Somehow, I never felt old being twenty.
But you do feel it, while talking to people younger than you, your sentences tend to begin with “when I was your age”, a sentence I used to hate when I was younger. You somehow seem to think that the children today are irresponsible and spoilt and that you faced the most difficulties when you were their age.
I didn’t whine about getting older or responsibilities this April when I turned twenty. Frankly I didn’t need to. Nor did I feel any major changes in me. But then one day it hits me. Like a hammer on my head. Fuck, I am twenty.
It hit me when I was watching a show on TV. One participant was 18 years old. He came up and I randomly told my mom, wow this guy is 2 years younger than me. In a flash, my mind recalled my age; Twenty. After that, somehow, he did not seem to be that young. I realized that my age was no longer a valid milestone to judge peoples youngness by. I realized though I wasn’t getting old, I was getting OLDER.
Suddenly these thoughts of responsibility, job, family started coming to mind. My parents who seemed to be ever young to me, began to age right before my eyes. I had ignored the white hair on my dad’s head. From the times I remember they had always been salt and peppered. But now they were completely white. Not a single black hair. My mom whose cheeks I had grown up pulling seemed old. The cheeks weren’t as plump as they used to be. The bright eyes had bags under them. The hands which were always strong enough to pick me up seemed to be tired now. When I looked at her face somehow I felt as though now I need to pick her up. I needed to get strong enough
to support her when she needed me. To be the man she’d always dreamt I’d be.
I realized how careless, reckless and irresponsible I had been. I used to shoo off the ‘when will you grow up?’ and ‘I can’t always be responsible for you’ talks from my parents thinking I was too young to be bothered about this. Then I realized why they wanted me to grow up. I am man. A twenty year old man. And I was not at all acting like one. Now was the time they expected me to shoulder at least my responsibilities. Now was the time they wanted at least my weight and worry off their shoulders. And they weren’t wrong in expecting so.
When I look at the mirror, see a stubble on my cheeks, I realize its time I became a man. Actually acted like one. I wasn’t 15 anymore when the only measure of your manliness was the amount of facial hair you had. I had to grow up. Life could not be all fun and games any more. It could have fun and games, but that could not be the end of it. I had to shoulder some responsibility. If not take up any of my parents responsibilities at least get my responsibility off their aging shoulders. Give them peace by not having to worry about me.
Being twenty is not easy. It’s a time when you are stuck between being yourself, what your heart tells you to be and the responsibilities on your head. It’s an age where you can’t pretend to be a kid anymore like you could when you were a teen. You somehow also don’t want to leave the comfort and security of pretending to be a child, hiding in the strong but now weakening arms of your parents. It’s a time you have to break off from the best phase of your life to be responsible. Be a man not for your sake but for the sake of your loved ones. So that they can enjoy now.
Because the day I was born, my parents started living for me. For twenty long years, they have thought of nothing more than me and my sister. Never have they thought about their comforts. They lived for their children, worked for them, still work for them and also dream for them. It’s been twenty years. Twenty years of performing their duty righteously. Twenty fucking years. It’s about time these dreams got realized. It’s time now they relaxed. Took a break and enjoy the last phase of their lives.
Life’s short. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since the pizza on the occasion of a new millennium. Or that I left Doha and moved to India six years ago, that 2 years of college are already over. I don’t know why some people say life’s long. I think it’s too short. At the end of it you just wish you could rewind some moments, live them again. I have many of those moments. This, I am thankful for. At least I know I had an eventful twenty years which I can live in memory of for the next forty five- fifty years left to live. I don’t know how successful I will be in my endeavor to grow up, but I will have these memories to hang on to.
Now though, it’s time to be a man, be someone. I might always remain a child. But I have to try. Live for someone other than me. Care for something other than fun. Be what my parents always dreamt me to be. Be the man to deserve a woman. To deserve children. A man worthy of being called a man.
-Dipen Bankim Shah