Three months back, my roommate celebrated her 20th birthday. She wasn’t excited about it because a)she thought she hadn’t accomplished anything in life and b)she thought she was growing old,something people our age are afraid of. When she told me this, I rubbished it saying that she was overthinking. We went out and partied to bring in her 20th birthday and forgot all about it.
A week before my 20th birthday, I was feeling the same things. I certainly hadn’t accomplished much in life, I was going to turn 20 and I wasn’t really looking forward to this new decade which sends innumerable challenges your way- a declining social circle,graduation, jobs, packages and what not.Although the idea of partying my worries away sounded very appealing, I decided to take the road I’d never travelled.
I decided to spend my day doing things I’d never done before; I decided to do most of these things alone and I decided not to tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing till the end of the day. It was my solo-exploration day, as I triumphantly named it!
The first place I went to was Cat Cafe Studio, in Versova. A cat café is a theme café whose attraction is cats that can be watched and played with. In countries like Australia and Canada, many cat cafes can be found and visitors usually pay a fee to play with the cats and to drink coffee. I always wanted to visit Cat Cafe Studio since it’s the only one in India, but lack of company restrained me. So on my birthday, I finally made the visit,alone. The place is run by a group of cat-loving individuals who run a film production company; they’ve set up the cat cafe along with their office. It’s housed in one of the few bungalows that Bombay has and is really pretty. 30 cats and 2 dogs greeted me as I entered. I was given props to play with the cats. I absolutely enjoyed playing with them and speaking to the people working there. They don’t charge visitors for playing with cats, unless of course one wants coffee or tea(they have a small menu which consists of light snacks and some beverages).They even offer free Wi-fi so one can go there, chill with the cats and work there for hours at end. It’s way better than all the much-advertised co-working spaces that Bombay has. One thing that I loved was the fact that these guys bear all the expenses incurred in the maintenance and treatment of these cats. In a world where money is the greatest motivation and profit is on the mind of every individual, these guys selflessly spend their time and money is nurturing a cause they care so deeply about. It also made me question myself- what is it that I would spend so much time and money on, without expecting any materialistic returns? Do I even have a passion so great? Lesson no. 1- If you care deeply about something, pursue it, without any excuses-there’s always a way.
The second thing I wanted to do was have a meal on my own,which I’d never done before. We live in a social space where we pride ourselves on having more friends on Facebook and being a loner is uncool. But on my birthday, I decided to experience the joys of a meal by myself. I went to The Village Shop, a hidden gem in Bandra. This isn’t the fancy, glamourous part of Bandra. It is the old Bandra, the one which has narrow, small lanes and small houses. It is the one that provides the most unadulterated view of the sea with the least crowd. The Village Shop has some really good and healthy options on their menu; their interiors are very well done, they’ve used a lot of plants and the walls are also green in colour, which is why the place stands out as a completely green spot in the concrete jungle that the city is. Very few people know about it so there were hardly 4-5 customers. I placed my order, chose a spot where I was surrounded by plants and had a great view of the sea. I took out a book, ate my food and sat there for nearly 2 hours(I normally finish a meal with a group in an hour).The food was delightfully tasty and the iced tea that I ordered had a hint of jaggery, which other places don’t use;it blended really well with the other ingredients of the drink. I thought having a meal by myself would make me feel lonely; on the contrary, I’d never felt more complete.I didn’t have to rush, didn’t have to worry about eating fast or slow, didn’t have to compromise on my order because of a group. After paying the bill, I walked through those lanes and reached one end of the road which joins Carter Road, I saw the sea and felt at peace with myself. Lesson no. 2- Try spending time with yourself, love your own company and always do your bit in making the world a greener and more beautiful place to live in.
In the evening, I walked around in JVPD with a friend.carrying a bag of Parle-G packets in my hand. While a big garba celebration was going on inside a hall, the people sitting on the roads outside were making garlands with genda flowers to sustain their livelihood. I gave Parle-G packets to them, their kids and the watchman who was guarding the garba hall. When we were done distributing packets on that particular road,we sat in an auto. On our way, we saw some other street kids and I stopped to give them the rest of the biscuits. One of the girls, wasn’t really interested in the biscuits and was crying because her plastic bag was lost. I placed the biscuit packet in her hand but she was still crying. I knelt down, wiped her tears, opened the packet and fed her a biscuit. She stopped crying and I walked away with tears in my eyes.That was the only time in my life that I had tears of joy and I can safely say that I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. Lesson no. 3- Your birthday shouldn’t always be about yourself;sometimes the most fulfilling things in life are the ones you do for others.
The final thing I did was quite simple. My friend and I went to Silver Beach. For those who don’t live in Bombay,Silver Beach is an extension of Juhu Beach.Basically, the part of Juhu Beach other than the heavily crowded part is called Silver Beach. I took off my chappals and ran towards the water. I jumped, I splashed and I just stood there,embracing the water and the beach. As simple as it sounds. the satisfaction this gave me was unparalleled. Lesson no. 4-No matter how old you get, you can always do certain things and the best things in life are free of cost, yet priceless.
My 20th birthday made me realize that birthdays aren’t always about partying and getting gifts or even about being carefree. Birthdays are about welcoming age and wisdom, about learning to let go, about enjoying the simpler things in life and doing something good for others. I still love going to parties,dancing and enjoying, but my birthday taught me that there’s more to life. My birthday taught me the importance of values like compassion, independence and selflessness. Here I’d like to quote one of my favourite teachers from school, Mrs. Mary D’Souza- “Ultimately, what matters, in life, in death and in eternity, are these values, not our achievements”
With that thought, I’d like to end this LONG post by admitting that I’m looking forward to a new decade in my life, one that will throw a lot of responsibilities and challenges at me, some of which will surely bog me down. But when they do, and when I feel really low, I know I’ll have a really good ‘solo-exploration’ day planned to remind me how beautiful life is. To everyone who’s afraid of growing old like I was, try finding at least one reason to look forward to and trust me, you’ll find plenty. Keep exploring, keep loving, keep living. Stay Khanabadosh and stay happy.