I don’t know

Mick Jagger once boasted that ‘I’d rather be dead than still singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m forty-five.’ But now he’s over sixty and still singing ‘Satisfaction’. Some people might find this funny, but not me. When he was young, Mick Jagger couldn’t imagine himself at forty-five. When I was young, I was the same. Can I laugh at Mick Jagger? No way. I just happen not to be a young rock singer. Nobody remembers what stupid things I might have said back then, so they’re not about to quote them back at me. That’s the only difference.

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Trip to Fatehpur Fort (1991).
Fatehpur Sikri Fort (1991).

There is no greater display of ineptitude than to start a personal essay with a borrowed quote. But, sometimes renting a strangers expression seems inescapable. It captures a sentiment more deftly than anything I am capable of. With a nudge from Marukami, I hope to put into words, what it means for me to turn 30.

A month ago, I turned 30 which gave me some opportunity to reflect as also to look ahead. Some of it was superficial. Concerns about changes in appearance and a receding hairline. My old jeans still fit me, so I guess I did not have much to complain. Though important, in any case I did not dwell much on this. What was somewhat surprising, were the deeper changes. Changes in taste, habit and thought.

Over the years, I had grown a taste for reading non-fiction literature. Initially motivated by a desire to sound older and more intelligent, I grew to enjoy it. Strolling through libraries and reading articles at random. Rather than watching a Woody Allen movie, reading journal articles on them. These books and articles became anchors tethering me to the comfort of convention. Some unfortunate conversations on reading habits often ended with me obnoxiously saying, “I do not read fiction”.

But slowly the pages stopped turning and the bookmarks stayed wedged at ease. This gradual loss of interest coincided with an increase in drafting pleadings. Most people do not realise this, but drafting involves labouring through documents, drawing out details on dates, times and places. Any inaccuracy causes embarrassment. Sometimes it’s fun, but mostly it involves maintaining concentration, anticipating and preempting responses to the legal claims. In any case I needed a break.

Out of this, two years back, a self-imposed exile from fiction ended. It brought back the wonder and curiosity which I had ignored over the certainty of facts. Last year I took up the challenge of reading all of Orwell. I succeeded somewhat, finishing four books but towards the end it felt like hard labour. I discovered new authors and the worlds they created for me. With each paragraph, I experienced emotions which stayed with me.

Most importantly I sensed an unimaginable change in taste and habit. Unanticipated but perceptible. The bookshelf, if sorted by the date of purchase can chart the subtle choices which lead to it. In many ways I have realised that these changes will keep taking place each day and each year. So while, I do keep some goals, work hard and generally aim for a positive turn another year, I change. I do not know what this change is, but it allows me a sense of personal discovery. So while yes, I do feel some age, I do not feel chained by it. This age allows me the benefit of a past and a future. As much as I will learn, I will forget. Thats what I meant, when people asked what it felt like to turn 30. I said, “I don’t know”.

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