At 16, I thought the world was all about me. I felt very important, and I was actually considered quite mature for a teenager. I didn’t worry about trivial things. I was the happy-go-lucky kind, happy with life and everything around. Maybe I was lucky after all, because there were kids with real problems. I didn’t have any cares in this world. Just home, school, family, friends…and of course, the all important ‘me’.
At 16+4, a Math & Physics graduate, aiming to be a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force, but as destiny would have it otherwise, I was lost at the crossroads, wondering which way the life-full-of-promises was awaiting me. Advertising. A marked deviation from Science obviously, but I couldn’t imagine myself as an academician or a scientist, and I thought the only other thing that I could do was write. So I set out. I had to do something after all, coz there was no such thing as a free meal!
At 16+8, I was an accomplished copywriter, on my own two feet. A few of us got together to start up an ad agency. The very first year saw a huge turnover. Then one fine day, it so happened that one of the lead guys got an assignment abroad (a call from his previous agency which he couldn’t refuse), another guy – a printing engineer got an appointment as professor in a reputed institution (he would have been a fool if he’d turned it down), one lady had to join her family who had just then moved to Dubai (again, no choice there) and then myself…well, I got married (the timing couldn’t have been better, or I would have perhaps been at the crossroads again!). Each of us went our own way. The success story came to an abrupt end. (The agency was open for a couple of years after that, but finally wound up, is what I heard). I wasn’t the typical ‘stay-at-home, cook-and-clean-for-pati (husband)’ patni (wife), but my hubby wasn’t the typical pati either. He gave me my space. I gave him his. And we shared a space that was truly special.
At 16+10, I was working on big brands in an Ad Agency in Bombay. Then, I had my first baby. For a year I stayed at home and enjoyed the just-turned-mother phase thoroughly. I continued working from home though (man, was I raking in the moolah!). But I was already pining to get back to full time work! With a baby in my arms, I heard school and college kids referring to me as “aunty”! Mama was fine, but “aunty” was something I was yet to get used to!
At 16+12, I moved down south with family. Worked hard, partied harder. Bought a house. We were on the fine line, balancing work and home. But found quality time, however sparse, to spend with family. I used to cook back then. And it showed. My husband lost a good 8-10 kilos and I was ‘skinny legs and all’. I got used to “aunty”, grrrr…udgingly.
At 16+15, I had my second baby. Not an easy pregnancy, I must tell you. A hiatus of 3 months from work. At home, enjoying the mother-again phase. It felt nice every time the baby smiled. I coochy-cooed, giggled and played with her. Felt like a baby myself. However, the career woman had to get back to work after the maternity leave, leaving the poor child sucking on lactogen. Youngsters fresh out of college were showing up at work. A good ‘decade’ younger than I. I realize I’m now full time “patni”, “mama”, “ma’am” and “aunty”, but enjoying every single responsibility fully well.
At 16+17, here I am, singing ‘I am 16, going on 16+17’ (Remember Sound of Music?). My kids help keep the child in me alive. I still feel as good as 16. Though now my world means – My kids, hubby, the rest of my family & friends, myself, and then anybody else who matters to me in this world, in that precise order!
I remember, when I was about 22 years old, I thought 28 was old. When I was 28, I thought 32 was old. But now I’m thinking, ‘old’ is only in the ‘thinking’. If you think you are young, you are forever young. That reminds me of my all time favourite song - Bob Dylan’s ‘May you stay forever young’.
“May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be strong,
May you stay…forever young!”