There is something to be said about multiculturalism. For one thing, it allows me to celebrate New Year thrice every year. There’s the regular New Year on the 1st of January, when I party along with the rest of the world. There’s the Baisakhi New Year in April that I get to enjoy because I was born into a Punjabi family. And now, there’s also Diwali, which is celebrated as New Year by Gujaratis, a community I belong to by marriage.
This Diwali, though, as I did my puja, praying to Ma Lakshmi for prosperity, I realised with a start that I have more New Years behind me than I have New Years to look forward to. Without even realising it, I have tipped beyond the halfway point in my life. And from now on, I’m going to be counting down rather than adding up.
Yes, like Bill Clinton said so memorably at the Democratic National Convention, I too have more yesterdays than tomorrows.
But while I am not in the throes of a mid-life crisis quite yet (well, I think so; my friends and family may well disagree), I have come to the realisation that time is not on my side. In fact, it is the enemy, racing past even as I struggle to play catch up.
So, from this year on, my motto is that immortal line that has stayed with me since my days as a student of English literature: ‘Carpe diem’. Seize the day. Make the most of every moment because it will be over before you know it.
As is my wont at such times, I began by making a list of all the things I should and should not do to get the most out of the days, weeks, months and New Years I have left. Here is a small sampling:
* No more revisiting of favourite destinations. I’ve been there and done that. There is an entire world out there to explore. And I should do it while I can still explore – as in walk on my own two feet without the aid of a Zimmer frame. London and New York will still be there when I am old and decrepit. But I may not be able to do justice to the mountains of Switzerland and the beaches of Croatia when I need to stop and catch my breath every 10 minutes.
* Sit right down on my desk and write that book. No more procrastinating. No more endless revision of chapters that I have written already. No more displacement activity masquerading as ‘research’. No more endless trawling of the Internet. No more excuses about lack of time or mind-space. It is time to sprint to the finish line. And when I’m done with the book I’m currently working on, it will be time to pick right up where I left off the novel I abandoned three quarters of the way through.
* Prune that reading list. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer have the time to waste on airport bestsellers and other junk reads. From now on, I will only invest time in authors whom I love and books that show potential. And no more feeling like a failure because I can’t finish a book – if that is a failing, then it is the author’s, not mine. (Also, if I intend to re-read the classics that I last studied in college – just to see if they speak differently to me – then I need to get on with it. Middlemarch awaits…)
* No to endless socialising with people I don’t even particularly care for. No to large parties where no conversation is possible (mostly because you have nothing to say to fellow guests). Yes to small dinner parties with friends and prospective friends, where we can actually hear ourselves talk and listen to those speaking to us.
* Declutter my life – not just of things that no longer bring me joy but also of people who only bring me down. A ruthless cull is in order, so that I can both simplify and sanitise my life. By the end, I hope to be left with a pared-down existence that allows me to appreciate what I have rather than bemoan what I don’t.
* No more taking health and fitness for granted. From now on, sadly, it will be a slippery slope downhill. And the only way to make a controlled glide down is to invest time and energy in eating well and exercising right.
* Ah no, you misunderstand. That doesn’t mean I am going to survive on salads and soups and turn away from dessert. Life is too short to eat rabbit food. Or to drink water rather than wine. But it will get shorter if I forget that magic word: moderation. So, I’m going to keep repeating it to myself in the hope that it sticks even when that pesky memory loss kicks in.
So, that is my magic formula for getting through the rest of my days. Read, write, travel, play. And yes, eat, drink and be merry…Well, you know how that one goes.
And a belated (or early) Happy New Year to you all, whichever one you choose to celebrate.
From HT Brunch, November 6, 2016
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch