How many of you were born in mid-March 1973? Well, I have news for you. You’re this week making the transition from youth to middle age.
A British government survey has found that youth ends at 40 years, eight months and two weeks. It’s a perception survey, in which the department of works and pensions asked more than 2,000 people aged 16 years and above when they thought people should stop calling themselves young? And admit that they are now middle-aged.
The average man surveyed had a more pessimistic view than the woman. While men felt that youth was over at 38-and-a-half years, women felt that it continued till they were 42 years and nine months old.
What was I doing when I turned middle-aged, at 40 years, eight months and two weeks? As far as I remember, I had completed my first book that week and submitted the manuscript to my publisher. I had spent the last 14 months researching and writing the book, of which about a month was in the US, travelling to may be 10 cities, from New York to Houston, Boston to San Francisco. It had been a great 14 months, because I ended up meeting some extraordinary people—entrepreneurs and academics, industry leaders and just plain cool extremely bright men and women. The US trip had also reconnected me with many of my IIT classmates whom I had totally lost touch with over the years. When I had last met them, they were in their early 20s; now they were 40-ish, with families and children and houses and three cars. I stayed at many of their homes, and the years simply fell away, as if by magic. We were 21 again. The intervening two decades had been a great illusion.
Quite amazingly, that particular week when I turned middle-aged, I remember beginning the hunt for a house to buy and live in. I already owned an apartment in a Delhi suburb, bought from some windfall money that had come my way a few years ago, but I had never intended to stay there. I had sold that house and would use those funds as margin money for a home. We made our first house-hunting trip to Gurgaon that weekend. Three months later, I would come back to the very first house we had seen and buy it. I have lived there for nearly nine years now.
I was in a job where I had been for nearly 8 years. I was bored out of mind, and wanted to do something new, perhaps on my own. With the book out of the way, I started knocking on the door of every venture capitalist and wealthy individual I could manage to reach. It would not happen for another four years (and I did not give up on that dream for a moment), and equally incredibly, it would finally happen through a chance meeting where a leading industrialist and I would suddenly realize over a cup of coffee that we had been thinking of exactly the same project for about the same period of time, and had never thought of contacting each other, even though we had known each other for a decade.
Actually, a lot of my life has changed quite dramatically in the last nine years—both personal and professional—and it’s quite startling to now look back and see the first stirrings of change in that particular week or fortnight when I am supposed to have stopped being young. I find it also personally quite significant—though signifying exactly what, I have no idea—that I saw the results of this British survey today, just as my second book, a novel, is hitting stores, and a third one, a work of non-fiction, is right now being printed. Old age, according to the study, begins at 59 years, two months and two weeks. So I am smack in the middle of my middle age—the almost exact centre.
What am I going to do this week?