I was in my wife’s kitchen today, baking bread – this is one of my latest hobbies – we are now not buying bread from the market. Every third day I get into the kitchen – which surprisingly even my wife has stopped objecting – I choose to believe that I am now baking decently good bread. The other hobby is making wine at home and I am currently trying plum wine – this hobby I resumed after a gap of six years.
Over the last year I have also seen quite a few movies where one of the characters has gone into retirement out of disgust for the system. The system cannot do without his expertise and a senior executive is sent to his house to persuade him to come out of retirement to help the system. In almost all the movies, this executive finds the retired person pottering around in the kitchen garden.
My dream at this late stage in my life of 61 years is for such an executive to find me baking bread in the kitchen or making wine. I no longer think of going back to the system, but doing some constructive community service. Though why should there be even any requirement for an invitation for community service? But it is my dream.
I always had dreams, only they kept on changing depending upon my age. The only age at which I did not dream was probably till I was 6 years old. My father got me a comic adaptation of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens around that time. I was impressed by the way David tackled the adversities in his life, particularly as a child, when he is sent to the boarding school by his stepfather and is saved from being bullied by a group of other children by James Steerforth. The two form a friendship which only ends with the death of James – who is more of a scoundrel, but David still thinks of all that was good in James. My dream at that time depended on my frame of mind – sometimes I would want to be like David, overcoming all adversities – other times I would want to be a good friend like James.
I entered adolescence and my dreams changed. Having studied most of my earlier life in all boys’ schools, that too in Hindi medium ones, I was shy about speaking to girls in my school. I would look enviously at those boys who could not only speak with the girls in our class, but were also fluent in English. I would dream of speaking with the girls in fluent English. Fortunately for me this dream lasted only a couple of years.
Three heroes entered my life around this time – Sunil Gavaskar from the cricket world, Bjorn Borg of the lawn tennis fame, and Amitabh Bachchan from the Hindi film industry. There may not have been any commonality in the three for any other person. But to me all three had a common trait which I desperately wanted to emulate – their capacity to display no emotions – in scoring a boundary or getting out for a duck, in winning a point or losing a point, and walking away from a blast after lighting a cigarette with the burning end of the dynamite.
I was and continue to be sentimental and it is a different matter that I have come to understand with wisdom of age that being sentimental is also akin to being passionate about your dreams and is not such a bad thing. Age does impart certain wisdom.
My dreams were not so spectacular in my intervening professional years. They were the routine dreams about going up the career ladder to reach the top – whether in the government sector, where you are bound to move up at a steady pace to a point predetermined by your age and your seniority even with a decently average performance, or to earn better money in the private sector than in the government sector. Everyone has the same dreams in the corporate rat race – it may be better not to dream.
I then started writing and another dream was born – to win a Booker prize or a Sahitya Akademi award. Once you have crossed 60, you want to be immortal – and better way to be remembered even after you are gone – my dream is for my books to be occupying a place of pride in someone’s book shelf in the 23rd century – like my favourite author, Charles Dickens, whose books are in my book shelf, 200 years after he first wrote them.
I pray to have the strength to continue to dream and to pursue them passionately. I have found a new dream – to help overcome illiteracy – so that everyone can dream.