My new year began with a lot of things. If I sat to separate the mess, pick up each incident, determine its quality and chalk out a map as to how my coming year is going to go, I’d say a stirred up chaos of exciting, scary, happy and sad things that always eventually pan out into dull chunks of easily forgettable days – so not very different from last year or the year before. But I’m picking up one thing in particular which has caught my attention like a gleaming, glass bauble you’d pick off a heap of Christmas tree decorations.
This Monday morning, I was in the office lift telling myself over and over again that it’s too late to skip work, when my niece called me with “You’re going to come for my birthday, right? Pleeeeaaaaase?”
Counting from today, her birthday would be exactly a month away. But to her, it’s like Christmas – it’s never just one day. There’s a whole month and more spent in planning, inviting, preparing and anticipating.
It inevitably takes me back to my times of childhood birthday planning. Getting to select the archetypal pink birthday dress with two tiers of frills, bows, fake pearls and everything, the blindingly sequined buckle shoes to go with it, the invitations, the party hats and return gifts that simply have to be cooler than those of my friends and classmates, the cake, the food, the games, the balloon of chocolates that’s going to be burst on my head and the slumping of my shoulders the next day at school when I’m no longer the obligatory star of the class. *sigh* Happy memories!
Happy memories and the joy of covering stereotypical things in excruciatingly long sentences! Few things beat that (few things like too many exclamation marks)!
Anyway moving on, one time I was taking up my niece’s studies, she climbed onto my lap, fluttered her eyelids at me and showered me with hugs and coy ‘I love you‘s. The ‘I know you love me but sit and finish your studies for the day!‘ was harder than I thought it would be. Even then, it miraculously slid by me.
One evening in Goa, my cousins and I were sitting around having coffee, while there were two nieces playing with each other. They were running around the coffee place and we were asking them to ‘behave‘ and to ‘keep it down‘.
“Yeah, I mean jobs in this economy…” my sister was saying before her daughter was tugging at her arm and trying to take her away. “THERE’S COFFEE IN MY HAND AND I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONVERSATION HERE! See what you’re doing, baba? Be a good girl now and go play with your sister.”
I silently watch and sip hard at my cool, young virgin mojito but there’s absolutely no escaping it now. My next generation has officially established itself. My cousins and I? There’s no way we’re getting to be the ‘children‘ anymore.
It’s not exactly breaking news. We’ve been pushed into the uncle-aunt bogie seven to eight years ago. The wave of realization somehow engulfed me only that evening in Goa. We’re having important conversations that they’re constantly interrupting. Very soon, they’re going to be negotiating permissions with us.
2% pride and fresh breath, 98% cold sweat – Elders warn us about so many things, how come nobody remembers to tell us that those are the symptoms to diagnose the transition? This is what being the roof feels like.
Now, we don’t get to climb on it, swing off it or romp about blissfully ignorant of what is over our heads sheltering and protecting us. Our roof has gone ‘tag you’re it‘ on us and officially been promoted to the more vulnerable and prone to spoil them grandparents bogie.
The bits of ice getting vacuumed up the straw hit my throat hard, by this time. We’re the elders (glass shatters and woman shrieks somewhere within) THE ELDERS… sharing drinks, perspectives and stories, playing games, fighting over food, reminiscing old memories, teasing one another and laughing, renting bikes and catching sunsets in Goa! Hey! Not bad for uncles and aunts!
That’s when it hit me. We’re the roof but what kind is up to us. We could be the kind with glow in the dark stars and the big shiny disco ball. We’re living our dreams and including the next generation in it. AND we’re still the children too. We retained that for ourselves and for one another. That’s the best part.
I think we’re doing a pretty awesome job of being the elders so far… We’ll be grand. Lucky next generation! 😛
And you know what, World? I may not have seen even close to as much of you as I want to but now here’s what I get to say – I’ve seen more of you than them. Hah!