Monday, October 12, 2009


That day was supposed to have been just like yesterday. I still woke up to the ear-splitting trumpets of the high-school band next door, and tasted the same filter coffee. The meek October skies were as pale as they had been previously. The room stayed the same perpetual mess with overflowing closets, like it had been for many days now. And yet, today was just not yesterday. Yesterday, I was eighteen. And today, I wasn’t so young anymore. A tingle and a refreshing excitement settled in, despite the dull weather. It felt like a profound leap of a year had taken place, all in the span of just a few hours. Finally nineteen and old, a sudden vision appeared before my eyes…a Lakshmi with her creaky joints and frowning wrinkles. I stared at the mirror, horrified for that one irrational minute. A familiar reflection smiled back at me reassuringly. I certainly didn’t feel any older….

“Last year of teenage!” teased many an email, well aware of my vulnerability. I promptly panicked, pondering on what that might mean. Nineteen was a different year. Nineteen meant somebody independent, sensible, and head-strong. It meant maturity, responsibility and a certain level of acquired common sense about the world in general. Age had quickly caught up with me, but those essential skills had not. It had been nineteen years of existence…my life felt long. And what had I achieved in these nineteen years, which had done the world some good? I racked my brain for answers, but it remained as cloudy as the pale skies outside. I was surprised at finding a philosopher within myself. I caste away the pensive thoughts, turning a little lighter.

Every birthday is just another yesterday, once you forget its significance. But this time, I understood nineteen’s importance. Nineteen was not just another year older. It marked the end of the teenage, a phase of life that I had grown to identify myself with. It had been a worthwhile journey, getting to this nineteen…and I was glad to say that I did not hold any regrets. Teenage had been an enchanting experience—something which had been as sweet as it had been agitating. I resolved to celebrate this year a little differently.

This time, it wasn’t a sleepover party or cutting a cake. This year, it was valuable time spent with family, a long drive and coffee by the beachside. It was another one of my beloved escapes—hastily decided and completely relished. The countryside held all he charms of early October: fresh pumpkins and upcoming Halloween fairs….and for a second, I was attracted. But I bypassed all that to experience the tranquil calm that was the seaside before it was too late. In the secluded calm by the beach, I found my naive self, prancing wild and excited. I couldn’t possibly have felt any younger.

“Look at every grain of sand,” said father as I walked beside him. “It would have taken many years of painful experience before every grain got that fine…”

I felt the grains beneath my feet, wet and soft. My toe traced meaningless squiggles in them as I reflected on his words. Every grain of sand had a story and it had taken many years before it had become this beautiful. Each grain had once been lost at sea, before it had been deposited. Each grain had once been a coarse stubborn young boulder, before being this refined. Each grain of sand was an inspiration. I told myself that even though I was currently lost at sea, someday, my thoughts would sediment. Someday, I would understand the world. Someday, experiences would refine me. Although my achievements had been small, I knew that there was still lots of time. Time to realize myself. Time to improve, time to develop and time to learn.

I decided not to be scared of age, or of time, because they would become my most valuable teachers. As I grew out of each experience, I would dissolve into another, and every step along the way, they would mould my coarse, reckless adolescent spirit into a confident young woman….and maybe into something more beautiful if I was only willing to learn. And each birthday didn’t just bring me closer to the creaky joints and frowning wrinkles I feared so much, it bought me closer to maturity and wisdom. I hoped that as each yesterday disappeared down the bend, I would get closer and closer to being that perfect grain. And that day when the sea deposited me on the shore, I would look back and find an answer to the most important question I had ever asked myself: “In all these years of existence, what have you achieved that has done this world some good?”

I looked back to the calm white sea, finally nineteen. Yes, today was not the same as yesterday. Today was an experience, just like tomorrow would be. I felt the beautiful softness of the grains of sand beneath my feet…I didn’t feel cheated by time now…now, I was already looking forward to my next birthday….and knew that tomorrow would be better than today was. Tomorrow, I would be a just a bit more closer to being that perfect grain of sand.


narendra shenoy said...

Happy birthday! And all the best. Leave the teens. Enter the roaring twenties

Anup B Prakash said...

You are a finer grain of sand than most in the heap out there.. Keep up the great work.

Happy Birthday.

mouna said...

belated wishes!! :)
welcome to the twenties

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Mr. shenoy: thank you for the wishes! u sure make me optimistic about the twenties!
Anup sir: :) thanks for the wishes. Getting that fine requirs some serious hardwork. I hope i get there, someday! :)
Mouna ma'm: thank you!

ARJuna said...

Alas, you make a guy who's nearing the end of his nineteen years even more thoughtful!!!
I had not thought about it so seriously, mind you I had thought about it once or twice, leaving the teens, but reading your post makes it a more melancholic fact.
your optimism though is infectious!
Keep up the great words...

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