Posts Tagged ‘new year’

Today’s Brand New. Tomorrow’s Grand Old.

 

31st December is the day I feel completely out of sync with the rest of the world.

Yesterday was no different.

The whole world was looking ahead at 2016. And I was looking back at 2015. Everyone was drunk on hope. I stayed stupidly sober with nostalgia. People were talking about next year’s resolutions. I was talking about last year’s.

Basically, I fail to understand why people celebrate a year that’s yet to happen.

I think the New Year is the only event in our lives that’s celebrated even before it’s begun.

“Aren’t celebrations about successful completions? Shouldn’t we be evaluating the year gone by instead of celebrating the one yet to come?” I ask, like I do every year.

“Let bygones be bygones!” they reply, like they do every year.

Of course! Why wouldn’t they want bygones to be bygones!

Mr. Ashok Jain hasn’t returned my Rs. 53.45 that he borrowed in July.

Mrs. Sharma’s Labrador peed in the elevator 275 times through last year.

Capt. Nair has reminded me that I’m losing hair and gaining weight, every time we met.

Some others have cheated on their spouses.

Many others have lied.

Most have failed to change their annoying habits.

So why wouldn’t they want to forget 2015!

Just like they forgot their 2014, 2013, 2012…

No wonder people drink until they can remember nothing of the previous year.

I’m okay with that. What I can’t digest is how in that drunken state they go on to make tall new promises and lofty new resolutions.

“This year, I’m going to buy my wife that long overdue Platinum neckpiece!”

There’s applause all around. His wife blushes, and gives him the warmest hug and longest kiss.

The stakes go up as one by one each husband announces his plan.

And comes my turn.

I have a 100% record of keeping my new year resolutions, so I stay realistic.

“I’m going to buy my wife a Gucci handbag!”

There’s the biggest applause of the evening, as it came unexpectedly from me. My wife’s expression of surprise was genuine as she moved towards me for the hug and kiss.

“But it will only be in July because I’m told there’s going to be a 40% clearance sale at the fake market in Linking Road!” I competed my promise honestly.

The applause stopped. My wife froze midway. Her smile, now a frown. Then rage.

Honesty comes with a huge price tag. Bigger than Gucci’s. No discounts. No fakes.

But I’d rather pay for honesty than bluff.

That way, at least, I’ll be the only one on 31st December with the courage to talk about the year gone by.

I have noticed that a few news channels do this very well. They play their goofs and NG takes alongside their best stories of the year.

Isn’t it fun to look back at our failures and successes, our bad moments and good moments.

Isn’t it how life should be lived?

Making today a memorable yesterday.

Isn’t that a nice guideline to how we should spend every day of our lives?

I believe when my mother delivered me, her midwife used to pour steaming hot water on her belly during her bath. My mother would scream and curse that old lady. That lady would then go on to give my mother the most painful back massage, and say, “One day, many years from now, when all women of your age complain of backache, you’ll wonder what that is. That day remember to thank this old lady!”

So true it turned out to be.

Similarly, my swimming coach told me on the first day of class, “One day you’ll look back and laugh at how petrified you were to even step into the shallow end of the pool.” Suddenly my fear had turned into a fond memory, and I stepped in.

I remember using this technique on my son. He was only seven then. We were at a crocodile farm. As part of the tour, they gave us a hatchling to hold for a photo op. He simply refused to hold the baby croc. When all persuasion and assurances failed, I told him that it would make a great snap, which if posted on facebook would get maximum likes. He instantly agreed and did it. We still look at his expression in that snap and have a great laugh.

Another instance was when I asked a 70-year-old why he was training for the marathon.
“To look good on the postmortem table!” he had said.

And, when asked why she was working her butt out at the gym, an office colleague had once said, “To look good in rear view mirrors!”

But the philosophy really sunk in when I went to buy a new phone some years ago.

“Switch to a brand new smart phone, uncle!” said the salesgirl at the counter.

“I’m not at an age where I can experiment with these new gizmos. Give me the same old model,” I insisted.

That’s when she clinched it.

“Uncle, I agree it’s going to take you months to get used to the touchscreen. Months of fidgeting, clumsy calling, messed up messaging and full of funny incidents. But at the end of it all, it’s going to give you a lifetime of new experiences to talk about and many many memories to think back on.”

She was so true.

Play for the playback!

Because today’s brand new is going to be tomorrow’s grand old.

So spend 2016 the way you would like to celebrate the next 31st December.

My quest for the last

 

You know what the problem with life’s lessons is?

They are like Technology.

Just when you think you have mastered one, life reveals its newer versions- Truer versions of truths.

Sometimes they are just upgrades. But often they are completely new, and change your old beliefs so much that it feels stupid to have clung on to them stubbornly all along.

Happens to me all the time. So if you spot contradictions in my posts, remember, they aren’t conversations of a confused soul, but new, improved, updated versions of my beliefs.

Look at 2012, for instance. I started the year eagerly with ‘First, at last’. But grew wiser through the year, and am ending with ‘My quest for the last’.

Coming to think of it, this is a lesson life has been desperately trying to tutor me unsuccessfully for five decades.

Take First Love- a concept that the world has unnecessarily romanticised, given undue importance and immortalised. In a moment I’ll tell you how meaningless it can be.

Mine happened quite early in life. I remember it vividly. I had fallen for that dimpled, giggling, bundle of ecstasy in the cradle next to mine, at the Baby Room in a maternity home. I think I was two days old and she, one. On the third day as the head matron came to take me away, mercilessly separately us young hearts, I remember, I bawled and flapped my tiny hands around in an uneven fight. As I was taken out of the room, I threw one last glance back at my love, just for keeps. She was kicking the air in protest. It was then that her diaper fell off and I saw her stark naked.

She was a he.

Forget the First, no matter how many loves you have in life, the only one that really matters is the last, because that’s the one you get married to and live with for the rest of your life.

Life is clear about its lessons. “It’s not the first, but the last that matters.”

In cricket, it’s not the first, but the last ball that counts. It’s not the first, but the last run that becomes the winning run.

In a race, it’s not how well you start, but how well you finish.

In life, it’s not who you were born as, but who you die as.

In a chocolate box, it’s not the first, but the lone last slab that’s the sweetest.

In your wallet, it’s not the first, but the last coin that’s most precious.

In school, it’s not the first, but the last day of exams that is most memorable.

Dumb me, life was so blatant about its clues and yet I didn’t catch them.

I used to come home from school and say that I was the 35th ranker in class or finished 8th in the 1500-meter heats. But I would never admit I was the last.

This, in spite of the obvious rewards that life doles out to those who finish last.

The last ranker enjoys every day of his school, and has just one bad day in a year- the day of the results. Whereas the first ranker slogs the whole year for that one good day.

But the world continues to equate finishing last to losing.

Which is why 31st December isn’t the last day of the year, but the new year’s eve.

It is never about bidding a fond farewell to the last, but always about ushering in the first.

As I write this, even the precious last seconds of the year have been reduced to just a countdown to 2013.

Not for me. At least, not this year.

I am dwelling in this last moments of 2012, slowing it down, stretching it to an eternity and delaying the year’s last tock after its last tick, as much as I can.

So much, that I have all the time in the world to publish this post.

Whoever thinks that finishing last is easy, should try finishing last in Slow Cycling.

Or, refuse to budge from the end of a bungee jumping queue.

Or, get the last word with his wife, boss or news anchor- that’s like trying to win a shouting match with your echo.

Or simply do what I have just done- become the world’s last blogger of 2012 by publishing the last post of the year in the whole World Wide Web at 11:59:59 on 31st December.

First, at last!

12:00:01 a.m. on 1st January, 2012.

This should officially qualify as the world’s first blog post of 2012.

(Unless there are loners like me who have nothing better to do on New Year’s eve, in New Zealand, Australia, Japan or in any country where the year dawned earlier.)

Imagine, no one in front, millions following.

Guess this is how leadership feels. It’s true what they say, it’s kinda lonely at the front. Hello…hello…hello…anybody here!

The first in WordPress. The first in the blogosphere. Perhaps, the first in the whole world wide web, too.

What if the world froze or ended just now.

By virtue of this being the only post, the only written document, would I bag all the World’s Best Blogger awards? Maybe even the Nobel prize for Literature?

But let me confess, I am not much of a victory-stand guy.

Forget finishing first, I’m not even into starting or doing anything first. It’s scary, that’s why.

What if the craters on the moon were man-gobblers? Not even the strong-arm tactics of the US would have saved poor Armstrong. Mid-way through his famous one-liner, he would have disappeared forever. The first man on moon, the last man ever.

It takes guts to be the first. How the hell did Sir Edmund Hillary know what he’d encounter on Everest? What if there was a 4000-year-old naked Yogi meditating there? “Excuse me, what era is this?”

Or worse, what if it was actually the abode of Hindu Gods and Goddesses as mythologies say? In heaven before death? God knows what the heavenly laws say about illegal immigrants.

My fear of the First is not unfounded. I have many bad experiences. The worst of those was in my first job.

The agency was taken over and the new management sacked our old bosses. About ten of us decided to rebel. We marched to the new Chairman’s office to protest. We marched down the road, up the elevator, through the plush corridor, past his corner office, into his room, towards his table. I stood triumphantly waving my resignation and shouting slogans as planned. It sounded meek, croaky and familiar. Of course it was. It was my lone voice, not a chorus as planned. I was the only one standing there. Others had been stopped at the reception by security. What made it worse was that he readily agreed to all our- sorry- my demands. Everyone rejoiced. I was the only one who had to look for another job that week.

There’s too much uncertainty around the first, too much responsibility on the leader, too much spotlight on the No.1 and too much pressure on the winner.

Crowns give me a headache. The throne is such an uncomfortable chair. And permanent fame can get as agonising as Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th ton.

Which is why I, at best, accept only fleeting fame. Enjoy it, and let go of it before it becomes a burden.

Cinderella taught us this lesson many years ago.

I now run only the first 100 m of marathons. I bolt off the block like Bolt himself, while others are ambling. For a full 100 m I am the one that the onlookers first see and cheer. Some even discuss if I am the dark horse who is going to leave even the Kenyans behind.

By 150 m I am panting and others are catching up. By 200 m, I snatch a free drink and go home. Like they say, the time to quit is when you are on top!

Look at this space now. In a matter of minutes thousands of blogs, pokes, tweets, posts have flooded what was just a while ago solely my domain. This post looks like a speck in an ocean already. Hundreds of bloggers have gone ahead. Most, I am sure, are bigger and better. New firsts, winners, leaders will emerge from them. That’s the way life should be.

But this year, if you ever get to the hot-seat and are asked the million dollar question “Who was the first blogger of 2012?” make no mistake.

Who > What

 

“School’s unfair. It expects teachers to be good in just one subject, but students to be brilliant in all.”

When my son narrated this joke that he had heard in school the other day, all of us broke into a big laugh.

How true, I thought.

Imagine asking your Biology teacher to take a Geography test.

Latitude and Longitude? Aren’t they the skeletal system of the Earth?” she might ask.

Or, asking your Hindi sir to do Algebra.

Obviously my answer would be different from yours. I learnt Maths in Hindi,” he might say.

A little later I asked my son, still laughing, “Who’s the one who cracked this joke in class?”

My son just shrugged his shoulders and continued eating and talking.

“What’s the name of the friend who said this joke?” I asked, hoping that rephrasing would help.

“I don’t remember who said it,” my son replied a little impatiently, as if to ask how that mattered.

What do you mean you don’t remember, I wanted to ask but didn’t, not knowing how much pushing would be too much pushing.

He remembered the joke but not the one who said it?

When did jokes become more important than the person who said it?

It wasn’t like this when I was in school for sure. I remember I’d rush home to tell who did what, where the who was equally, if not more, important than the what.

It hadn’t changed even in my college days. Who eloped with whom.

Today, has What replaced Who to become the new king?

Rabindranath Tagore > Jana Gana Mana, then.

But Kolaveri > Anirudh, today?

No other month typifies this more than December.

Look around.

Reds, whites and greens. Shiny bells, gift-laden trees and glowing stars. The weather is pleasant and the mood is cheerful. It is the month of the world’s biggest festival and the universe’s grandest party.

And yet, say December and it’s none of those that come to my mind. It is the face of the world’s most loved fat, old man that symbolises this season for me.

No, not Anna. Santa.

December, like all other things in life for me, is about people. Not events, occasions or dates.

But for most of the world, it seems to be the other way around.

Festivities > People

Take the example of New Year parties.

Around this time, you will hear people beginning to ask, “So? What’s your New Year plans?”

My answer has usually been, “Nothing. Watch TV, early dinner and sleep by 11.”

“Come on Ramesh, don’t be so boring! We are having a party, why don’t you come?”

A couple of times I have fallen for that bait and actually gone for those parties.

Only to get a call from them on 2nd January: “Hey Ramesh, we missed you. You should have come yaar, it was so much fun.”

That’s why l started staying away from such parties.

But on 2nd January, they still call: “Hey thanks for coming man. Would never have been the same without you. It was such fun, na?”

That’s the problem with these parties. It is never about who came or didn’t come, but about what we did where, and how late it went on.

Events > People

Sorry, not for me. No matter how big the event, it is always etched in my mind as people’s faces and not dates.

Indian Independence = Gandhi

Bangladesh War = Field Marshal Manekshaw

Indian White Revolution = Amul Kurien

Indian Corruption = Lok Sabha group snap

My personal memories are also tagged with faces of people I was with at that time.

So both our cricket World Cup triumphs are as much about the people I watched the finals with, as they are about sporting history.

Mumbai’s floods, riots and terrorist attack, all have faces. So do Indira Gandhi’s and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassinations. All celebrations, all tragedies are about people. Family members, friends, colleagues, sometimes strangers with whom those moments, interactions, conversations and experiences were shared.

Even mundane things like going for a film, shopping, eating out and a holiday are for me, about who I am going with.

Many find this ridiculous.

Recently my cousin went with her maid to see Mission Impossible-4.

With maid? For Mission Impossible-4?

My wife didn’t find anything strange about that. For her too, it is shopping that matters. It doesn’t matter who comes along as along as that person is willing to carry her bags.

If it’s not me, then it’s our kids. If it’s not them, then it’s her friends.

That’s why when she calls me for a night show, I never refuse. Who knows who she’d ask out next.

Experiences > People

My fear is that this phenomenon is taking over all human relationships and changing them beyond recognition.

When I look at all those young couples lining Marine Drive, Worli Seaface and Bandra Bandstand, I wonder if it is the atmosphere- the setting sun, the sea, the sweet nothings and the need for romance- that is making them romance the person in their arms.

Is Love > Lover?

Think about it. These days you don’t hear about love failures as much, why?

Devadas is extinct. Forget life, today’s youngsters don’t think even their love life is worth sacrificing just because some idiot said no.

What’s the big deal? One can always get someone else to love, seems to be the logic.

Love is eternal. Lovers needn’t be.

You will see this pervade every aspect of life.

My Space > My Spouse, is the reason why marriages are failing today.

My Success > My Partner, is the reason why business partnerships don’t last today.

Religion > Its Followers, is the reason why religious fanaticism is getting out of hand.

Country’s Borders > Those who guard it, is the reason why bravehearts are sacrificed in wars fought over uninhabitable terrains.

This is funniest in office picnics.

People who see, work and tolerate each other day in and day out, meet at picnics and go “Hey Ramesh! So, how have you been?”

What do you mean how I’ve been? You and I have been in that wretched client meeting all week until last evening, dammit!

“So, how’s wifey and kids?”

They didn’t come into my life last night, you dumbo! It’s taken you all these years to ask this?

“What’s up with life?”

You should know! After all, both of us are stuck in the same place, doing the same shit.

Actually, it’s not their fault. It’s not them talking. It’s the picnic mood that’s making them behave differently.

Mood > People

This is why now when people wish 2012 > 2011, I just smile and say, “No matter how good or how bad the year, remember, you are always bigger and far more important than it.”

For me, it’s always You > Years.

Ah, the joy of being Ramesh Rabindranath!

 

I find 31st December the most fascinating day of the year. Maybe it should be designated as Mind’s Day. For, on display is the biggest demonstration of the human mind’s power. How else to explain why the entire world wakes up in an upbeat mood, to a whole new spirit, feeling hopeful, confident and happy, on a day which, in reality, is as ordinary as any other?

This is one day when even an incurable pessimist (Yes, the one who can kill the beauty of a sunset by whining, ‘Alas, the sun is drowning!’) turns into an optimist. The famous example of half-full, half-empty glass just doesn’t work on this day- pessimists interpret it as, ‘Great, there’s space for more!’

It’s the only race where runners don’t mind the finish line becoming the start line of the next race. The losers, who huffed and puffed to the finish line, suddenly find new stamina and energy for a fresh 365m race. It’s the only time when winners readily agree for a rematch.

Wonderful, isn’t it?

But I have two issues with this otherwise perfect day.

One is how quickly we tend to forget the world’s greatest PR exercise for happiness. By the 2nd morning, if not the 1st, happiness becomes just a hangover. All that good cheer and positive vibes seem unfounded and stupid. Our daily grind takes over so very quickly.

Why?

Why can’t the party continue for the rest of the year? I’m not talking about drinking silly and dancing sillier. I’m talking about having the grandest party, in life’s most happening pub- our minds. Why can’t every evening be a New Day’s eve? Better still, why can’t every moment be a Next Moment’s eve, entered into with as much gusto? Why not?

But I guess, like most things ideal, it is easier said than done.

My second issue is with the greetings that go around at this time of the year.

“May all your prayers be answered!”

“May all your dreams be realised!”

“May all your wishes come true!”

Do we realise what a terrible place this world would become, if all of those actually happen? I dread to even think of their consequences.

Surely, my maid’s prayers aren’t to work more and ask for less? If her dreams were to be realised, she wouldn’t turn up tomorrow. Instead, I would have to report for work at her mansion.

What do you think, doctors pray for everyone’s good health? Moneylenders wish for everyone’s prosperity? Lawyers ask for peace and harmony in every home? Tuition teachers dream of all kids being born bright?

Oh, come on!

I know Swami HaHa Ananda is praying that I’d have the worst year of my life so that I’d run to him for a 15K solace. Religious fanatics are wishing that I’d be so disillusioned with life that I’d convert. Extremists are hoping I’d begin to hate humanity so much that I’d join their outfit.

There’s a neighbour out there hoping that I would, one of these days, turn into a buxom blonde. And another, waiting eagerly for me to turn gay.

Why go elsewhere, take my own family.

My dad would be overjoyed if I suddenly became Obama. My mom would find it cute if I became Abdul Kalam. My brother hopes I’d wake up as Mukesh Ambani (So that he can wake up as Anil). My wife is wondering when I’d become Abhishek Bachchan (So that she can be Aishwarya). My first son would be ecstatic if I changed into Sachin. And my second son prays that I get turned into a Pokemon.

Imagine poor me, a terrible cocktail of all that. Abdul Kalam’s hair-do, Sachin’s voice, Mukesh’s waistline, Abhishek’s box-office luck- A cartoon whom Osama is plotting furiously to kill.

I woke up last night from that nightmare, so very glad about my grey hair, bald head, paunch and unsold scripts.

Ah, the joy of being Ramesh Rabindranth!

Really, our state of mind is the only truth and the only thing under our control. All else are only prayers, wishes, hopes and dreams- the consequences of which are unknown, probably disastrous. And if they don’t happen, all we are left with are huge disappointments and frustrations. So why pray, wish, hope or dream? Just find a reason to be happy.

Look at it this way: Your moment of having to endure this post is now over. So, celebrate! Enter the next moment with no expectations, and it’s bound to be only better.

Enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: