(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Human beings love new beginnings. It makes for a great personal narrative! We want to leave our past behind and not be bogged down by it. We want to be a better person than we currently are. We want to have the perfect reply when confronted with a taunt -embedded with the truth - masquerading as joke. But we couldn’t think of anything at that time and now it’s too late. We can’t really change the past but we can always imagine living an inspirational life in a distant future. And there is nothing more inspiring than ‘a fresh start.’ And there is no better time than December to take stock of your life and convince yourself to begin anew. We seem to think that the year has only eleven months and December is the waiting period between the current year and the next. A whole month of being in limbo. December is like the child nobody cares about because he neither gets good marks nor can he play any sports.
There is something about December that turns everybody contemplative. We like to imagine that we spent the year actually doing something other than meandering through our life wondering where it all went wrong. So we try to quantify our whole year. We start making lists of everything that we’ve done. And coincidently, whatever we liked turns out to be the best the year had to offer. Top 10 things I could have done to improve my life instead of watching everything put out by HBO. Five things my grandmother said that were racist but I pretended were adorable. Thirty Thousand things I wanted to tell my boss but couldn’t because he’s a raving asshole and is the reason I die a little, everyday.
There is something about December which makes people overestimate their capacity for self-improvement. We make promises to ourselves that we know we won’t be able to follow through. And yet we still make them because hope is a flame which never burns out. Suddenly, we think that we’ll rise above our own mediocrity to start losing weight/quit smoking/stop re-tweeting compliments. We don’t want to begin the new year as ourselves. We want to spray some magic dust and turn into someone better. Even though the odds of that happening are even more remote than Sachin Tendulkar ever playing another one-day international, but hey, stranger things have happened, right?
There is something about December which makes everyone nostalgic. Suddenly, every old memory is drudged out and even people in their early twenties remember their childhood with a loud sigh and a fond head tilt. Did you really have the best time of your life when you were living in a socialist dystopia with one teevee channel, no internet and a twenty year wait for a telephone? Are you really sure that everything tastes better with a dash of poverty and a smidgen of desperation? Let’s face it. Everything seems better in hindsight. In reality, your childhood sucked. What’s so great about being a child anyway? Everyone tells you what to do; you have to pretend to feel guilty while blowing away your parent’s money on useless things like textbooks & tuition and you have to bribe your driver to make sure he doesn’t talk about all your recreational trips to your neighbourhood ‘Wine & Beer’ shop. If I wanted someone else to make rules for my life, I would have joined a religion.
There is something about December that turns everybody sincere. Maybe it’s the realisation that they’re getting closer to death or that they’ve already had a drink or two but even the most cynical people will sit beside you at a party and tell you about their hopes and dreams until you realize you’ve been listening to them drone on for an hour and you fake a phone call to get out of the conversation. It’s like everyone is going through the existential angst that you usually hear about in a Coldplay song.
There is something about December that makes people want to share its end with the whole world. For some reason a large percentage of people prefer to bring in the new year in a room full of strangers, eating cold food and drinking watered down alcohol, while being “entertained” by out of work performers. Sounds as exciting as a hernia operation! So many plans are made to be broken. And most of the time, even if you try to follow through on them, you end up not reaching your destination because of a traffic jam and you begin your fresh start with a road full of hostile, resentful strangers while trying to assure your empty stomach that you will be at your destination shortly as you calmly rue the day you decided to buy the tickets to your local rotary club’s “rocking” new year bash featuring some generic Punjabi pop song yeller. You sit there and contemplate how this came about and where it all went wrong.
Just like Mother Nature intended.
Have a great new year! Probably going to be just like the last one, but, whatever.