By Biraj Dixit :
If one goes by the logic of ‘morning shows the day…’, then does January show the year? Well, we are not half-way into the month and I am already detesting the idea of ‘January showing the year…’ Oh no! Nothing against the month. Absolutely nothing. In fact, it is that super cool month of wonderful winters that bring hopes and plans and resolutions and increments and festivals and weddings. In short, a time of a lot of excitement! But this January has brought a third pandemic wave and nothing is like it should be. Even the weather seems too drunk to remain in sync with time. Many of my previous Januarys were dedicated to the cause of fulfilling my New Year resolutions – weight loss, punctuality, self-assessment and self-improvisation, and taking it easy. Many mornings of a fresh year had seen me getting up at day-breaks, enjoying fresh breeze while walking, hitting the gym on time and then giving myself quite an introspective time while my morning tea simmered. By March, though, like the winters, my resolutions would also start waning as I warmed up to my only lasting resolution of ‘taking it easy’. But January used to be all about renewed zeal.
Just like that
New Year, new visions, new commitments. Zeal, however, had to be renewed since the old wouldn’t suffice. But that used to be January - a little new and a lot more renewed. There used to be festivals and parties and weddings and invitations, like kites would come flying every now and then. This year, it seems like all invitations, while they were flying to reach my home, have been cut by a nylon manja. The Government-imposed curbs, of course very, very necessary to put a check on the pandemic, have actually poured cold water on one’s aspirations vis-à-vis weddings. Kudos to the administration to do the unthinkable – reducing the size of the big fat Indian wedding to just 50. Amazing! How-so-ever great a step it is in public interest, it is sure going to have consequences. It effectively means that one, who is primarily an Indian with all of India’s cultural ethos, will have to go through the ordeal of choosing between his/her relations.
Phew! The other day, my aunt, whose younger son is to marry in a fortnight, called me up to bare her heart’s grief. She claimed to be in the midst of gigantic Shakespearean dilemma – to put the names of her dear relatives in – ‘to be’ or ‘not-to-be’ list. Any Indian, irrespective of his caste, creed, race, religion or language, can tell you what a gargantuan of a task it can be to leave relatives out of anything. You see, relatives are relations who relate to even the most relatively insignificant aspects of your rather unrelatable life. And to leave out such a gentry out of a highly significant thing as a wedding! But what must be done must be done, said my aunt and went on to tell me of the many heartbreaks.
Though she rather happily chopped off the list some of her own ‘particularly annoying’ in-laws, her heart bled cutting her own family out of the list. In a fit of rage, she tore off the entire list and prepared a new one starting from the most important. This, she realised, was easier as most important people are usually fewer and far between. She narrated to me all the names of people important to her – more through consequence than attachment, she confessed and then a long pause followed.... (If you truly know your relations, you very well know their pause.) She expected me to offer her my absence at the wedding! Oh, but I am my aunt’s niece. Why! I had planned so much in advance for the wedding, bought so many things and not to show them off was criminal. I held on to my stubborn silence and the pause lingered. But my aunt being my aunt she did what must be done. Very sweetly she told me that I was the 51st person on her list. All Indians, irrespective of their caste, creed, race, religion or language, will tell you that slighting relatives carries consequences. Heartbroken as I am, I have vowed to remind my aunt on slightest possible opportunity of the injustice done to me. It is quite satisfying to see your relatives speechless or struggling for words or consoling. But damn the Corona, it has given someone a valid reason to leave me out. Well, there are other weddings, and engagements and anniversaries and baby showers and a whole gamut of celebrations in our family and all I can do is to beg the administration to at least allow 60 or 55 so that 51st can be accommodated. I also pray that this COVID gets off our relatives’ back so that one can resent them properly, without allowing them any excuse to get off the hook. And I beg of January to shed off its gloom as quickly as possible so that the rest of the year can breathe easy.
Why even the festival of Makar Sankranti seems off-colour a bit. Of course, there are kites around and the whiff of tilgul is coming from virtually every lane and the women can be seen buying masks and sanitisers for vaan but with restrictions in place, the usual fanfare around the festival is missing. The word is that not more than five people are allowed together. You might say that even two women are enough to make a success of haldi-kumkum. And that is so true. Women (what if only two), if adorned by good food and gossip can push any gloom out of the window! One of my friends has planned a haldi-kumkum in batches. She has conceptualised the entire celebration around Corona. And just to thwart her attempt at giving us masks again as vaan this year, we have all decided and declared to wear our Corona masks (which were the vaan (gift) we received in Sankrant of 2021) to her celebration . She has planned to welcome us with sugar balls (halwa) (which she somehow thinks resembles corona virus a bit and hence will protect us from the virus!?!?!?). She has planned to make batata wadas in shape of corona virus.
We are supposed to use festival to eat the virus off and save the world!?!?! I am sure the pandemic will realise the gravity of the situation. Mankind, (womenkind all the more so) turn to innovation when they find situation pretty tiresome. And if at all January, like the morning, will show the year ahead, then from corona dosa and COVID pasta to COVID cars and corona missiles, humanity will humiliate the virus in as many ways as it can. It is a good idea to leave when people are still willing to open the exit door. The worst punishment humanity bestows is belittling things into absolute insignificance.