Eighteen. A number which conjures up many images. For many it represents a ‘coming of age’ number, an age when we can vote and therefore impact the future of our country—which reminds me, I hope all of you who’ve just crossed 18 have registered to vote. Eighteen is an age of love for many, like myself, since the girl who I loved was 18 years old when she told me that she loved me back. It’s been more than 20 years and our love is still strong. Eighteen is also the age of rebellion for most. I remember, during the early ’90s, I rebelled against religious extremism with an anger that pushed me into atheism. It took over a decade for the angry rebellion to fizzle out. It took me a decade to realise that one form of extremism cannot be battled by another form of extremism. I realised that religious extremism can only be defeated by religious liberalism. Eighteen is the age of exploration, of that awkward movement from childhood to adulthood, of leaving home, of Outlook magazine finally growing up!
But having said all this, if you ask me what 18 fundamentally signifies, I’d say that I think it represents wisdom. Wisdom that allows us to give meaning to our lives. Wisdom that helps us achieve what we are meant to achieve. Wisdom that gives us the gift of happiness. In my humble opinion, one of the greatest scriptures handed down to us by God, which helps us understand the way of the wise, is the Bhagavad Gita, or the Song of our Lord. How many chapters does the magnificent Song of our Lord have? Eighteen.
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