Turning 18!

We turn 18 today. It doesn’t happen that often for mankind that we turn 18 twice in our lifetime. It’s a romantic number, this 18. It desires a lot. It deserves a lot. It is the first time that we exercise our free will in the real sense. Mark Twain had once said life would be lot happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and then approach 18.

Something like this has happened to me today. At 40-something I turned the 18th page again. There are some things that you can do once you arrive at this number. You can get a driving license. I think I will get one this year. For the last decade I have been toying with the idea of driving, but have been procrastinating. This year looks good to get it done.

18 opens the doors to the world of sins. Betting on horses is considered to be a fall from grace for any self-respecting, educated, middle-class Bengali family. Mine is no different. During the New Year, Kolkata lie witness to one of the richest sweep stakes at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club. Though my travails in journalism has taken me to the race course and at one point I covered racing regularly, I never put in a bet myself. This year could be an exception.

When I had turned 18 the ideas of road trip, bungee jumping and sky diving were like Jules Verne’s journey around the planet in 80 days. With life giving me a second snatch at the number, a road trip looks to be on the offing. The latter two I have omitted from my wish list after careful consideration and hold damned gravity responsible for it. But the road trip looks to be a certainty.

F Scott Fitzgerald had once said at 18 our convictions are hills over which we look; at 45 they are caves in which we hide. When I turned 18, I was seeing the world through a coloured lens. Everything was beautiful, attainable and worth a fight. I chose journalism for it promised everything that a young adventurer had planned for, as he idolised Tintin through his growing years. By now I know life is more about being the primitive food gatherer than anything else. Journalism was long lost in the mire of obligations, policies, constraints and adjustments. So was the idea of everything ideal. But with it came a new knowledge. That of a caveman. Someone who would chronicle the litany of life as a series of wake-up calls for the gen-next.

Meanwhile, the world has turned 18 this year. It is an age of responsibility. Hope like every young adults it will have a heart full of wonders and head full of ideas. That is indeed inspiring; but let’s also hope the world will not forget that humanity is the oldest religion, love is the best medicine and communication the biggest fire fighter. Welcome to the world of 18.