Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Whispering Forties

Whispering Forties

As the tongue longs for taste buds-titillating delicacies, the heart says tut-tut. The insurance agent then puts forth medical policies, gently insinuating that now's the age when a medical check-up every six months is a must - and one never knows what they may throw up! The reminder of age irritates a bit but, as soon as you try to adjust the distance of the brochure to read the fine print, it strikes you that the prospect of wearing reading glasses is not so distant.

The grey had started showing in a few strands a couple of years back and we had got used to being addressed as 'uncle' by pretty young lasses. But, suddenly, colouring hair - the few patches that have remained, that is - seems to be the only option to ward off being similarly addressed by those in their early thirties. Our daily brisk walks (which have replaced strenuous sport) only accentuate the passage of time since we were young. We look askance at young couples who, oblivious to the world, are lost in their sweet-nothings. More than two decades have passed since we ourselves were in the same romantic mood, unaware of the realities of the world and times ahead. In that era without cellphones and internet, we made anonymous calls on the landline just to hear 'her' voice, checked the air in the cycle tubes or petrol in the scooter to keep pace with her, got palpitations while exchanging lecture notes and created unspoken rendezvous of the spots frequented by her. That's when we would have gladly given our lives for that one furtive glance from her.

No, it's not thanks to the 'naughty forties' syndrome that these thoughts recur. Rather, the term itself is a misnomer because naughtiness is an everlasting attribute, but it's only in the forties that it starts getting noticed and earns the disapproval of society. By 40, one is supposed to be too mellowed by life to indulge in romantic musings and hence the frowns.

It's when, instead of attending boisterous gatherings, you seek quiet meetings with like-minded companions. It's only now that poet Wordsworth's lines in Tintern Abbey become starkly clear. They trace so eloquently the growth of an individual focussing on "an appetite; a feeling and a love,/ That had no need of a remoter charm,/ By thought supplied, nor any interest/ Unborrowed from the eye" to a person who matures "hearing oftentimes/ The still, sad music of humanity" that is "of ample power/ To chasten and subdue". Apply those words written in homage to nature to romance instead, and these are times when romance gradually subsides, leaving behind the essence of love.

Nevertheless, the icing on the 40th birthday cake doesn't seem too inviting. After all, the calorie meter starts ticking in the mind immediately. In fact, birthdays are not awaited as eagerly as before. Perhaps that's because they remind us of time left rather than times to come. Then again, our worldview seems to change too. We seem to lose that fearlessness and crass individuality which marked our thoughts and actions. We take decisions not for ourselves alone but give a thought to all related. We start adopting things and practices once considered irritating and restricting - from mundane helmets and seat belts to the sublime heart, home and hearth.

It`s only in geography - the Southern Hemisphere - that we have the "Roaring Forties"; in life, the forties whisper. Life tells us it's time to pause and plan, to take account not only of finances but also of relationships - and that we ought to calculate only when it comes to savouring a cake, not human relationships.