I had dinner with two nice but very boastful people. This much is okay. I don’t grudge them their successes. And it’s always good to see people take pleasure in things that make them happy. But I felt a heavy somethingness push me into the corner (where the water-on-glass fountain thingy leaked, stained my saree pallu and left blue marks on the marble floor). When I walked out, I realised it had been just as heavy as Mumbai’s pre-monsoon mugginess that settles on skin, clothes, hair, working spirit and weighs it down.
I’m starting to feel unimpressive in most social situations these days. And this unimpressiveness seems to automatically translate to inappropriateness. I’m not allowed to underwhelm. The most interesting things I can find to say, are about people I know, who are doing impressive things. But what, they ask me, are you doing with your life? And tonight, I want to say,
What am I doing with my life? Why, living it of course.
I feel too tired, too weary, too bored, take your pick to perform. Sometimes, when the pressure is too much, I take out my past and flash it around. It’s not great and it’s fast losing value but at the moment it still passes for currency. Yet, it’s an experience that drains me. Nostalgia always does, doesn’t it? And I feel that pathetic something that oldish people must feel, trying to keep a bygone past alive.
There are the ideas that keep coming my way, pitying sometimes but then growing in intensity to eagerness. Everyone is so eager to open my eyes to something that will make my life impressive. Travel, they say, you’re a free bird, why are you stuck in the shithole of Bombay? I don’t have an answer, I truly don’t. But why should I travel? Shouldn’t that have an answer too? ‘To see the world’ is not an answer. At least it doesn’t answer any questions that I’m asking. If I’m travelling so that I can have a cool Instagram feed, a flashy resume and a handful of interesting stories over dinner, hey that’s great but it’s not answering anything. And frankly, I don’t feel upto making the effort. Getting up and getting through the day smiling is effort enough and reward enough, as far as I’m concerned.
Last week I tried out Secret, an app that I thought I might really like, given its anonymity. Within an hour I found nobody was talking about me or even saying things that I felt a part of. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. And it struck me. The girls, those unnamed girls (but everyone knows who they are), they are the new MEs. Eight years ago, some guy ran a slightly offensive blog pitting all the big women bloggers in a horse race against each other. Of course, I was one of them. Newspapers ran stories about the new thing young people were doing and my face was on the pages of national dailies, being quoted as a pioneer. I know now that around the country, several young men crushed desperately on a quirky, sombre woman they only knew as IdeaSmith. But that’s not me anymore. The world has moved on to newer news and younger, fresher, more vibrant, more energetic faces.
No, wait, that’s not quite what I’m trying to say because it sounds as if I’m sad. I’m really not. That’s a life I lived when I lived it. I don’t live that life anymore. I’ve performed the tricks, danced through hoops and done the requisite impressiveness. I have been the belle of the ball, the star in the room. And I’m not anymore. Never mind whether I could be or not. It’s that I just don’t feel like doing it anymore – it’s too much effort for things too fleeting.
A few days ago, someone I met recently said that he enjoyed conversations with me. But I wanted to protest,
“We don’t have conversations. We trade wisecracks.”
These are fun to do, no doubt. We show off our wit, our think-on-feetness, our cool references and our hotshot selves. Then what? I’d really like to know the person this is after all the sparkle has settled. What does he like to eat when he is bored? Who does he think of when he is unwell? And I’d like to tell him these things about me. But I can’t. He’s off and running, to seek several someone elses who can impress him.
I wish the world didn’t expect me to continue performing. I’m not expecting to be impressed anymore either. I’ll settle for a nice conversation. I guess I am settling down to 35 after all. Unimpressive is not fabulous. But it is comfortable.