She pours over fashion pages , chuckling at outlandish setups, remembering how she saw something similar in Bandra another day; audible oohs, aahs, and aais on seeing some real dressy stuff. She will occasionally pine for an oversize handbag and fill it up with stuff she doesn't need actually, because she thinks it looks good. This despite having a huge variety of bags at home. A mental pout against some one's pooh-poohing some unjustifiably and inordinately high priced stuff. A defiant turn of a magazine page in the face of all the ugly fair-and-lovely ads, with photo shopped overexposed faces.
She's never liked the typical "ladies" bikes , and she now rides what looks like a unisex bicycle to her part time work, at dawn. Fancy squarish handlebars and all, as she bends over, her backpack clutching some decently powerful clavicles and scapulae. Keeps to her side of the arterial road outside. She did that, till one early morning Honda type, swerved left enough to graze her bike, grinned and sped away, for fun, it seems. So now she walks that part of the road with her bike on the sidewalk, and makes up by riding fast later on the inside roads.
She has always been the permanent trier. Slog, jump, sweat, speed up, and you still remain that centimetre short. Of the final winning post. Be it in studies. Be it in doing up the hair. Be it in wishing the shade of lipstick was the other one. Be it her long distance glasses which she had hoped would be totally rimless, but aren't. Be it in sports.
And she has always been that child in kindergaarten, who stopped in a race , looked back, saw her friend stuck, and went back to help her, allowing both of them to trudge to the winning tape together, long after the competitive types, had bested it....
Sometimes, life gives variety. One year she participated in a twelve hour dusk to dawn, timed long distance swimming event . She had earlier been very good about practice and warm ups, and started with no thoughts other than to keep cutting through the water, arm over arm, minute after minute, hour after hour. She swam, as if in the zone, smoothly like in 5th gear on the highway, interspersed with sips of stuff given in the water by indulgent family and friends, not losing the opportunity to demand those pieces of melt-in-the-mouth chocolate, which she was convinced , powered her, to what eventually became a win.
Unusual for her.
But she came home after a thousand pats on her back, and skeptical looks from some , to a nice cup of cocoa and a decent Sunday nap. She wouldn't have to fight for the paper. She would get up when everyone had finished with it.
This year she did the event again. A year which has been known for a huge variety of pursuits for her. The practice suffered, but the urge to cut through the water remained strong. Several potential competitors chatted and asked if she was participating. Some joked and told her they would follow her closely, and pull at the last minute. It secretly tickled, that folks should be so concerned about her plans.
Somewhere after having done 9 kilometres in the water, she was the recipient of of an unintentional kick of a strong fellow swimming in her lane. She doesn't know who it is, doesn't want to know. These things happen. She looked up at those cheering her on, shook her head, and carried on.
This time, her preparation must have fallen short. Or her initial enthusiasm must have exceeded the advice that says, start slow and steady, warm up gradually. Her arm refused to come out of the water. She tried and tried. Changed the stroke. Rested the arm and just floated for a while. To no avail. They advised her not to overstress the arm, and the pain was growing by the minute.
Physical pain hardly makes her cry, but this was unbearable . She decided to abandon and come out.
This had never happened to her, ever. She was in great pain. Physical as well as mental.
The arm took no pressure. Changing into dry clothes was difficult but managed somehow. Came back to thank her friends, and wish her participating friends.
She opened her bag. She still had her chocolates inside. She gave them to the official in the next lane, so those swimming in that lane, her erstwhile closest competitors ,could enjoy the sweetness and energy.
She was walking back amidst the trees outside with her mother, who was carrying the huge amount of paraphernalia to be taken home in the car. They stopped where her bicycle was. Her mother suggested they load it in the trunk of the car and drive home. She refused. She would cycle home. If need be walk the cycle if the arm couldn't handle it on the slopes.
But as she turned to look for her cycle key, she took a deep ,disappointed but tired breath, shook her head, and looked up at her mother saying, "You know, maybe its my body telling me it is getting old ....!"
"OLD ? AT 25 ?"...............
(This was something new. Maybe she had been reading too many magazine articles. Maybe she's been seeing older folks in gyms, struggling with the weights and arms. Maybe she suddenly has, in a way grown up a bit more. After all, you never stop learning.)
Much after a warm bath, some ointment massage, some medication , icing, and a decent light meal, she was lying down , still in considerable pain , watching some program on TV, a pillow supporting the truant arm. After a while, she struggled to get up, and went into the kitchen. She took out two bowls, looked back, and waved them at her Mom, who was awake and reading something .
Nothing like a decent scoop of chocolate ice cream, after a traumatic tired day.....:-)
Don't know who is growing OLD..... things mostly appear unchanged, anyway !