Not so long ago, somebody asked me how old I was. (yes, lady, age, shocking, yes yes we know. move along there, there’s nothing to see. jaragandi*, jaragandi etc.) And I said, “23, I think.”
Then, I thought: not yet 25.
Wait, not 24 either. Or am I? Wait. 1986; 2010, that’s 24. Wait, I’m 24? Wasn’t I 23 just now? Maybe. In February. Ye Gods, three months being 24 and I’ve wasted it? One third of the 24-year old life? I’m going to be past the mid-life, oh, alright, the midlife a century ago, life expectancy is now 80+, midlife won’t arrive fro another 15 years and-
That’s not the point. The point is I’ve been 24 for three months! And I wasted it. It’s the age of potential! The cusp! Right before responsibility takes you by the throat and chokes you, and you live loving it! Not the time to experience crisis, even if it is quarter life crisis. Quarter? Well, I think. My palm says I’ll live to 90+. For what it’s worth, and if you believe in palmistry, which I do, to an extent. Not predictive, precisely–
That’s not the point. The point is – are you going to explore some of that life or let it pass by? Here lay Camphor, who lived to be a 90+ ghost and who let life pass her by. Not that I am going to have an epitaph, on account of being being burnt and not buried – and anyway, the proper word is cremated, not burnt.
Ever have that problem where you don’t know the right word? Oh, I know everyone has that trouble but I meant like the time I used “before now” in a sentence and had a terrible urge to change it to ere now, and I had to tell myself over and over that ere is archaic, and formal, and no one uses it and it sounds odd to other people, and stop trying to correct that, it isn’t incorrect, precisely, and do you want to sound as stiff as a board and twice as foreign? Or when the best word for the situation, or answer or whatever for a character or even for yourself happens to be in a language that the other person doesn’t know, or the character can’t know, and you have to tell yourself that the purpose of language is to communicate, not demonstrate your skill in weaving a huge tapestry? And a huge awkward tapestry it would be, with all those words weighing it down. Ugly too. Hemmingway, brevity, wit, remember?
You’d think I’d have learnt that lesson when my beatiful, creative, far ahead of standards English earned me a pathetic 73% (I think, but I am not sure – was it 71? 77?) in X standard (and isn’t it curious that tenth in my head is an X?), but when I tied up all thought and just answered the question in XII, I ended up with 90+. Was it 93? 95? 97? One of those three, I am reasonably certain. No, not 91. Too low. And 99 is too high. And it was odd. Oh, leave it. What does it matter? You don’t remember most marks anyway. Just the 2/10 in Sanskrit in 6th that came from pride and earned a look of disgust from the teacher (not 6th. not chicken-pox-trivandrum’s-teacher, probably 8th), the 86%, learning a whole new language in a week that resulted in pride and the determination to never memorize anything ever again, which led to the miserable failure in learning organic chemistry—
“Actually, I am 24,” I corrected myself, “I just realized – you know how you feel 21 when you’re not?” I had been babbling about rings while I’d been thinking all that.
He laughed as he said something along the lines of “Oh, here is one who is going to stay 32 forever.”
And I thought: Or 37. Or 43. Or 54. Or wait, why do I have such odd numbers that I freeze myself at? And not just for me – I remember Mom staying 37, 42 and then 47 for years. Like a five year jump. And here I was, Miss not-quite-25 for three months… but 24 now. And I wouldn’t forget.
I hauled my attention back to my conversation and let the blabbering continue in the back of my head. Like it always does. Or, at least, almost always. These corrections, addendums, *-to-explain-and-defines, disclaimers, things-in-parenthesis-that-run-on-forever and ruin my writing are the babbling voice that will not be silenced. Someday, I will learn to lock it up, and then let it out at need, when I am not writing so I can write without the fact-checker interfere. And I’ll learn to live my 24.
*jaragandi – jaragu means move, but the -andi suffix makes it very polite. More like “move it, sir”, at top volume. Anyone who has gone to Tirupati would recognise it. Language is Telugu, just in case you wanted to know.