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Back to the future 
Anjuly Mathai
 Story Dated: Saturday, April 20, 2013 14:4 hrs IST 
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When I was very young, my mother used to pick out what I was to wear each day and lay it on the bed. I hated it. One of my earliest memories is praying to God that heíd make me an adult fast so I could choose what to wear.

When I rifle through old photographs I see a gangly version of myself, gazing into the future. I used to read newspaper editorials, not understand a word, and reserve understanding to the future. I would see TV journalists reporting in the midst of a rubble of human bodies and imagine myself to be one of them. I would own a bookstore and serve tepid tea to customers. I aspired to be the girl in the advertisement, sipping coffee on a colonial balcony, my hair billowing behind me.††I would be one of those bikini-clad women who all look alike on a Goan beach.

Some time without my knowledge the future arrived. Unfortunately, it doesnít look like anything I planned. I donít own a bookstore and the girl in the advertisement exists in a continuum of endless coffees. Iíll be 26 in a month Ė a car crash I canít avoid. No one attributes my terrible driving skills to my age anymore.††Young nephews and nieces have graduated from calling me Ďchechií (a Malayalam coinage for Ďelder sisterí) to aunty. I still have no idea how shares work and can no longer put it down to my innocence and young age. Age has robbed me of what Julian Barnes referred to as Ďthe inventiveness of true ignoranceí.

It has its perks of course. I have now learned the art of tossing back a beer with practised ease and am legally allowed to do so. Earlier, I pretend-laughed at my unclesí jokes because I didnít get them. Now I pretend-laugh at their jokes because I get them.

Still, everything seems to be happening in a rush. Iím not ready to be a 26-year-old. Iím not ready to be served wine at a restaurant; I want good old coca cola. Iím not ready to be asked my opinion on the nuclear situation in North Korea. I donít want to see my friends put up pictures of their toddlers cutely spouting Nestle bubbles on Facebook.

I wish I could go back in time and narrate a few life lessons to my 16-year-old self: donít smile so smugly at the camera. In ten yearsí time, youíre going to look at yourself and wonder at your own gawkiness.††If you thought you got high on sambar, wait for the real deal. Donít be scared to talk to that boy you like.

Otherwise, in ten years, youíll wonder at your stupidity aggrandising someone whoís probably just like you. Donít take everything so seriously. Have some fun, do something illegal. Remember: Your past becomes the raw material for the anecdotes of your future. Your dreams may be rooted in fantasy but your plans are rooted in reality. And tell your future self: stop trying to be profound. Act your age.
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Back to the future
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