The one thing that is common between my sister, my cousins and me is that we all joined school a year earlier than most children. In India (atleast in the mid 80s) children joined school when they were three years old, so frankly I have no idea why my parents decided to usher me into my initial schooling when I was two. Oddly that one decision dictated a lot about what sort of friends and peers I would have for the rest of my life…
I was the youngest in my class right through educative years. Sometimes I would have classmates who were a year and half older than me… When you are 10, a year and half makes a hell of a difference. To add to it, I was easily the shortest and possibly the thinnest guy in my class, and automatically that meant that it would be very hard for me to be popular.
When you are thin and visibly weak its very easy to be picked on by the bigger guys. I almost always sat in the first couple of benches (my height being a direct criteria there) and my closest friends were others that sat in the first couple of benches. I was almost always picked last for sports (not that we played a lot of sports).
But the single most irritating thing for me in my schooling days had to be standing in the front row at the school assembly. It might seem odd but standing there for the first thirty minutes of the day could and would ruin the taste of most days. I remember arguing with my closest friends about who would stand in front that day… Two of my closest friends is school(and life) were as short as me, back then.
Looking back I really dont regret the fact that I had joined school a year younger, that one year advantage was one of the most important things in my life. It taught me some of my most cherished lessons of life.
High School wasnt exactly a memorable time of my life for me. So when I headed to college (Pre-University) I was really looking forward to changing that feeling. In my two years in PU I made a lot of new friends. Things were different here, I hardly knew a couple of people in my class of 160… it was almost like starting with a clean slate and that meant that I interacted with a lot of people. The one common thing here again was that I was the youngest in friends circle.
Things were different now though, I was encouraged more by my friends and we had this feeling of being together in a war or something. I cant remember even once when someone reminded me of my age, I guess when you are busy worrying about the rest of your life other things dont easily come to mind. Despite everything, I will always love and respect my friends for that.
When I walked into Engineering College, I wasnt that excited about losing the set of friends I had developed over the last two years. But things turned out better than I expected, apparently the torture that was college helped bring the sufferers closer. I was once again the youngest in my friends circle and that meant that my friends at times subconsciously used to protect me. They would never push me to do anything… if I refused they didnt argue, I would do what I wanted and they would happily do the rest of the task. Even now when I meet a few friends I see that look as if they are looking at an younger brother in their eyes. I was oddly very comfortable with that place actually.
Starting out with a year head-start meant that I could be the youngest in my peer circle to do things. Most notably, I started working when I was 20 and started my own company when I was 22 (both happening weeks before my birthday). All these milestones meant a lot to me. It directly promised me a better shot at my future and I clearly liked the the idea.
But being the youngest almost everywhere has its set of complexities. There is a beautiful line in the movie “Before Sunset” where Ethan Hawke talks about how he never actually grew up and felt like a 13 year old in front of the world… For me life has mostly been like that. I have never felt the need to prove my adulthood to anyone.
I got my car driving license when I was 18 but didnt start regularly driving a car untill almost a month or two ago. Lot of ppl asked me why I didnt drive regularly. the honest answer of “I just didnt feel like it” never satisfy them. I have watched a lot of people run head-on to prove to the world that they are responsible and can do mature things. I on the other hand have been happy with what I could do for now. What this has meant is that I get a lot of those “Why dont you do that, everybody your age can do that?” speeches. All I do know is that the effect of that on me has almost worn off… One good way of making me NOT do something is to tell me that everybody else is doing it :P
Most of my life I have been enamored by people older than me. But what I realize now is that, in the long journey of life, an year or two or even five doesnt make much of a difference. Maybe its easy to say that when you are 25 but “Who we are” is determined by our experiences and choices… Age you see is just a number… Being a year younger probably matters in those early years but when you are out in the world, what truly matters is how you make the remaining years of your life count…