The boulevard outside the house is lined with billboards announcing New Year Eve parties. Every club promises the grooviest music, the ‘sexiest’ crowd and the coolest DJ. The markets overflow with people utilizing festive season discounts and work leaves that will otherwise lapse. Quite remarkable how they beat the Delhi chill to party, observes my Granddad. On his part, he sits wrapped up in his several layers of woolens, looking very much like an Indian-ized Santa Claus. When I ask him how he plans to spend the New Year eve, he points to the stairs leading to the terrace. Much like last year, he will walk up there and sit in the sun, munching on a few roasted groundnuts.
What is it about nostalgia that brings along sadness? Is it the pang of loss, of moments that will never again be? Several New Years ago, Granddad would be planning to take a train to Delhi. He would spend the season with his darling granddaughter, firmly postponing all work in his Kolkata office, much to the despair of a rather conniving boss. His friends would drop by at all odd hours, one of them particularly loud-voiced. It was this friend he requested to soften down when I would wake up early to prepare for Class Tenth exams. Granny would fix me a cup of hot milk and offer me an assortment of biscuits – I always opted for Britannia. When Mom and Dad switched on the Christmas lights, I would leave my books behind and jump in glee.
Granddad misses his friends sometimes. They aren’t around in the colony’s markets or the morning-walk park. Some of them are abroad, staying with sons and visiting daughters. Others, he is afraid, are no more. He looks at me sideways, when he thinks I am not looking, and blinks away a stray tear. His darling Granddaughter mustn’t be gloomy, he seems to say. He strokes my hair and warms my hands by rubbing them against his woolen housecoat.
I have always been fond of winter. Bathing in the December sun, cups of hot coffee, snuggling under the quilt. As a kid, I would handpick my mittens, sweaters and socks for the day. I would please my 4 AM riser of a Granny by showering nice and early. The homework would be done well in advance of the much-anticipated weekly – Mahabharata. Will I grow scared of winter when I grow old? Will the streets I now oversee abound with unfamiliar, unfriendly faces?
This New Year Eve I am staying in. The family will beat the chill with steaming hot food from the neighbourhood diner. I will watch the fairy lights twinkle, competing with the stars overhead. By the window, when the fog grows dense and dark, I will try and come to terms with how time doesn’t hang around and party. Amidst the pomp and show of the gazillions of New Year Eve parties, time will rise and be gone in smoke before dawn.
P&P wishes everyone a Happy New Year 2014!