Forty and Kicking
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
Once you reach your forties, birthdays become a rather uncomfortable affair no matter how much your loved ones and well wishers try to make a fuss about the day you were born. It's because by the time one is forty it is generally assumed that you are all set for life: you have a family of your own, your financial status is stable and you are a mature adult able to control your emotions and imprudent impulses that you indulged in when you were a teenager, that you have made enough investments both in monetary and emotional terms, to ensure that your children's future is fairly secure.
Reality of course teaches us otherwise. Sometimes even after reaching forty you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up, how you will pay off the loans you took to buy unnecessary gadgets, how you will ensure that your children will get a fair deal in life. Bad decisions, bad friendships, bad investments and often, sheer bad luck, keep you from attaining that stable, confident and content person in their forties. Instead, you seem to be constantly grappling for air, clutching on to straws, living in the margins of financial insecurity and sanity.
When it comes to a country, an entire nation who can aptly be called a parent, reaches its fortieth year it is a little different, of course, but there are similarities.
There is much to celebrate, achievements under the most dire circumstances to make us feel proud and confident, a language that is internationally recognised, a huge, young population, bursting with creative energy, progress in many social and economical indicators, bright, innovative individuals being applauded by the world and a general revival of cultural and national identity among all generations.
Yet there is so much to be dismayed about. So many millions going hungry and literally dying of hunger, so few role models for the young generations to emulate and a dearth of basic honesty from the top to bottom of our social and political pyramid.
A forty-year-old nation, however, is not in the middle of its life; it is still very young in 'new nation years'. It took hundreds of years for western nations to reach the state of modernity, financial robustness and apparently superior sense of what it is to be civilised. Hence there is no reason to feel disheartened and dismal about life after 40. All we have to do is think about our nation's birth- not just the precious lives lost and maimed forever but the unimaginable solidarity and sincerity of people, regardless of social class, religion, gender and even age, a unity that ignited a fierce sense of identity and resolve to fight oppression and bigotry. All we have to do is recall that brand of selflessness which can only leave us, the bearers of that treasured green and red symbol, awestruck, humbled, rejuvenated and inspired.
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