an India-Pakistan match. Cheering for VP Singh as the Congress gets drubbed. Mandal and feeling betrayed by the same man we had once cheered for. Hawa Hawa. Oye Oye. The taste of Re 1 chumchum. All of these feel just as fresh and as vivid as if they happened yesterday. But if you ask me about things that happened in the last few years—all the movies, matches, events become a jumbled mess of color and noise and I have to pause, hem and haw, trying to unravel the tangled web of what passes for my short-term memory.
I guess this is what getting old means.
It’s not a bad thing after all. This passage of time.When you are young, you want it all. Not only that, you do not even know why you “want it all” except that everyone else does and you are afraid that if you don’t you are going to miss something. It’s kind of confusing and overwhelming. Once you pile on the years, you realize your own limitations, which of the “I want it all”s you *actually* want and what kind of things are you willing to let go for each item on that list. That simplifies life. A lot.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games though. When I was younger, there were two kinds of food—-good and bad. You had as much as you could of the former and gulped down the latter. Now the same thing had become a most complicated beast; every bite being tarnished by words like “carbs”, “saturated fat”, “cholesterol”, “triglycerides” and the vilest two words in the English language “portion control”. For the mid thirties man, eating is the equivalent of watching porn in one’s teens—an experience almost always accompanied by a gnawing sense of guilt.
But then again, it’s not that bad. The pressure to look like John Abraham reduces every year and you get more comfortable looking like Amar Singh—the love-handles, the double-chin and the bald spot. It’s age after all. I am not twenty-five any more you know. To be honest, despite the outwards sign of bravado, you do feel really tense when the results of your physicals come in but then again, it’s the exact same butterfly-in the-stomach please-I-will-do-better-next-time sensation you used to have when your report-cards were given to you after the annual examination.
The most important thing about becoming old is the realization of how little everything really matters. When I was young, I thought getting thirty-seven in my pre-HS tests would ruin me forever. It didn’t. After my disastrous performance in the Joint Entrance Examinations, I thought my career was over. That wasn’t the case. When I kept on sending my writings to assorted publications, all in vain, I thought I would never be able to realize my dreams of becoming a writer. There too I was wrong. And through the years, if there is one thing I have learned (not that I don’t re-learn it every now and then) is what seems a matter of life and death today becomes a mere footnote tomorrow, a heartbreak in the morning becomes a “Oh man what the fuck was I thinking” by the evening and that in life, there are just a very few things that are truly important.
And what are these things you ask?
A K Hangal knows. So does Shahid Afridi.
And, I guess at thirty-five, so do I.