Arati Menon wonders why people have abandoned their talents like music and dance in their youth to now rust quietly in the garden of adulthood
She had never taken part in a singing competition till she came to our college. Here, a few friends coaxed her to get on stage during cultural week. She closed her eyes, ignored her knocking knees, and flooded the auditorium with a voice that shifted everyone listening towards a different reality. After the song ended, the audience took a few seconds before they burst into a spontaneous, thunderous applause. She was magic. Every single girl sitting there on that day knew it. For the next few years, she lorded over the inter-collegiate singing competitions, winning gold every time. This was almost two decades ago.
I bumped into her last week. The second I saw her, I remembered her voice and asked her about her singing. She gave a self-deprecating laugh and said she now hums songs to only the vessels she washes.
For me, the saddest story is when I meet people who have allowed their talents to rust quietly in the garden of adulthood. Every office and home is littered with unused, forgotten skills. An accountant who used to sketch, the manager who would juggle, the tea boy who could whistle entire songs, the lawyer who learnt classical dance, the housewife who used to play the drums - their stories of why they abandoned their art are as varied as their aptitude.
The most common excuse for this neglect is time. They claim real life doesn’t permit them to indulge in something that is neither a career, a money spinner nor something that helps the entire family. When I try to brush aside these objections and push friends and acquaintances to pick up those discarded skills, they always seem reluctant. They say that they were anyway not that good or that it happened in another life when they were young and foolish.
I wonder why you can’t be old and foolish? Why can’t you spend half an hour every day and gift yourself the simple happiness of pursuing a talent, which was yours? Even if your artistry wasn’t genius level, didn’t it give you satisfaction once? How could you have forgotten that you used to sing, dance, sketch, run, write, swim?
I am sure a lot of you reading this will feel that familiar sense of nostalgia and wistfulness. A lot of you may even wonder how your talent would have turned out if you had spent the last fifteen years practising it? I am a firm believer of the ‘never-too-late’ school of thinking.
I believe you can begin today. Whatever gave you that pure joy of doing something that you were instinctively good at is worth investing in again. The truth is, if we did it once, no matter how far removed we are from that world, we can do it again.
As for my friend the singer, I hope meeting me, someone from her nightingale past, will spur her to begin again. To wake up and stun the walls, her family, her neighbours with the power of her voice. She owes it to herself and the gift she was blessed with.
Still Figuring It Out’ a funny, sad, questioning take on adulthood will appear every Saturday on Asianet Newsable. Arathi Menon is the author of Leaving Home With Half a Fridge, a memoir published by Pan Macmillan. She tweets at here. The views expressed here are her own.