Richard Branson, on his 65th birthday took on 65 challenges given by fans. Those challenges included wri­ting a letter each to his 10, 25, 50 and 65-year-old self. Interestingly, not one of those challengers asked him to write a letter to his older self — none went beyond 65, which is his present age. But why not?
Writing letters to your you­nger self is a fashion of sorts. But of what use is it? Writing a letter to a younger you is like baking a cake for a dead man on his birthday — he can’t really benefit from it (though you mi­ght feel good about doing it). In effect, it’s just an exercise in self-congratulation. You will never be 25 again — or 10 — so there’s absolutely no point in giving advice to a non-existing person. From one perspective, of course, it might be beneficial advice to someone else who is 25 at the moment — especially if you’re a swashbuckling entrepreneur like Branson. But as far as your own self goes, the exercise is completely futile. What would be more meaningful, I suppose, is to wri­te a letter to your older self. Assuming that you stay alive till the date, it would be quite a revelation to know how your you­nger self saw the world, what she or he thought and experienced. Memory is a fickle lover — it plays tricks with your consciousness; it shows you past events coloured in the light that you’d like to see them in right now. But it would be infinitely interesting to know your real experience of that moment, as and when it happened.
That’s actually what a diary or a journal is for. But a journal is a record, not really advice, per se. Giving advice to your older self might open up a whole new pe­rspective. Perhaps, when you’re older, it might also enable you to see things from your children’s perspective — and lessen that generation gap. The acuity of youth is so badly disco­unted and then you let it all slip away, turning you into an exact replica of your forefathers and foremothers.
Perhaps, if I were to write to myself, as a normal Indian, I’d probably write this:
One, no matter how difficult it gets for the ageing br­ain to latch onto galloping te­chnology, don’t get frazzled by it. New age inventions will let you into the fresh world and you won’t feel left out. Two, instead of just depending on children and grandchildren and their happiness for your gratificati­on, try to keep friends around, and invol­vements that centre around your own ha­ppiness. Age is no bar for a new adventure — and young people anyway would like more enthusiastic elders around!
Three, it’s okay to be nostalgic, but also be tuned into the involvements and entertainments of the newlings — without judging them for it. Yours aren’t better than theirs — you’re just more used to your own. Their world would be different from what yours was — and why shouldn’t it be? Every age must bloom a different shade.
But there are some things that would really be worth reminiscing about, thi­ngs that might sadly not be available 40 years from now: large expanses of green and blue. Bird song. Fascinating wild species. White clouds. Pure, harmless, life-giving rain.
Yes, write to your 70 or 80 year old self — if you really wish to give your children all of these, you ought to have worked hard for it all those decades ago.
Your older self needs advice too.

(The writer is a freelance journalist)
Columnist: 
Zehra Naqvi
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