What they don’t tell you about growing up



One of the best and most convenient methods of tortures in an Indian family, is what the poor little dreamy kids are subjected to, when guests visit their home. After the initiation with a Nijor Naamtu Kuwa (Tell them your name), Kun classot porha kuwaa (tell them which class you are in), the big bang comes. Tumi dangor hoi kikoribo khuja (literally translated means-what do you want to do, when you grow up). This is where, I as a kid always became inventive. If one day I wanted to be an astronaut, to the next set of guest I expressed my desire to be an Engineer, and to a few more my innate desire to be a Civil Servant. But what they didn’t care to ask, and I didn’t deem fit to say was that I was and always going to be a Dreamer. I was too much in love with life and living, yes! even as a kid to be to stuck with just one possible version of my life. My life, in my own vision had several alternative endings. These included being a Cowboy and smoking a Marlboro like Suresh Oberoi, playing the Guitar with my hair doing an impromptu tango like Slash of the band Guns and Roses, of painting like Picasso and of travelling like I had got itches on my feet, and the lands of this world was my balm. When Bhupen Mama sang “Moi eti Jajabor” (I am a nomad, literally, Mama was a musical nomad) and Maa explained what a Jajabor meant, I was unequivocally happy. Yes, finally, someone spoke my truth.

How can I, but not be a Jajabor? When I was in class VIII, I tried to read, and I use the word “tried to” with full emphasis, because although it seems a small book, but “A brief History of Time” is one hell of a mind bender. I don’t remember much of anything from that tome, but one thing that in the grand scale of the Universe we are but minute compositions. We don’t even qualify as a blot in the Saree of the Universe, we are so freakishly small. What this book taught me was to imagine more. And also to look at the sky. Phanindra Kumar Devachaudhury’s classic Axomiya Romance “Anuradhar Dex” too re-affirmed this believe by saying “Akaaxoloi sabolage, akaaxoloi sale monbohol hoi” (One must look at the sky, for it broadens your mental horizons).

And then to contrast it with all that I read and felt, were these curious neighbours who were always very concerned about my upcoming future. I used to wonder why? I mean a few of them had daughters of my age and in my innocence and optimism I used to think – am I like a prospective groom for their daughters? But time and tide told me that this was at best an innocent mistake, for neither my parents were filthy rich nor did I look like Hrithik Roshan. And hence it used to irritate me more. What is this whole fascination about growing up? Why in fact is the severe emphasis on growing up? Does it really matter at what age I grow up, is there like a time frame? And what actually is this growing up, like we grow up and up and we die, now where is the fun in that? It is only now, much later when I am 28 years old, have seen the world a little, have faced my own questions and realised that to most I don’t have adequate answers and that I must wait, that I realize; that you keep on growing every moment.

You grow up in silence, when you realize that the most essentials truths of life cannot be expressed in words. You grow up in your solitude, when you understand that you yourself are such a complicated being; with so many layers to your being that to expect someone else to comprehend you fully is an exercise in futility. That instead of seeking to be understood we must try our level best to understand. You grow up when you realize that in this journey called life your “Truths” will change considerably along the way. That what you believe to be just today, may not be tomorrow. And that it’s best to realize that seeking consistency is like seeking pleasure, you don’t seek it, and you find it when the heavens and the hell somehow align for your sake. You also grow up when you realize that the only ultimate and essential truth in life is death and that there is no schedule that it follows. You can be blessed with the best of wealth, health and what not, but a freak accident and from an “is”, you become an “was”. Yes, that’s how easy it is!

So dear readers, if you have found a few moments from your busy life, to read what I am writing, I thank you, for you like me are one of those who never knew what to answer when guests bombarded you with their curiosity in your growing up ambition, just smile! For we are the ones who attained Nirvana in our teens (With Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit being a catalyst surely) that there cannot be one singular ambition for life. For life itself is too ambitious to be bound by the sycophancy of our ambition. That life itself is too much of a rebel. So live, my beautiful friends, like now, here and keep growing, every moment and never ask your kids, if you have them someday – what they want to be when they grow up! For when it is time they will know, that every moment we live we are becoming what we are meant to be, only if we live it well!

(Bistirna Barua is an alumnus of JNU, where he did his Masters and M.Phil. from. Currently pursuing his PhD on the Cinematic works of Gulzar from the same University, he writes; whenever his heart forces him to. In all his time eroded innocence, he still believes that: writing is his exorcism. Currently with the Assam Civil Service, he serves as  Assistant Commissioner, Dhubri).