I am sitting on a vast patch of dry, very dusty land.
The golden grass beneath me that must have once been lush green, now resembles a sorry mass of life-less fodder, suitable to be fed to cattle to serve its one last life purpose. I am sitting cross-legged in my pajamas, my chin resting comfortably between my adjoined palms. I am staring into nothingness and shift slightly every few seconds, to escape the prickly grass blades beneath me, which are also wet from the morning dew. The early morning breeze is chilly and I rub my hands on my opposite forearms to get some heat out of the action. I have a little frown between my brows, but I can’t place the reason behind it. Nor do I know where I am.
I am deep inside a dense forest, that’s for sure. Just the one like I have always imagined myself exploring on a wild-life safari trip one day. I would watch Lions and Elephants and Zebras running through the knee-high tall grasslands, possibly in slow-motion as I click around a million pictures from an open jeep, looking lean, fit, tanned and like a million bucks.
I have always been a dreamer. I love leaving the real world behind and floating to the parallel universes where the reality can be altered according to my eccentric mind, in a single second. While doing the dishes, or going on long walks, or even before falling asleep, I love teleporting to the past and future, or to the situations that have never happened to me.
Somehow, forests keep recurring in these dream sequences of mine.
As a kid, the animated Jungle-book was my favorite tv-show. Every Sunday morning, I would watch awe-struck as the orphaned human baby left in the jungle Mowgli would jump from tree to tree and have fun adventures with his various animal friends.
As the years went by, I never really got over that fantasy of mine. Today, the idea has become more of an escape from the drudgeries of urban life to the land far less inhabited, less recognized. It is food for my adventure-starved soul, which yearns to set free in the world that holds too many secrets to be yet explored.
This is very funny because in reality, let alone being a camping person, I am actually a huge wimp! I run squealing when I spot a tiny spider in my living room and can’t have my bath until the water is scorching hot. In my dream scenarios though, I am equivalent to a strong (and tall..) Amazonian woman who is friends with panthers and knows the deepest secrets that the forest holds. I know where the sweetest berries grow and I know the forbidden part of the jungle where the most dangerous beasts lurk waiting for their prey. Living in the jungle, my favorite time would be at night when the jet black ink swallows the very being of Earth and the pitch black darkness is like the one that we never encounter in the city. Sunrise in the jungle will be something out of this world. Lying in my make-shift hammock, I’d be able to see the sky getting lighter and lighter and at the same time, hear the jungle slowly come to life. The mere thought of living that life, excites me to the core.
It is my happy place.
I realize this is where I am sitting at this very moment. I look around and smile. It is exactly like I had imagined so many times. I take a deep breath and start soaking in the freshness of a winter morning. The light from the morning Sun sends a wave of Midas-like touch through the land, turning every tree, leaf and grass golden with its brilliance. The dewdrops shine like pearls.
I sit there for hours, my every sense tuned in to the ways of the wild, uncensored and beyond the bonds of normal imagination. I feel a strange comfort in this foreign land. At first, it felt new and wild and exciting but now all of a sudden, there’s a sense of peace and serenity around me.
Suddenly I notice that a giant, disordered hedge has appeared right in front of me. Where did it come from? Looking left and right, I can’t see the end of it. It goes on and on…like one never-ending barrier. It is so dense that all I can see is a humongous mass of dead, brown leaves. Sitting erect, I put both my hands to the ground and my palms protest as the little pebbles bite into their soft flesh. What lies on the other side? I wonder and my frown deepens. Again, I think to myself that it looks like barrier, one that I don’t want to cross but as soon as I think that, suddenly, every atom in my body starts telling me that I have to get up and cross it. I don’t want to! my inner voice protests.
I am still struggling with my thoughts when I hear a soft rustle from the other side of the hedge. What is it? I freeze and pointing my ear towards the sound, I concentrate to hear more clearly. There it is again. Someone or something is on the other side. Hair on the back of my neck stand in fear. Stupid of me to lounge around in full view of a jungle. Is it a lion? A boar? A Python? I can feel droplets of sweat dropping inside the back of my t-shirt but I am frozen in fear, unable to move. I hear it proceeding towards me. The sound is getting louder and closer. It’s coming for me….it’s almost there … I open my mouth to scream………
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY HONEY!!!!!!!!!”
Hubbyji barges from inside the bush, holding a large bouquet of Roses. I am shocked to see him there, grinning from ear to ear, in his favorite t-shirt that says- ‘Ireland 2016’ and woe-be-gone sweatpants. As I open my mouth to ask him what he is doing here, the world around me starts shaking and crumbling…. The skies start to melt and my surroundings dissolve as if an artist is mixing water-colors in a palette.
“Wake up! Wake up Snow white….wake up!”
I open my eyes to see hubbyji shaking me with one hand, the other holding a large bouquet of Roses.
“Happy birthdayyyyyyyyyy! Wakey wakeyy!!!”
I rub my eyes and sit up. Looking around sleepily, our little room with white walls looks so clinical and stark as compared to where I was a moment ago. As I comprehend that it was all nothing but a glorious life-like dream, I am instantly saddened.
“I was having the best dream ever.” I say, yawning and stretching, “why did you wake me?”
“..because I thought you wouldn’t want to miss a moment of your special day today” Hubbyji says, shoving the flowers in my hand and dragging me up from the bed.
“Shouldn’t I be allowed to sleep in on my birthday?” I ask, searching for my slipper with my foot, eyes still closed.
“No.” hubbyji says, giving me a little push “You are allowed to be treated with a nice cup of tea made by me, while you attend to your phone which has been vibrating like a beehive. It’s already noon in India.”
“Hmph!” I scowl.
“Are you grumpy because I woke you up from your dream or because it your Thirtieth birthday?” he smirks, wiggling his eye-brows at me, while on his way to the kitchen.
“Probably both…” I mutter, shaking off my head, to shed off the hang-over of my surreal dream completely.
The day passes by catching up with family and friends, who in addition to the usual birthday conversations like “how are you celebrating today?” and “what did hubbyji get you” ….this time had an additional question they were very eager to ask me…
“SO….HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TURN THIRTY?”
My total lack of excitement for this year’s birthday could mean two things- either I was finally growing up…or I was really dreading this particular birthday and just wanted it to get it over with as soon as possible. Maybe it was both the things. This word “Thirty” keeps on ringing in my ears throughout the day. Thirty. I am now Thirty.
I never took myself to be the one to be freaked out on reaching an aging milestone. I mean, it is silly! Nothing has changed remotely in the last 24 hours. Why does it feel different all of the sudden? Why do I feel a little weird.
What was I feeling on turning Thirty?
My 20s, much like everyone else’s, were all about growth, self-discovery and…… stupidity. So much stupidity. Some discoveries made me proud, others not so much. Some of my actions made me proud, many of them- not so much. I did some things right, I screwed up plenty of others. I made some new friends, I lost some old ones. I had a lot of fun in the process, I learnt a lot but surely I won’t miss the stupid and irrational parts of being ridiculously young. Simply put, standing on the brink of this incredible new decade, I hope to be in my 30’s everything I wasn’t in my 20’s.
As you grow older, you can feel and see the changes in yourself so very clearly. I used to be the one to fall asleep in a blink of an eye but now, so many days I stare at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come cradle me. I sometimes wake myself up with my loud snores and then shake my head at the memories of when I used to nudge my mum awake when she used to snore at night, dead tired after a hard day’s work.
In my teens, I used to boast that I can eat everything under the sun because I have the tendency to lose weight very rapidly, not realizing that was due to the activity that we undertake in young age without even trying. Nowadays, even after a month of starting yoga and long walks, the weighing scales refuse to budge from the previously recorded weight. I curse at it, throw things at it and complain to hubbyji that he always buys faulty machines from the pharmacy without checking.
When I was in school, I’d rather be dead than admit to my friends that I planned to spend the New Year’s Eve at home snuggled with mum and sis in a huge blanket in front of the television, watching the Filmfare Awards. Nowadays, the feeling of Christmas eve or New year’s eve or even a normal Friday night approaching with absolutely no plans in place, evokes a level of euphoria that few things can compete with. Last year, hubbyji and I fell asleep watching a movie on Netflix with our hands in a bowl of popcorn, long before the clock struck mid-night on 31st December.
So yeah, things change. Feelings change. Your body changes. Everything changes…but I assure you it’s not all bad.
On the contrary, turning Thirty is extremely rewarding in many ways. At 30, your social circle is probably growing smaller. This is a good thing because this circle will be a tighter one. The friends you cultivate relationships with now, are going to be the ones you knock on the door of in a crisis. If your hubby/wife/kids/parents feel a bit uneasy in the middle of the night, these friends will hold the fort at home for you, while you drive to the emergency room. These friends will be the ones who will give unbiased advice during the times when your marriage hits a rocky patch. During these times, you will want the aid of someone who has your best interests at heart, not the friend who was super fun in college and pushed you to pierce your belly-button so that some random guy will like you more.
At 30, you know who you are. You are wiser and your opinions have been formed. You have had enough experiences to know that everyone at some point in their lives screws up. You are not the only one. You can finally laugh at yourself and move on.
Thus, the peace and self-confidence that comes with growing older is one of the happiest discoveries you will make as you leave behind your wild twenties. You come to accept that life will continue to be a big popularity contest and you no longer have to enter it. When things go bad, you will be wise enough to console yourself that a better day will come.
Please know that aging is highly subjective. I am often delighted to note that all across my social media, I have friends who are of the same age but currently, all are in different stages of life. Some are completing a decade of marriage with two delicious kids, whereas some are newly married, exploring the wonders of the new chapter of their lives, hand in hand with their newly found soul-mates. There are even some who scowl when I mention the word ‘Marriage’, and I am happy to note that our country has moved beyond pressurizing the girls to get married in their twenties as a norm.
Often when we make new friends and they ask me my age, the response I get it- “You are turning thirty! You are so young!” I smile for hours. On the other hand, when I think about our upcoming wedding anniversary and the fact that we will be completing eight years of married life together, I feel like a fossil and so very old. Thus, as I said- aging is subjective! It’s just that we create an imaginary ruler in our minds and put ourselves on a strict time-line. The sudden realization that 1/3 of our short life is already over bowls us over! This is when the panic sets in.
Turning Thirty is almost like the feeling that you get around 31st December and 1st Jan every year. You start weighing your life in just one day.. making resolutions, vowing to turn your life around and making the important life decisions out of worry. Not knowing that about a week down the lane, you will get back to feeling normal because the bump in the road will be behind you and can then be happily forgotten.
In my dream, I didn’t want to cross the big, frightening barrier because I was comfortable in staying where I was, for hours. Why to explore something new when you do not have any problem with the present spot? The answer is simple- because sitting idle is not why one comes to the jungle. Jungle is hardly about only beauty and serenity and calmness. On the contrary, it is about the wilderness, about the survival of the fittest and creatures carving out their own destiny through hard-work and labor. LIFE IS EXACTLY THE SAME.
Maybe there was a more beautiful world waiting for me at the other end of the hedge. I might have come across a Tiger bathing himself in a shiny lake, shaking water from his stripes before disappearing into the thick grass. (Come on, he wouldn’t have eaten me…he was my friend!) I might have seen an antelope nudging her newly born little one to taste the freshly dewed grass. I might have seen prickly porcupines, wild hares, chattering monkeys, squawking birds and many unique species going on with their daily chores. I might have learnt an essential lesson by watching them and interacting with them or even by escaping from them. Crossing the barrier would have opened up different angles, new perspective. That’s life too! However wonderful and comfortable a stage of your life must seem, you have to move on and explore more.
The process of accepting that life is too short to do it all has not been an easy one for me. I know I won’t be able to live everywhere I want to live, meet everyone I want to meet, see everything I want to see, or do everything I want to do but it is with confidence and thankfulness, I say that at the fairly young age of newly-30 I still have a long, long way to go! I will fondly look back to my 20s as a time of self-discovery and learning but I can’t wait to see what the mighty 30s have in store for me.
I am all buckled up and ready to go. Let the Roller-coaster ride begin!
Hubbyji and I are walking back home after having a nice dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant in the village.
“So, you had a nice day?” he asks.
“Yeah, it was pretty good!” I smile at him, “Caught up with everyone, ate half a cake and now I can put this turning Thirty thing behind me. Didn’t care for it so much!”
“Happens with everyone!” he guffaws, “there’s something about entering a new decade which makes you start looking backwards when you really should be looking forwards. All you can think about is what you haven’t accomplished in life.”
“Hmm…I never thought of it that way” I say, “ All I was worried about was getting old…but now that you mention it, there are many things that I haven’t tried yet. Maybe I should color my hair purple or get five earrings in my ear….You only live once.”
Hubbyji looks expectedly horror-struck and I almost give in to the laughter bubbling up in my throat.
“Why you have to be so extra all the time” he says, narrowing his eyes, “Like, if people freak out on a scale of one to ten..you have to be fifty.”
I pretend not to hear him and continue counting random things off my fingers.
“We can both take a Salsa class together…”
“Let’s buy a Harley Davidson!”
“You are joking, right?”
“Maybe we should start a Bed & Breakfast in the countryside…”
“Are you okay!?”
“Ooooooh I know….LET’S GET MATCHING TATTOOS!!!”
“GET IT TOGETHER, WILL YOU!!!??”
I might decide on giving some things up as I turn older…. but annoying hubbyji is definitely not going to be one of them. We make our way slowly towards our cozy little house, as the sun finally sets on my scary Thirtieth birthday.