08 April 2012

Now that I'm fifty by Bulbul Sharma

A new lease, or something
As I approached fifty, I was filled with incredulity, overcome with the conviction that surely someone must have counted wrong – a cosmic miscalculation. I felt relaxed and energetic – not decrepit or ready to begin planning retirement, or prepared to accept trendy new algorithms that declared “fifty is the new twenty-one”.

A few months later, settling into (but still a bit bemused by) the (yes, unexpected) new seniority, I received this book – not something I would choose off a shelf, except perhaps for a friend on the verge of fifty – as a gift. It was given to me by Janaki, the creative and dynamic owner of twistntales,a bookstore in Pune where we launched The Songbird on my Shoulder on 10 March and had a women’s-day related discussion on ‘the changing role of the Madam’.
What an appropriate gift – what an attractive cover! And when I started reading, the stories moved smooth and easy, and painted lovely pictures of the different lives of women who had arrived at this significant milestone.
Though the language is uniform throughout the book, it’s clear that these are separate women, each with her own voice and personality – her own unique problems and pains, gifts and opportunities. We have village women and city women; women who go to live in a new country and learn about different cultures and different cleaning materials; women who have endured torturous mothers-in-law; those who have remained the envy of their siblings because they never married, those patronised by their grown-up childrenand more.
Fifty was a turning point for sure: life might become simpler, or you might come to the end of your tether, or – after a lifetime of submission and repression, new horizons might suddenly open up. You might perhaps encounter a nice young man while walking in the park – and though you walk faster, hoping no one will see him asking you the name of that tree over there, you might just find yourself chatting away and he telling you about himself, very quickly and with amusing details, as if he was mining someone else’s life, as if he was a character in a comic strip.
All kinds of new possibilities appear:

I thought love could only happen between a man with a good job and a pretty, fair young woman. Nothing else was possible. Older woman and younger man, man and man, woman and woman were unheard of in my world.

Why couldn’t he run off with a woman? Surely there were female secretaries in his office. Why shame us like this by going off with a boy, for God’s sake.
I enjoyed this book very much and it made me think seriously about being fifty and what a wonderful, perfect age it is and how, like Winnie the Pooh, one might want to be fifty “for ever and ever”.

Now We Are Six - A.A. Milne
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;

So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.