Do we celebrate birthdays to remind ourselves that we are lucky to be around as the ‘highest form of life’ when we could just as well have been some other lower forms? Does that make a birthday a perfect occasion to rejoice?
That is what I did until I hit half-a-century recently. The usual happy-birthday state of mind was missing as I got up at the sound of chirping birds. It was depressing to realise that the best of life had been reduced to a memory, and that the birthday was like a bell ringing and reminding one of the stark truth that the moment to say good-bye was getting nearer.
So, when the morning rays seemed to bring new life in all their brightness, my wife and kids perhaps had no idea about the sad feelings tearing me apart. I was in a maddening fix. Somehow, I tried to show a brave face, even tho-ugh I have never been good at dramatics to let the face hide the turmoil inside. I decided to say ‘hello’ to a brave new world of beyond 50s. Until then my favourite line had been “Life begins at 60”. The editor in me came handy and I happily corrected it to read “Life begins at 50”.
Later in the day, I got into a pensive mood over the ups and downs of 50 years. I wondered whether the past had any indicator to the sort of life that lay ahead. The optimist and the pessimist in me had a bitter fight for supremacy. That gave some signals. To be happy without being joyous, and to be hopeful without being a rabid optimist are perhaps the basic principles for a happy 50-plus life.
When I began my journalistic career at 22, I was a dreamer and nothing seemed impossible. That kind of outlook seems to have paid dividends. My Buddhist upbringing and the beautiful society I lived in had taught me to take the difficulties on the way in my stride as challenges for a better tomorrow.
Now, at 50 plus, I stand at the crossroad and wonder at life’s twists and turns.