Another year draws to a close. At 23:59 HRS or 11:59 pm local time across different time zones on December 31, we will pause in an attempt to dam the flowing river of time to “bring in” the New Year. Just like going forward to receive a guest hesitating at the threshold, who must be welcomed and ushered in to our homes and lives.
Traditionally we have used the Gregorian calendar to “time” the arrival of the New Year, although different cultures celebrate the arrival of New Year according to their own lunar calendar or other criteria. For instance, Chinese and Vietnamese New Year is celebrated some time between mid-January to mid-February; Hindus celebrate the start of a new year according to the Hindu calendar while other communities in South Asia have their own dates; the Orthodox Church, Jewish and Muslim communities all have their own celebrations according to the Julian, Gregorian and Islamic calendar, respectively.
So, why do we even gather together on the eve of January 1 to “celebrate” the New Year? It is not as if we all expect to kneel down and take stock of the previous 365 days, reminisce about the special events during the year gone by and plan ahead for the next 12 months. As we are social animals, I guess coming together for New Year celebrations is as good an excuse as any for friends (and strangers) to gather and raise a toast (or three)!
An unknown Urdu shaayar (poet) however, considers it quaint that we congratulate others for the shortening of their lives:
“Ek pattā shajar-e-umr se lo aur girā
log kahte haiñ mubārak ho nayā saal tumheñ”
[Lo, as another leaf falls from the tree of life
People say, may the New Year be auspicious for you!]
Oh yes, in addition to planning and participating in the celebrations, some of us do come up with resolutions to lose weight, exercise regularly, travel, take up a new hobby, read more and text less etc., etc., etc. More diligent friends might persevere with their resolutions, but I can honestly admit never having gone past the 3rd week of January on any of the activities I pledged to undertake!
The Indian mystic Osho did not favor making resolutions, as he believed these to be restrictions for the future. Said he, “All resolutions are imprisonments. You decide today for tomorrow? You have destroyed tomorrow. Allow the tomorrow to have its own being. Let it come in its own way! Let it bring its own gifts. … Drop all resolutions! Let life be a natural spontaneity.”
Perhaps it might make sense for each of us to have a New Year celebration on our own birth day, instead of a collective celebration on December 31. It would allow us to reflect on those special moments of our individual accomplishments, celebrations, relationships and denouements through times gone past. We may not have control over the future, but could enjoy “living in the moment”. One of my favorite poets, Gulzar penned these beautiful lyrics, that serve to remind us that the long awaited New “Year” will be gone in a moment:
|Aanewala pal jaanewala hai||The moment that is imminent, is going to pass|
|Ho sake to iss mein zindagi bitaado||If you can, live a lifetime (in) …|
|Pal jo yeh jaane waalaa hai||… This moment, that is ephemeral|
|Ik baar yun mili maasoom si kali||Once (I) chanced upon an innocent bud|
|Ho khilte hue kahaa khushbaash mein chali||Blossoming it declared, “I am blissful”|
|Dekha to yahin hai, dhoondaa to nahin hai||Opening my eyes I saw it was here, but when I searched again it was nowhere …|
|Pal jo yeh jaane waalaa hai||… (Just like) this moment, that is ephemeral|
|Ik baar waqt se lamhaa giraa kahin||Once, an instant fell away from the vast expanse of time, somewhere|
|Wahaan daastaan mili, lamhaa kahin nahin||An entire epic was narrated in it, but the moment was nowhere to be found|
|Thodaa saa hasaanke, thodaa saa rulaake||Spreading some cheer, and making one cry a little …|
|Pal ye bhi jaane waalaa hai||… This moment will also go, never to return|
May the future be filled with many moments of good health, peace and contentment for all.