Those growing up years

people-party

When I was a little younger, I used to crave freedom. I used to crave going out with friends and staying out late, going for parties and dancing and drinking, without any restrictions and while still living under the parents’ roof. The coming home curfew and endless worried phone calls by the time I reached home irked me. It got much worse when they knew about the boyfriend. Typical middle-class Indian parents. They wouldn’t allow me on stayovers unless it was an all-girls no-drinking strictly pajama party. Drinks and alcohol were an unspoken taboo and the idea that their daughter might wish to familiarize with an occasional glass of wine or a dip into the stronger stuff would have come as a shock to them.

imageSure I rebelled and begged and wheedled and lied, but somehow I got through the teens without giving my parents much cause for worry. Which simply means that I made sure my parents never found out the truth about all those times I said I was helping a friend study for his paper, taking a baking class, volunteering at an NGO, attending study circle lectures, learning graphology or face reading, or the most-used cover-up: sleeping over at a girlfriend’s. Because those occasions became important memories etched forever into a teenager’s mind. A lot of firsts. First sleepover with the boyfriend. Getting dressed up and attending a party. Four friends sneaking the car out in the middle of the night for a long drive. Making out in a car parked on a service-road off the highway and getting caught by the police. Getting started on that glass of wine, slowly graduating to the good stuff, the vodka, rum and all those cheap pitchers of beer. Finally understanding what the fuss is all about after going through those wonderful phases of high, tipsy and then straight, plain drunk.

I’ve done my share of crazy, but it was simply easier that my parents didn’t have to know any of that, so they wouldn’t lose their precious winks staying up worrying about a wayward daughter. But things change as we grow older, and I can’t tell the exact moment my parents began to think I’m not a kid any more, but it began sometime during their understanding of my academic failure and the end of my first very serious relationship. Their way of looking at me changed, especially when they realised others took me more seriously than they did.

Nowadays (most days of the week) I behave like a ‘professional’ and go to work (most days of the week). And every other weekend I’m out trying to make up for the fact that I have to work as per someone else’s instructions, with the justification that at least for 2 days a week, I’m living my life. And at least I tell my parents half-truths such as the people I’m with, where I’m going, whose place I’m spending the night. The parents do still yell and throw an occasional fit for all the hours spent out of the house, and friends being more important than family shit. I figure that is a given when I’m living in my parents’ house post turning 20, and I’m just going to have to deal with it.

Maybe someday I’ll admit how little they really know about my teenage and growing up years. In my defense, I was simply sparing them the mortification. If I tell them after some 10-odd years, I don’t think they will ground a 30-year old right? But for now, if I’m drunk and partying, at least my parents can begin to look for me. And preferably they won’t find me lying in a ditch somewhere; I’m sure I have better friends than that. At least it’s a start, makes me feel a little more responsible this way.

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Rebel, just a little

There is a cult of rebels born in every generation. These are the ones whose very basic instincts make them defy authority, especially that of the previous generation.

It manifests at a very basic, domestic level. The parents object to a particular set of friends and you make it your agenda to hang out with only those friends, till your parents give up and accept there’s no harm in it, which was your point all along. You grow up a little bit and suddenly get all serious and committed at an age when others are still frolicking in frocks and going on mock dates. After years of quarrels and ‘This is just what I want in life’ and ‘Can’t you just be happy for me’ showdowns, finally everyone around begins to accept that this is how you want your life to be. And then, just like that, you decide you like it better when you are unpredictable.

On the outside you appear soft-hearted, composed and relaxed. Who could guess that you’ve played your part in breaking the heart of someone pure and innocent? Who could possible understand the turmoil underneath that calm, composed exterior? You prefer that the rebel in you is known to as few as possible, making sure that every time you rebel, you have the element of surprise working in your favor.

You struggle with the very definition of settling down. You hate it when the water is still for far too long, and after a while of quiet contemplation of silence and peace, you can’t resist the temptation of throwing in a few pebbles so as to see the ripples break that surface of unrelenting calm. You are always craving the thrill, the excitement, the rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins.

And then there are those who have that instinct to rebel but whose struggles never go beyond the caged structure of their own mind. These are the ones with higher potential and stronger instincts. But they are not free. The more they try to throw off the load on their shoulders, they themselves add a little bit more. It’s a structure within which they are bound, and all the rebelling falls just short of the boundary. They accept that their rebel power is limited only to the walls of their mind.

I don’t know if I’m free, but I know I belong to the rebel cult, and I don’t understand this half-rebel-half-contrite, structured existence. I don’t know if they’ll ever be free from this structure and I don’t know if you even need to get rid of this cage in order to lead a completely honest, happy life. Maybe freedom has nothing to do with structure and maybe it all does really come down to your choices. And in that case, what happens to the ones implicated by your choice?

Tell me what you think. Are you a rebel? Or do you believe that structure lets you live a stable, happy life?