Sunday, December 25, 2005

Thoughts Of A Capricorn

In another six days from now, we would all be trampling upon 2005 and stepping on to 2006. But my breath still smells of the whisky I had had the last New Year party, and my tongue still bears the residue of the salt in the wafers that had accompanied the drinks.

Maybe the images of that party remain vivid because it wasn't a party in the first place -- it was only a meeting of precisely five people who had gathered in the warmth of a home in Besant Nagar, not far from where people rendered homeless by the tsunami must have been huddled that night.

Circled around bottles of beer and glasses of whisky and bowls of wafers and peanuts, we sat on the floor, listening to Hindi songs of the 70's and 80's. And then the mobile phones started ringing and a few people started bursting crackers on the street. We looked at the clock: it was already a few minutes past midnight. We raised our glasses, wished each other, and returned to the music.

Another year had passed. Another year sliced off our lifespan, and now, even before I could work that night's alcohol off my system, Time is once again out with the knife. This is one pain which Capricorns feel more than anyone else. Especially Capricorns who were born around the yearend: I am one of them.

Last year I had planned my birthday rather meticulously. At seven in the morning, my parents were arriving. And at seven in the evening, a couple of my friends were coming home for dinner. But before any of them could arrive, the tsunami came.

First caller: Good morning, Bish! Happy Birthday! Did you feel the earthquake? I felt it, man!
First caller (again): Bish, did you hear that! The sea is coming in!
Second caller: Happy Birthday! Did you hear the latest? My maid says the sea is coming to swallow us.
Third caller: Are you up? I am going to Marina to take pictures. Want to come along? By the way, Happy Birthday!
Fourth caller (my mother, from Vijayawada station): Are you ok? What is this happening in Chennai? The train is late by 12 hours... (the train was running late because of the fog in North India).

Sunday. I had a bath, put on a new shirt (birthday gift, by my boss), and set out for Marina. Vehicles were allowed only upto a point, so I walked the remaining distance, about 2 km. There was chaos on the road. People were excited. I imagined the might of the waves when I saw an Ambassador car perched on top of the railing at the beach. I walked back. The gravity of the destruction hit me only when I swtiched on the TV. We were in the middle of a full-scale disaster.

My rest of the day was spent doing commentaries for BBC Bengali service. In between, I found time to fetch my parents from the station. And in the night, I was drinking and having dinner with a completely unexpected set of people: journalist friends from Delhi who had rushed in. It felt like being in the Press Club. Any kind of tragedy, so long as it doesn't touch you, can be fun. We get sadistic pleasure out of watching it. It's like picnic.

How else do you explain the crowd of onlookers around a man who has just met with an accident? Nobody moves a finger to help, but they all stand and watch. Long ago, when I was eight or nine, a bus had fallen off the bridge into the Ganga near my home. For two days they laboured to retrieve the bus and the bodies. The crowd watching this gruesome exercise was so huge that peanut-sellers and balloon-sellers put up their stalls. Water vendors and soft drink-sellers were there too.

Birthdays, by the way, are no less tragic than tsunami. Tsunami, in fact, is better. It kills only a few thousand people at a time and kills them instantly. The birthday kills all of us, slowly and without our knowledge, slicing a year off your life every year. Year after year.


Anonymous said...

It is indeed heartening to know that you have rated your activities and realised that there is no meaning in living with illiusions. You are worthy of someone real to go all the way with you and remain that way. May this birthday bring a wonderful companion and all good things in life along with a progressive career, name, fame and prosperity. Wish you a very very happy birthday.

Anonymous said...

a very beautiful ending!i love to read ur newspaper articles!EXPRESS ROCKS!!

Usha said...

Birthdays and Tsunamis are not the same my dear friend, certainly not in your case.
Tsunamis bring destrution and death. Your birthday is a reminder that you are alive and healthy which is a source of cheer to so many friends whose lives you brighten. It is a time for celebration for all those brilliant pieces you have been able to write and inspire or just bring a smile to so many faces - unknown to you. The addition of one more year of knowledge and experience which will reflect in your writing this next year.
And your score card - not bad at all.
Way to go , dear friend and wish you a great birthday and a wonderful year ahead that you deserve. And when you raise the glass tonight have one for me!!!

Anonymous said...

One needs a reason to rejoice in life, and birthdays provide you with one; that you dodged death yet one more year!!
And also birthdays provide the required hope and motivation to make your report card better the next year. :)
Happy Birthday!

Visithra said...

somehow Ive never felt that pang of in betweeness and the bdays just a door away to new years eve ;)

but the tsunami did efect - i would say birthdays are a reminder of the year that went and the ones to come - good or bad - the experiences are all urs ;)

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Thank you so much, all of you, for your warm comments. :)

About Health Blog said...

The addition of one more year of knowledge and experience which will reflect in your writing this next year.

Anubhuti said...

You hate getting old, don't you. You did 8 years ago, you still do.