|The star in the new year night by Eugen Bracht|
I could not find the right curtains at three stores. If three stores that are known for their nice curtains do not have what I need, are my needs difficult to fulfil? Or are they catering to a template of expectations?
They showed me red, red in its many shades. They showed me brown, brown that covered distances from beige to the darkest wood.
Rust, I said. I wanted rust-coloured curtains. This? And they showed me a pink, faded and jaded. No, I said. Rust. Their faces were question marks. "Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel." How could I explain this when it is not what I ever thought about when the colour rust danced before my eyes?
I rummaged through piles. Nothing. I left. With a few things, but not what I had set out for. There are always a few things that act as placebo, but placebos work only if you are looking for an ailment, not a cure.
The rods were empty this morning, like bare branches. I stared at the brass holder glinting in the sunlight. And then I remembered. The old curtains. Cleaned and ironed, lying in some draw. I am not good with putting up curtains, but I was on a stool, craning my neck and trying to find the fixing places. See? I don't even know the terms.
They are up now. Old. Familiar. Yet new. No dust, no stains, no wear and tear. I look at them with new eyes. Isn't that what a fresh start should be about?
* * *
I have skimmed through the newspapers and surfed past channels holding forth on the year that was. It is a necessary ritual, with some lame attempts at humour.
I recall how years ago as an active media person, I too would write a column or do a feature on the new year. There was the roundup, the people who matter, who don't, what was said, what was done. There was much enthusiasm. Today, with the surfeit of minutiae passing for information and insight, all I can find is regurgitation.
This, alas, is unlikely to change because the dispensers of trivia believe their audience can only handle bite-size bits and the latter shrug believing the dispensers can only dish out this much. They live in a happy compromise.
* * *
A lot has happened around the world.
Donald Trump being able to think he will be President of the United States of America is not only about his temerity but the licence a large enough section of Americans has granted him. He exists because there is perhaps a felt need for him.
Then there is Hillary Clinton who said that Trump is ISIS's best recruiter after he said he would not allow Muslims into America. If one was being paranoid, the other seemed to convey that Muslims hurt by such a move would naturally be inclined towards ISIS. This makes Hillary sound worse. Transparent hate is way better to deal with than such covert projection of stereotypes.
In the days following San Bernardino, the top search phrase was "kill Muslims" on Google. It would be interesting to find out who was looking for such details, and what it might reveal.
Muslims continued to make news, much of it because a bunch of them terrorised the world into believing that they represented 1.6 billion people. It couldn't be their marketing skills, for they were killing Muslims too, mainly Muslims. In fact, it is Muslims who are fighting them on the ground.
In India, it was the cow. Some suggested that the cow should be honoured as the Mother of the Nation, and this was in all seriousness. Cow urine was sought to be used as disinfectant in hospitals; it is already an ingredient in the Patanjali range of products by Baba Ramdev, a yoga guru who has the government of India as his patron.
Narendra Modi continued with his magical version of prime ministership by using the flying carpet jet to see what other countries have been upto so that he can tell Indians what he can do to become like them so that they can become like us with Make in India. It's as simple and complicated as that.
He made a 'surprise' visit to Lahore on December 25, which happened to be Nawaz Sharif's, Jinnah's, Vajpayee's and Jesus' birthday. Much was made of it as a move forward towards peace. It is more about showmanship. The people crave for such visits on both sides. Unless they are permitted such "drop in" moments, peace will be a word on paper erased and rewritten many many times according to the whims of the politicians.
* * *
To wind up for now, I am not cynical about the new at all. I welcome it. I only wish that we did not feel the need to kick out the old. Is there any assurance that the new will not be mere varnish?
Last evening, on my way home I stopped at the end of my lane where the fruit vendor's cart stands. I like pineapple, especially if they are sliced and ready to eat. I do not pretend to enjoy hard labour, and don't find it exciting to cut and chop. He had strawberries too. "They are too bright," I told him. "Stobry aisa hi hota hai (strawberries are always like that)," he said. I gave him an angry look, "Do you think I am buying strawberries for the first time?"
He did not look chastised, and for some reason I liked that, that certain defiance in his eyes. He is a young man, maybe just out of his teens. For him strawberry is upward mobility, the shinier the better.
A beggar woman with a baby held at her hips stood there. What does one do? He gave her one piece of the shiny strawberry. I fished out some money and gave it to her.
As I walked towards home, I saw her sitting on the pavement. She beamed and waved at me, lifting her son's hand to do the same. I waved back and reached my gate with a strawberry smile.
A Happy New Year...may you all find a reason to smile.