As I step into my 40’th year on this gorgeous planet, I have decided to re-affirm the love and affinity I feel for the Earth. I want to acknowledge my burning desire to explore the geographies and myriad terrains this planet has to offer. Round numbers have a strange effect on our psyche and forty seems like an apt jolt to make directional adjustments, shift gears, or to quite literally Step On It!
I would be an idiot if by now I have not have realized how much I love travelling. In fact this particular calling has been clear to me ever since I first read the poem “Ulysses” by Tennyson back in 8’th grade. I remember that day ever so vividly. I was on vacation with my family and we were staying in a vintage guest house in Ooty. I was walking in pretty gardens that overlooked the slopes of the Nilgiris which in the evening were fading into a painted sunset sky. I had in my hands my school text book of poems (Panorama) which I had brought along to study. Quite by chance, I chose Tennyson’s poem that evening. I remember reading it and feeling, ‘Oh my god! this is my life – this is my story – this is what will be my story – this is the way I feel in my veins’. I found an arch in the garden, a dainty gateway with rose creepers that had made it their home and I stood transfixed in that archway gazing at the blurring of hills, mist, and sky till the night queen came to drape her blackness over it. At some point my mother force-summoned me indoors, but she could not hush the lines in my head that whispered over and over,
“I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move”
Forty, brings with it a certain sense of freedom for me. A freedom that I can savour now, which perhaps I might have been unable to in my youth. I recently chanced upon a diary I had written in during my IIT days. As early as a few months into engineering (even before our very first term break) I had realized that my heart was not in it. I was only eighteen then but I had clearly articulated in that diary that my inner desire was to be a travelling writer. However, I also had other programs and ambitions running my mind (and my life) and so the ‘travelling-writer’ dream went into hibernation. Now, in my fortieth year, with a trail of academic, corporate and other experiences behind me, the clutter of those ‘other programs and ambitions’ in my mind have cleared out. I have lived through most of my other aspirations and ambitions, while also travelling a bit every now and then. What I sense today is that all these years of varied experiences, achievements and challenges have actually served to whet my appetite for travel even more.
“I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea:”
As I enter my fortieth year, my son will enter his 10’th year. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to have experienced motherhood. Sensing a new life taking shape inside my womb has been an esoterically precious experience. I have delighted in the joy of holding my new-born to my bosom and gaze at him move spontaneously to music. I fondly remember the toddler years of picking pebbles and chasing ducks in regents park. Those were days packed with wonder, laughter, amazement, and growth. Before I knew it my world was full of Play Doh, Crayons, Puzzles, Train tracks, and Blocks. Travelling with my son has been a lot of fun but it has been a different kind of travel. When I have traveled with my son my focus has been more on how I can engage with him and cater to his needs. Although it has not been the ‘gypsy feet’ sort of travel, it has been rewarding in it’s own way. Now however, my son is older and our independent tastes are starting to reveal themselves. He is currently into remote control cars, electronic DIY, tennis, and football. He has fun playing with his peers and doing boy-stuff with his dad. His mummy now has more time to herself and forty just looks like an apt milestone to start paying attention to the whispers of her own wanderlust again.
“This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, …
…When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.”
I wonder if forty is young or old? When I was twenty I used to think that forty is old, but now in my fortieth year I feel like my explorations are still in their nascent stages. I guess numbers only have meaning in relation to one another and so age can only have significance as a relative concept. So while I am older than who I was earlier, I am also younger than who I will be in the years to come. There have been times when I have wondered if I ‘wasted’ part of my youth by not travelling as much as I would have liked to. But regret has very limited use in this universe, and so I am choosing to look ahead. My body might have aged and I might not have as much stamina now as I used to have in my twenties, but what the heck – I am what I am today, and the world is welcoming me.
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
So as I start out on my fortieth year I am deciding to honour my Gypsy Feet and Curious Heart. I will allow them to take me where they have been wanting to taking me all these years. I am gifting to myself a second half of my life that will be spent hiking through mountain trails, swimming in streams and rock pools, sailing over expansive oceans, walking through rustic meadows, and camping in enchanted forests. And on that note…
“Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.”
Note: All verses quoted in the essay above are from the poem ‘Ulysses’ by Lord Tennyson. You can read the original poem here – http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659