One year draws to a close. Another year begins.
As children, we were not allowed to stay up late to “ring in the New Year.” Forbidden activities serve to entice and we tried all sorts of gimmicks to be permitted to hang around later than usual. For instance, a kids’ sleepover party on December 31 ensured that few supervising adults were likely to be around to check on us or impose a bedtime curfew. It was also fun to sneak behind half open doors and spy on the usually sedate “uncles and aunties” who would start to let their hair down as the drinks trays did the rounds. The next day we would gather and vote on which friend’s mum and dad were the most “fun” parents of the evening.
There were always a few persons at these celebrations who could sing well and waited to be persuaded to croon a ghazal, popular Bollywood songs or the latest hit “phoren” (foreign) songs from England or America. At first the singer would politely smile and beg to be excused citing a “bad throat,” persistent “cold” or other similar half-hearted pleas. However, after increasingly clamorous requests and allowing for the usual “nakhra” (coquetry) to be expected and accepted from singers of their stature, the crooner eventually started by humming snatches of a crowd-pleasing number. Guests would stop midway through their conversations and quietly start to gather around the performer who, having got the attention then launched forth with gusto. A musically inclined person usually provided accompaniment, simulating the tabla by drumming with his fingers on a table. Invariably a few “bathroom singers” were always present at these gatherings. Encouraged by alcohol and freed of any lingering inhibitions, one or more would chime up, initially by singing softly alongside the main performing artiste and then more forcefully mouthing the concluding words of each verse. Misunderstanding and misappropriating the encouragement and applause intended for the main singer, the discordant performer sometimes tried to monopolize the “mehfil” (soiree). There would be quiet sniggers before some kind guest took the initiative to invite the annoying out-of-tune warbler out “for a smoke” or a “breath of fresh air” in a bid to provide respite to other gathered folks.
The past is a collection of memories while the future is nothing but our imagination or dreams. When looking back at the years passed it is not a “period” defined by the 365 days that one reviews. Rather, what stands out in our mind is each moment in “time,” whether good or bad. Memorable events. New souls that came into our lives. Loved ones who, after sharing their love and time with us, passed on.
It is time once again, to look to the future even as we relinquish the past. Anticipatory excitement and past delusion are both highlighted in the following ashaar by two of my favorite shaayars (poets) – Ghalib (1797 to 1869) and Faraz (1931 to 2008):
“.. dekhiye paate haiñ ushhāq butoñ se kyā faiz,
ik barhaman ne kahā hai ki ye saal achhā hai”
[.. let us see what grace/favours we derive from these lovers/beloved idols,
a Brahmin has said that this year is expected to be good] – Mirza Ghalib
“.. naa shab-o-roz hī badle haiñ na haal achhā hai,
kis barhaman ne kahā thā ki ye saal achhā hai
[.. neither the night and day have changed nor is the condition/time good,
which Brahmin had said that this year was good] – Ahmed Faraz
May the future be peaceful, healthy and productive for all.