Growing up in Middle Class, Spontaneity and Sanity

Keeping the spontaneity 

Growing up in a middle class family taught me several lessons. The ones that has stuck with me for the longest was –

“Spontaneity is our biggest enemy“.

When I look back at my childhood – almost nothing was spontaneous. I remember, when I was in Class 6th, there was a small book fair organised in the school. I saw a book about planets, stars and space shuttles. I picked up the book. Browsed through it. By the time I handed over the book, I had told myself – Astronaut. That’s what I want to grow up. I finally could write an essay on the topic – “I have a dream.” 

The book fair also allowed us to buy books. This book was for Rs.60. This is the year 1999. The process to buy the book was a bit funny – we had to get a note written and signed from our parents and bring the money to the school, give it to the class teacher. That’s when we could call ourselves owners of the book. Carrying money to school was not a thing back then. I remember coming back home that day and asking my parents for Rs.60 to buy the book that would make me an astronaut. My Dad’s first reaction – No. Not a no about the astronaut stuff. But a FLAT no for Rs.60. Rs.60 for a hobby book is way too much money. Back in 1999, all one could do was – cry and throw a tantrum. Both my parents worked really hard to get me and my sister through school. Mom and Dad used to come back by 6. I had “evening games” is school till 7. And we used to sleep by 10. Add to this a chai, dinner and some time for DD1. Cable was out of league and then we had to focus on our studies. Throwing a tantrum was a luxury I did not have. Because there was no time. It took me 4 days of crying to convince my parents. I don’t remember ever purchasing anything from my school after that day. Did the book changed me? Nah. I just knew that astronaut is what I wanted to me. But it did teach me a lesson. The middle class lifestyle did not allow for spontaneous decisions. 

There was just no room for anything random. It would literally disturb the rhythm of the household for weeks and months. Cannot be done. And, looking at my parents, that’s just really how they have been all their life. I remember calling them to visit us in Delhi at times. But they would not budge. They would plan their trip days ahead if not weeks. Obviously that’s how I also grew up. Until I went to college, spontaneous plans were not entertained but my gut. There was little appetite for adventures. No surprise that I was decent at academics. School rarely throws surprising stuff. I was very good at routine stuff. Better than most. 

Until I went to college. 

Discovered the meaning of having infinite hours in a day. I remember taking an unplanned walk to Vihar lake behind the campus. Impromptu walks to the boathouse, lakeside, Sameer hill, Alibag, catching the last local train in Bombay, going to random places in Bombay. Why? Because I could. Crossing the teens, new city, new peer group – I guess that’s the recipe for championing spontaneity. It took me less than 30 mins to decide that I won’t sit for college placements but would rather join a startup. Let me clarify – that’s not vision, that’s spontaneity. That’s what it takes. There is little difference between spontaneity and madness. And remember what Joker said about Madness – it’s like gravity. All it needs is a little push. 

And the last decade has been about balancing spontaneity with sanity. Both of these put together is what it takes to keep the ball rolling without committing life-changing blunders. I have mostly played it safe but I have had my share of adventures. 

So when my parents started the hunt for a life partner, I secretly wanted my partner to be spontaneous enough to enjoy street food but also sane enough to understand that diamonds are actually crap. Spontaneous enough to take 5 AM flights to surprise each other but also sane enough to keep me on call while travelling to airport at 4 AM in Bangalore. 

The first 2.5 yrs of married life have been all about pushing the spontaneity bubble. Why? Because we can. Jumping off from a height of 160 mts in a tandem swing, to cycling in the middle of Pula, to trying out all places-to-eat-at in Venice to walking endlessly around Lake Bled to buying gifts for everyone in the family – we have done our bit to be spontaneous. The first 20 years of my life were all about not being spontaneous and crazy. The 20s were about looking at crazier things and trying some of them. The 30s, with the wife around, have been incredible so far. 

My secret plan for the next 50 years

The plan for the next 50 years is simple – equanimity. Too much routine kills. and so does only craziness.  Keeping the balance. Life is about enjoying the 3AM Maggi, and the 7 AM workouts.

What’s yours?

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