There’s the cliche about how, once you’ve reached a certain age, you find a member of your group missing each time you go for an annual class reunion or similar get-together; the circle keeps getting smaller and smaller. I’ve experienced something like that over the past year, and though it doesn’t entail a permanent passing into oblivion, it’s still disquieting. What’s happening is this: friends have been turning 30 with frightening rapidity.
This trend began in September last year when Amrita’s clock struck three times ten. But somehow it didn’t seem like cause for alarm at the time - I’d always thought of her as several years older, and besides we know better than to wish each other on birthdays, so the day passed without one having to think about it. But early this year Sudipta and then Raghu followed suit and I began to think, "whoa, hold on!"
Now, what once was an ignorable trickle threatens to turn into a flood. This week, Rumman travels to the Land of the Three-Oh whence one may never return, and I’m almost as upset about losing him to that dreaded number as I am about his more corporeal shift to another city next month. Worse is to follow; come February/March 2005, Ganatra, Ajitha and Soumik fall in quick succession.
It’s a comeuppance of sorts for me. I used to play this cruel joke on friends wherein I would call/message them the day after their 29th birthday to announce "Welcome to the first day of your 30th year." Some were thick enough, or in denial enough, not to get the maths: "No, no, I’m only 29!" they’d say cheerfully. Then the horrible truth would hit and I could practically feel the moroseness seeping in through the phone lines.
Now I’m faced with the likelihood that I too will turn 30 eventually. I feel much the same way as the evil rakshas Hiranyakashipu must have when he realised, seconds before Vishnu’s man-lion avatar ate his heart, that he was mortal after all. Or Macbeth, when he was asked the silly, completely rhetorical question "Knowest you not, Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped?" Mythology and literature are full of cruel tricks like these, but this is real life! Of course, I tell myself, I still have more than two-and-a-half years to go, but Time works in unknowable ways and before one can take stock of things the three-oh will have sneaked up on one. My aging friends all assure me that that’s what happened with them.
My one consolation is that I can now tell them "Congrats, you’re on the right side of 40." But how long will even that pleasure last?
(P.S. I've, uh, plagiarised the blog headline from a Friends episode)