Looking back at my fifty

I am wondering why everyone is making such a big deal about this birthday. After all birthdays come and go. I notice little oddities happening around me. Conversations stop abruptly when I enter. I can sniff something big being planned by the family. Fifty!

This is supposed to be that threshold which separates experience from inexperience. Although I grudgingly want to grunt that the stupid decisions that I take don’t seem to decrease. Nevertheless this is a good time to pause a while and introspect if anything worthwhile has been achieved in the first half of my existence. My skeptical mind immediately questions whether I’m sure it is just half of my life which has gone by, or nine-tenths of it!

The most exciting part of growing up has been learning. I don’t feel a year older than when I learnt to read my first hard-bound story book. Yes, books have been replaced by the computer or better still, by travel. But the eagerness to learn new things is my fuel.

The other passion has been to share what I learn with people around me. I can see it when I teach. I notice it when I pay attention to detail, my mind constantly trying to simplify what I’m absorbing with a view to document it for others. And so writing comes naturally to me.

I look back and wonder if everything I have written is the legacy I will leave behind. And it makes me acutely aware of a word I detest. Mediocrity. I haven’t written anything remotely worthwhile. My scientific output can be rated insignificant, when assessed generously. Nothing significant in the creative writing arena either. Books, papers, reports, documents all so painstakingly produced- may be hard work, but all perishable and forgettable. So what has been the most fulfilling part of the five decades gone by?

My husband, Subodh reveals the plan for my fiftieth birthday. And I instantly have the answer to my question. He has planned a week long trip to Hampi and adjacent areas. What is most special about this journey are the companions he chose. All the children aged 7 to 20 who have touched our lives. The ones who call me either Nani or Bua. It is a gesture which overwhelms me. And I finally acknowledge that he knows what means the most to me. We are a group of 10 who are in Hampi today.

The most powerful thing I have seen in the last two decades of our lives has been the power of transforming young minds. All the kids with me on this trip have taught me how sitting and talking to them of dreams and aspirations can impact their lives. The joy of watching them learn their first words. The pleasure of seeing unsure minds finally know the career they want to pursue. The exhilaration of seeing a young mind tell you that it can be done. As Subodh loves to tell me, we have seen magic happen before our eyes. Nothing gives us more happiness.

This trip has been educational. We have learnt about history together. This trip has been emotional as we know that this is the legacy we will leave behind. This trip has been magical. And so the Harry Potter symbolism in our attire. This trip of the last twenty years with all of you brilliant minds is the only thing which has made life worthwhile. You never make me feel old. And yesterday they christened me “Nani-Didi”! And this journey would not be possible without my better half who showed me that this magic was possible. Love you all with all my heart.

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