Actually, it is a fairly long way, forty years. And, once on this side, one is surely fairly ol.., matured, let's say. If my grey hairs already did not say this. But then, this is a watershed moment if I make it one, and I will.
So far, my life is one about following patterns. Formulas set for me by others. Expectations - by people who mattered. I strayed all the time, the compulsive deviant I am, but always wished I did not. And, in the end, I produced a mediocre fare, as inevitable because I was playing someone else's game.
But all that should stop now. Being forty is being closer to the tail end of life than the beginning. Getting that sense of urgency back in your bones. Feeling the need of living on one's own agenda. This day is about crossing the fault line of life - from where I could still get away being naive to the state when I must make every day count - and I am already enjoying this.
I must admit my life so far has been fairly colourful. Full of options, twists and turns. Almost unreal at times. A continuous adventure. I lived, at times, like Robinson Crusoe; some other times, Alan Quartermain; just as I wanted. I have now reached the state I always wanted to - I am never sure what is going to happen in my life in a few months. I get a lot of sympathy for this, people do think I am miserable and extend their support. But, then, I do it for fun, though I am sincerely moved to know how much I am loved.
On this last bit, I have this feeling of always been on life support. Because I almost always have only a few weeks to live. I have lived in the same apartment in England continuously for last five years. But, not at any point of time, I could have predicted if I would live in the same place beyond the current month. The possibilities included Lebanon, America, Northern Ireland, a Scottish University, North London near my business associates and South London near other Bengalis. It was fun to be so uncertain.
I also have this feeling of occasionally being dead. Otherwise, how do I know how loved I am. I always knew. My mother was capable of endless love and forgiveness. She always took the burden on herself and allowed me the lightness of being. I knew how redeeming love was. And, till this day, I do know - as many people, not just the ones in family but many friends, have been extremely generous to me. I have let them down, but I was forgiven, a sure sign of love. I have been an intentionally imperfect human being, and through this, I have become a believer in the essentially good nature of people. Nothing can take that conviction away from me anymore.
I had many role models. Starting with my grandfather, who worked till the last day of his life, and worked hard. He lived modestly - a principled life. He had the sort of solidity I crave for, and he gave me the belief that almost any problem can be overcome with patience and hard work. And, yes, I never wanted to retire in life.
And, on the other end of the spectrum, I had two brilliant, but wasted lives. My uncle, who I have never seen. Who gave his life to fight for what he thought would be a just society. His presence, or the lack of it, affected me all my life. I got his message. I resented his death. I remain angry to the core. And, my father, a brilliant man who played to the script. Always. or at least tried to. His life was about containment. But I marvelled at his knowledge, his sharpness of mind, his creativity, his brilliance as a conversationalist. While my uncle wasted his life for a purpose, my father did so for the want of one. Both inspire me - in their own way.
Suddenly, to this day, all my life comes to a focal point. That's the great thing about birthdays, and especially about these birthdays which represent inflection points in life. Jonathan once told me that he saw his twenties as the time for learning and thirties for his earning, but then he and i are as different as chalk and cheese, and I have spent all my forty years trying to learn. being forty may or may not represent a change of direction, but I do think I have reached the point of departure from the script here. When I start writing my script, that is.
So it will be. This day, I depart from my usual and easy existence as a salesman, and start living the risque life that I wish to live. Of one committed to bring about the change that I wish to see in the world. Of the useless creativity for one's own pleasure. And, of hard work and discipline to create possibilities. This morning, I suddenly see these three strands are not as diverse as it seems. In fact, it seems part of the same message. Or, so it seems in the morning of my fortieth year.