Friday, December 31, 2010

Year's End

He could barely see a thousand metres beyond the glass of his office cabin that kept out the cold wintry fog of the nation’s capital and even then, everything within sight was drained of colour; the light from the sun could not or would not break through the haze and our nearest star was reduced to a glowing disc in the background. Swivelling around to face the fourth floor of the office building where he worked, the overcoat he wore for his daily commute through the icy cold hanging across the back of his chair, he wondered if there were any chances of rain tonight, for it had been drizzling of late and he had an open air social gathering to attend to honour the festivities of the season. The year was almost over and this was the first time he would be greeting the new one so far from either of the two places he called home. It was an event he looked towards not without a touch of melancholy, for it seemed that smog had replaced the clouds that ran amok through his ancestral house and glass and steel buildings were now his abode when once he resided in a city of palaces. He was a long way from home indeed.

The year was almost done with. It had been better than the last, he noted to himself, even though some of the bad experiences from that year had spilled over into the next. An unavoidable occurrence, given the nature of those bad experiences, and something which was very much like the taste of bile that lingers on your palate long after you’ve spat it out or swallowed it back down. It occurred to him erratically that the word bile and the word melancholy were once upon a time linked, an anachronistic concept that sadness was caused by the liquids of the liver. It did not matter. The year and the last (the two seemed a pair now) were both history, the events that occurred in them would no doubt be remembered internally, but he would invoke them externally only much later on as a story or perhaps a lesson to one of his offspring, the boy it would be, as he would reprimand him, starting with the words “when I was a younger man…”

Seven hundred and thirty days.

By now it was six in the evening, and whatever few employees had turned up to work on the last day of the year which just happened to be a Friday as well and hence the perfect time to take leave and cash in on an extended weekend off had now also vanished. But he stayed back for a little while longer, standing up to don his coat and turning to the world outside – the last leg of the city’s metro line under construction, the massive malls that sprung up every eighteen months or so, each trying to outdo its predecessors, the vast multitude of the great Indian middle class tearing up the highways and the by lanes of the national capital region in their swanky cars and tailored suits, all of them no doubt heading for some memorable event to reign in the new year. All of them also, no doubt, had their own stories to tell, but for now, he thought as he finally packed up his bag and headed towards the lift, he would have to make do with his own.

There would be prologues of course, and prequels to those, just as there would be sequels and spin-offs to make up the years that would follow. All that would go into writing the grand story of his life. But for now, the New Year beckoned to him, replete with challenges to conquer and dreams to chase, lands to travel to and people to meet. When the time would arrive, it may come to pass that the world would fade quietly; he did not know and mostly did not want to, you could say that he did not care. This was the way the year would end; not with a whimper but a bang, and with a bang would start the new.

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