Life was a few orders of magnitude less carefree back in the days when your age could be counted in fingers of your hand. Though the realization dawned a lot late, I can think of no other stage in life when you have a zero responsibility policy to yourself and to everyone else around you. More often than not, you command the attention of all the grown ups around you, you have the license to be silly and cross those invisible and complex lines of civility (within some reasonable threshold, of course!), you can demand (and in many cases, get) stuff of your choice without bothering about any monetary aspects…. Aah I can’t put a full stop here. To summarize, you were a kid, no one expected you to show maturity and no one would chide you if you did not do something which was expected to be done in some particular way.
Fast forward to the me in college. A decade and a half after the period of life mentioned above. Dear God, so many responsibilities, commitments and obligations. That was the stage of life with the worst of two worlds. If you did something that fell into the societal definition of unpleasantness, everyone would crowd around you and remark that you’re grown up and it is time you got rid of “childishness”. On the other hand, if you were to heed to that opinion and do something which you consider correct all by yourself, the same set of people would wield the broom the other way. “Just because you are in college means you can now think you know everything? That you are smart and capable of doing everything yourself?” Well, wasn’t I? Didn’t you people mention just the other day about me being grown up, me needing to shoulder responsibilities and me shedding my childishness, huh?
But even in those days, there was quite a number of things that were like black box to me. The biggest example that comes to my mind is related to banking. I had absolutely no idea about any banking related service. I studied to become an engineer at an institution quite far away from home but if someone were to ask me to deposit money into an account or to get a demand draft, I would simply stare blankly. Truthfully, I did not know. Mercifully, to my credit, I did not need to know. Crediting money into a bank account was a phone call transaction, “Dad, I’m on zero balance.” And the reply would be, “Alright, I’ll put some money in over the weekend,” or something likewise.
I passed my post-graduation and found myself employed. Well, that is the motive of life, isn’t it? Study well in school, get into a good college. Then study well in college, get into a good job. Is it a government job? Aah priceless. Nothing more to attain in life. If not, well, there is no job security, so you should try to get into a sarkaari department or PSU. Phew! I found myself in a private company. So far, so good. Now, you move from the life of an all-taken-care-of-once-fee-paid hosteler in college, to someone who has to stay in a rented home or apartment at your city of work. You think that you have finally transitioned into an adult who can stand independently on his feet. You have that special glee when you receive your first paycheck. That tendency to splurge on that bike or dress or piece of jewelry you’ve always yearned to own. But alas, trouble is never far away. You are suddenly thrown into a different turmoil of sorts.
At home, everything was taken care of. You knew there was running electricity, running water, cooking. All these and much more, and you didn’t know anything one layer below. At hostel, you paid the hostel and mess fees and you didn’t care after that. Now? You have to set up the internet connection. You have to pay the electricity bill. You have to buy groceries. And no food if you don’t cook…! That’s unfair. I thought all the problems were behind me, weren’t they? Cooking is well and truly an art, and I’m nowhere proud to say that I’ll take a century or two to actually learn something about that. My mother was awesome, whenever I attempted to help her with in the kitchen, I used to make such a mess of things that she had banned me from entering the kitchen. So much for maternal love, I guess God decided it is time for a little payback! In a few years, I’ll probably be married. Not trying to sound masochist, but I am so thankful I am not a girl. I can’t imagine if I were a girl, my in-laws would be shell shocked to discover that the only thing their sweet little boy were to get from me by means of my culinary expertise would be bread-butter, oats or cornflakes. So much for gender insensitivity.
I am hardly about confident of replacing a light bulb when one blows out. I have no idea what to do when a fuse trips. Or when my bike or car doesn’t start. I might have a decent idea of the state of political affairs in the country and India Pakistan bilateral ties and sports, but ask me the price of a kilo or rice or a dozen onions, I promise I’ll give you the sweetest smile you have ever seen from a dumb face. I don’t know what detergent to use to wash what particular fabrics of clothes. When is starch used. How to sew back a button that has jumped out from my shirt. Hell, I’ll stop embarrassing myself, I’m drawing a blank.
I did my graduate studies, followed by post graduate studies. I am employed at a multinational company writing software for “millions of customers”. I just pray and hope my manager or the persons who interviewed me, do not see this part of me. Maybe, the optimist in me might find out a way to learn one or more of these things as time passes and I encounter this world with gusto every passing day from sunrise to sunset and sometimes beyond. Brace myself.