O ne day, five years ago, when I was lost somewhere in my thirties, the writer in me woke up and demanded to be let out. "Unleash your inner child," she said, and as someone prone to gullibility, I was elated. After all, the children and the husband were all grown up and well-trained (pun intended), and I had some free time in my hand after a decade of maintaining a sane house and mind.
Now, after being a full-time writer for a while, I discovered the inner child has grown into a snarky, bratty woman and could be quite a handful. For starters, she would criticise everything I write, including the shopping list, recipes and to-do lists. On days when she was particularly riled up, she would call my stories names such as "pouched egg", meaning half-baked, and medu vadai, implying the plot hole is as big as the story. "They are better off blinking as an icon on your desktop," she would say. I believed her, mostly.
There were days when I would override her and submit my story and a few were even accepted for publication. On days like that, when I want to share such news on social media, she wouldn't let me. She would metamorphose into my third standard class teacher and shake her head in disbelief. "Such a show-off," she would roll her eyes, making me shrink just as I did when I was a 10-year-old, who had rightly answered the teacher's question and earned her wrath. How was I supposed to know that the question was asked for the teacher's smug satisfaction? I was born in a generation that dissuaded us children from feeling happy about our achievements or do anything that could essentially build our confidence. We were expected to excel in everything, all the while firmly remaining insecure and apologetic about it. My alter ego, aka the writer ego, belonged to that era of puffed sleeves and Friday evening Chitrahar.
I would not entirely blame her, though. I am in an age when life has pummelled me, just enough to dent and test me, but not enough to gain wisdom out of it. In our twenties, everything seems possible, and we are full of energy and confidence, ready to conquer the world. By the thirties, we know certain things could not be changed, and yet the end goal looked seemingly achievable through perseverance. In the forties, we become disillusioned, too tired to be motivated, too mellowed by experience. And I started my writing career just then, with a dash of hopelessness and a lot of anxiety.
This made me wonder. The world talks about giving a chance to retired people or accepting earnest young ones with all their follies. Even children are looked upon benevolently. But people who are 40-plus like me are supposed to have sorted our life. We are supposed to be settled well by now. What if we are disillusioned at 40? What if we want to start all over again? Would society look at us with the same benevolence? Or push us into wannabe category? Wannabe artist, wannabe dancer, wannabe writer. Some of us are as lost as a child. Where is the support for the support system?
"Its called mid-life crises," she says, my writer ego staring straight at mes. "Now, suck it up and get the kadai out and make some hot bajjis before I start giving you my piece of mind about your article," she says and I scamper like a chastened child towards the kitchen.
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