Always 16

As a child, I remember, I would take  rose petals from the flower bed in school, lie down on the Merry-Go-Round and rub it between my fingers for hours on end -  feeling the texture and smelling them while the sunlight played hide and seek with my face, peeping through the leaves of the trees above as the Merry- Go-Round went round and round endlessly.   The smell would linger between my fingertips for hours after that. Each time I would smell my fingertips, I would be taken back to my world where the warmth of the sun caressed my face and the breeze ran it's fingers through my hair and I would suddenly feel that everything would be alright.

Even if it was a life threatening problem like my mother shouting at me for not having done my homework!

As a child, you marvel, you get fascinated, you are curious and you daydream. You daydream about things in your immediate realm like riding your father's bike or using all the money in your mother's purse to eat all the ice cream you want but you also dream about impossible things. Things like getting your hands on the Communicator which Captain Kirk flips open so stylishly and says,"Beam me up, Scotty!" or actually becoming Captain Kirk and commanding your own spaceship or even Ingrid Bergman falling in love with you!

Your heart is pure, it is innocent and it truly believes that anything is possible. You discover new music, you discover new voices, you discover new sensations and you discover love.  Each new sensation that you experience just seems to fill your heart.

Do you even remember what you were like at 16?

During my pre-board exam parent teacher meeting three of my teachers told my father, "He will do well... but he could do better if he did not daydream so much." Once outside, my father asked me, "What do you dream about?" I said, "I don't know!"

And then life happens.

Slowly but surely the noose of practicality and reality starts getting tighter around your neck and subtly, very gently, without you even knowing it it gets tighter and tighter. Everyone around you tries to define what you should expect, hope to achieve and how to conduct yourself. You either conform or you are branded a rebel.And then there is the fear. The fear of being laughed at.

When I was in Class VI and a new teacher had joined our school. On her first day with us, she asked each student to state their name and what they wanted to be when they grew up. My turn came and after proudly stating my name, I said, "I want to be a director when I grow up." I will perhaps never forget the laughter that followed. It was completely unexpected and my eyes welled up with tears as I looked around at the familiar faces of my classmates and friends, all of them laughing at me.

Two things could have happened that day. An 11 year old could have decided that it was indeed a stupid thing that he had dreamt of and become a conformist or continued to dream as he did earlier. I am glad I took the second path but I promised myself never to be caught unaware like this, ever again. That is why, 5 years later when my father asked me, "What do you dream about?" I said, "I don't know!"

I have figured out that there is no need to wear your dreams on your sleeve for everyone to see but don't let them die. Be 16 inside.  Most of us give up too soon. I know it is tough because the noose of practicality is forever looming, forever threatening to choke the 16 year old that you were once. Hold on to what you always dreamt of becoming, hold on to what you always wanted to do and most importantly, hold on to the kind of love you always wanted.

From time to time I wonder if that 16 year old in me is still alive and it is one of my greatest fears that one day I will wake up and not find him there.

A few weeks back, after many, many years, someone gave me rose. As I smelt it, I felt the familiar warmth of the sun caressing my face and the breeze running it's fingers through my hair... and I knew that everything would be alright. 

Always 16