It was Einstein who said that time was a fourth dimension .But time is strange, it does not behave like a spatial dimension. You cannot go back in it and while moving forward you cannot go at different rates…
Time however can make fantastic changes in human beings. We change as we grow older – not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. It is this change inducing ability of time that I find most fascinating!
The interesting thing about this change is that we usually do not perceive it on a concurrent basis. One needs to see someone or something after a gap of time in order to be able to perceive change. And the tricky thing about time induced changes is that while we can easily perceive physical changes what is difficult to perceive are the non tangible changes – the changes in a person’s way of thinking or action.
We are all molded by our life experiences which when looked at through the mirror of time can be stunning! We may start out as a caterpillar and can turn into a butterfly or be a serpent that becomes bird. Though as a concept it is interesting to write and talk about this, as a personal experience of seeing the impact of time on a person can be rather shocking.
I will take the example of a few close friends of mine from college. Today when I see them I cannot believe they were who they were when I knew them.
A was a confident , dominating person who I used to think would end up as a CEO is today a home based person leading a life that is close to retirement. Married to an extremely nice but a much older man, she lives a life that is rather puzzling to me. Both of them had rather good jobs in a public sector undertaking which they left in pursuit of enterprise. However what they do today by way of a living is a mystery to me. They gave up the business and came back to the city they were originally from. She is today an extremely superstitious and ritualistic person given to a lot of narrow minded thinking around caste. She used to often tell me about her inability to have a child and how it impacts her social interactions. Difficult, … I know in an Indian context where everybody is curious about your reproductive status. But adoption was not an option for her unless it was a child from her caste!!
But none of this has diminished in anyway her domineering nature. She has become what I call “suspended in time” – in her mind she is still the leader of our group and me the girl who used to be lacking in confidence. So she gives me bagful of advice on how to bring up my child, what sort of job I should have and how I should deal with my parents and inlaws! I groan inwardly every time she launches into something like this. And what is her source of information considering that she rarely leaves her home? Oprah Winfrey, various other TV programs and magazines. I have had to often tell her that my experiences in life are first hand, I have tried many things, and learnt from my mistakes in some case and repeated those mistakes in others.
Then there is B who comes from a very small town. She had to fight every step of her way to get an education. She is one of the few in her family who is educated. Most of us used to think that she would grow up, take a job and make something out her life- such was her determination to break the shackles of her narrow existence. However what I have been seeing of her over the years is a gradual settling down into the reality of her existence. She quit her job, came back to live with her parents in the small town, got involved in family politics of buying ,selling, bequeathing agriculture land getting cheated by many in the process also getting into debt on behalf of some unscrupulous people for whom she borrowed money.. Money that she used not for supporting someone’s education or business but money that she gave out for dowries or as expenditure in elections which the person in question did not win.
She also got married- to a nice but poorly educated man. It was actually a shock when we attended her wedding. But then it was her decision or her family’s .. who were we to say anything! This nice man is from a family that is politically connected to various big wigs in the state. Unfortunately they use him for their ends –almost like an errand boy. However he is in such awe of his powerful relatives that he cannot stop talking about them. Today when I met them I found my friend talking similarly about these so called powerful relatives – how close they were to minister X or minister Y or how minister Z’s sister in law’ s mother’s cousin is such a warm and loving person. As I am not into politics I was not really interested about these things. It was a challenge making conversation with her …!
There is also C - a completely carefree and irresponsible friend. An intelligent chap, he treated his studies with an absolute zero level seriousness. It used to be a nightmare being with him in a group assignment. Post college he continued behaving similarly – one was never sure how long he would stick to a job. He was not clear about what he wanted..often mirroring the aspirations of some of his peers as his own. When he got married we felt a sense of pity for his wife. However, today he is in a very senior position. When I talk to him I sense a maturity that I never knew existed. He complains to me about how it is difficult to deal with A and her lack of interest in pursuing a career despite his assurance of being able to get her decent job. He told me to steer clear of B as she might unwittingly embroil me in some deal that might involve some undesirable political type!
Some of us go through some very difficult experiences during our childhood or youth which leaves its scars . These scars show up differently in different persons. D, was a class mate in college who was very effeminate. The guys used to give him a hard time bullying him while many of us girls used to giggle every time he was spotted around campus. Today he is doing very well for himself in the media business. But I see the signs of those scars in him every time I Iook at pictures of him on facebook. He has obviously worked very hard on his appearance developing a macho physique which he flaunts in all the photographs that he posts regularly on his profile. His poses in all those pictures would make one wonder if he were an aspiring model? If I did not know about his past, I would found these pictures very annoying in their narcissism.
And finally, there is me, who was the true conservative- at least in action. However, today I find that I am probably the most unconventional among my friends – marrying a person outside my religion , dressing in ways that I never did and speaking openly about things that I never could. I have also risen above my feeling of inadequacy in the looks department and developed a confidence in myself…! While I can say that it was my parents who shaped me during my initial years, I owe a lot of this post college metamorphosis to my husband who I think helped me evolve! I think each person reacts differently to different life experiences and the presence of a spouse who is supportive helps. I never realized this when I was younger but I think who you marry often decides what you may become as a person later in life ( and I do not mean it in terms of the physical existence of the kind of house you may live in or the assets you may have).
As the moments go by and the earth completes yet another revolution around the sun it is not just the grey hair on our heads that increases but the person in us also changes. The point is what we become… I am not sure how much of what we become over time is within our control. Unfortunately, it is not possible to go back to that point where the change began and set the course! And even if we could make that change, would we know exactly when it happened? But I am not complaining, not all change is undesirable- in the larger scheme of things, I believe that change helps us adapt.