Last night a Whatsapp forward reached me, which was a translation of Taslima Nasreen’s poem Madhyaraater phone. Although the context of the poem is completely different from what I am writing about, the first two lines of the poem had me glued. They read:
At midnight, Phone, don’t you wake me. I’ll give you a pillow, a blanket, and sleeping pills. Everything. Please go to bed.
Isn’t that what I feel every New Year’s eve? Please let me go to bed early, without that mandatory interruption at midnight from over-enthusiastic folks who want to celebrate another revolution around the sun. It is alright for those who have a holiday the next morning. But not for me.
For me, a new year’s day is about waking up before the sun rises. An hour of silence before the bell from the milkman’s bicycle trings, before the clatter of the utensils from the kitchen arises. Some minutes to write neatly in a new diary. Big dreams. Bigger promises. Resolutions to oneself. So what if at the end of week two, the diary gathers dust. Ambushed by the to-do lists from the workplace.
I am up since 5 am. Strolling. Attempting a semblance of exercise to humour myself. And then I have finished cooking a warm breakfast and a special lunch. No phone calls so far. It is 8.15 am and I am rushing to the bathroom. Need to get to work by 9 am.
It is then that the torrent starts. Every member of the khandaan starts calling. There is nothing much to talk about, but wishing Happy New Year. People who have never called the whole year suddenly remember you. The messages on Whatsapp sound like a disorderly jingle now. The calls continue. I have been up since 5 am for these calls. Is it my fault that you are nursing a hangover and woke up late? Beeps of missed calls assail you while you are finishing one call. And my eye is on the clock.
There is a departmental party at lunch and I want to wear a new saree. But the phone calls continue. You cannot even miss your shower today. New Year’s Day! My mother’s voice echoes in my ears: “What you do today will happen throughout the year!” I don’t want to be both stinky and late on day one. But most of all, I want to be the first one who signs the attendance register today. Like every year.
All those big plans of reaching work 30 minutes before schedule melt. The phones never stop. And when I reach work huffing and puffing, not only am I late, but Bharat has beaten me to signing in the register before me. Bah!
Next year onwards, can we have a permanent holiday on 1st January? So that I can respond to all the phone calls I want. So that I can stay up after midnight and burst those 1000-ladi crackers. So that I can snuggle under the razaai. So that I am not so stressed out on day one of the new year.
But my mother’s voice echoes in my ears again: “If you are on leave on day one, you will not be working for the whole year.” What a pleasant thought indeed!