By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Another new year has arrived and as usual it was greeted with joy and hilarity. In my fairly long life I have seen many new years arriving. We greeted each year with joy and hope. But each year passed in more or less the same way. As a cynical friend told me, “what is there to rave about the New Year? There is nothing’ special about it. It is just like any other year and the New Year’s Day is just like any other day. Only significance of the new year is that it will make you older and take you nearer to the grave”. She was right of course, absolutely right. We all know that time is eterl and there are not parts in time like hours, minutes, days, months, years etc. Time has been divided only for human convenience. Yet how can we live properly without these artificial divisions? Hence for us it is only tural to take these divisions of years in a concrete way.
For us New Year is a concrete living entity. Christmas and New Year arrive in close proximity and from the early part of December the festive season stars. It was the same story this year as well. The shops glittered with coloured lights and they dazzled with decorations for the Christmas. Greeting cards were sold like hot cakes. It is a real joy to send and receive greeting cards. It is a small card with brief message—but so full of joy and hope that it softens even the hardest heart. Everybody seems to love joining the Christmas festivities, regardless of caste or community. Christmas Eve was celebrated with great pomp and joy. Santa Claus appeared in various shops, homes and other places with gifts for the children who went wild with joy. It is to be hoped that the children got what they wanted. Diverse entertainment programmes were held in different places. Confectiories were chock–a–block with decorated cakes, pastries, chocolates and other attractive delicacies. Everybody had great fun.
Filly the New Year arrived at midnight and the city burst with joy. Fireworks lit up the sky and Guwahati kept awake with the rest of the world. There are some people like my cynical friend who remark that there is no reason to celebrate the New Year’s Day, since it is just an ordiry day like any other day. But it seems to be blasphemous to treat the New Year’s Day like any ordiry day. The New Year is something special for us, though there may not be any logic behind the thought. But when the heart is full, logic goes out of the window.
Nobody possibly has mourned the departure of the old year. To be frank the year 2014 was a year of disaster, as most of the previous years were. It brought many kinds of catastrophe, some tural and some man–made. There were so many tural disasters around the world that it is not possible to count them. For instance the Hudhud cyclone that had hit Visakhapatm in Andhra Pradesh in October, 2014, caused great damage to life and property. Then there were unprecedented floods in many places besides earthquakes in some. There were countless disasters, which were man–made. tural disasters have to be accepted as uvoidable acts of God, which are beyond our control. But the man–made disasters are hard to bear, since they could have been avoided. We had greeted 2014 with so much hope and confidence, but all our hopes were shattered to smithereens and it was seen that our confidence was misplaced. The year started with cataclysms and ended also on the same note.
Throughout the year so many disastrous crimes occurred that we cannot count them. The number of rape cases increased alarmingly despite all these stringent laws against the heinous crime. Then almost every day we had the news of murder of somebody by the terrorists. Abduction, robberies, looting, shooting and various crimes continued ubated. And they have become commonplace to us, so heartless and depraved we have become!
There was a time when just one incident of rape or murder would have shocked the entire tion. But now they do not affect us in the least. We swallow all those horrendous news with our morning cup of tea without a qualm. It is really a frightening feeling. We have no sympathy for anybody. Perhaps people do not have a heart anymore; they have a stone in place of a heart. Otherwise why don’t we feel sad at another’s misfortune? Self–interest is all we care for. Money and power are all we need. The situation is such that there is no love or affection even for the parents. There are many instances about adult sons leaving their old parents on the road side to fend for themselves. I read in the newspaper only recently about a son killing his mother with a knife. If parents cannot trust their children, then whom would they trust? Bride–burning, witch–hunting, extortion, abduction, rape, shooting, stabbing, drug–trafficking have become ordiry incidents for us. I wonder if we have lost humanity. No real human being can be so unfeeling and unconcerned about another’s misfortune.
Terrorism has darkened the entire world. There was this news of a holdup in an Australian café recently. Then eight children were stabbed to death in Cairns, plunging Australia into a wave of grief as the country reeled from a deadly siege in Sydney. It was heart–breaking news, a very tragic event. The year ended on a very tragic manner.
A terrible unimagible event recently occurred in Pakistan. Perpetrated by the Taliban terrorists, the event affected everybody emotiolly and shocked the entire world. About 141 people, nearly all of them school children, were massacred on 16th December, when heavily armed Taliban suicide bombers stormed a Pakistan Anny School in Peshawar, firing indiscrimitely leaving another 245 injured. It was a sheer act of cowardice. These heinous crimes confirm in a way that man has lost his humanity. We are supposed to be the highest product in the evolutiory process. But can we justify the claim? Whatever may be the reason, it is an unpardoble offence to kill innocent children. This dastardly crime has shown the world how man has reached the lowest of the low level. It is not possible any more to boast that man is the greatest of the living beings. The stories of the ancient era rrate the tales of the cruelty of the demons. But now man has surpassed those demons in the acts of cruelty. He has shamed even the cruellest of the cruel demons by his barbaric acts.
More tragedies were in store for us. On 23 December suspected Bodo militants killed many tribals, including several women and children in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts of Assam. Some others were also injured in the attack unleashed by heavily armed militants. What a terrible tragedy—just before Christmas too. Don’t these militants have a soul? I wonder how and when these calamities will end. We can only pray to providence that better sense will prevail in the minds of the militants. What else can we do?
We are living in an age of contradictions. Man apparently is progressing fast. The latest world news reaches us instantly. We talk to people on the other side of the hemisphere. Boundaries are falling apart. Strangely, this is also an age when living in tiny flats; self–centred humans are losing interest in friends, relations and neighbours. While brilliant intellectuals are making distances come nearer, selfish cold individuals are pushing out the near ones to unfathomable distance. Old decrepit parents are dumped on the streets like garbage.
Wonder drugs and miracle surgeries have done wonders to cure many serious diseases. Medical science has claimed success in increasing the longevity of the people. We are indeed grateful to those extraordiry medical people for their dedication and devotion to the profession. But we are also thankful that severe maladies and emergency situations arise only occasiolly. The common man’s recurring problems are common cold, aches and pains. In these days of super doctors and super–potent antibiotics, the homely physicians of yesteryears seem to have disappeared. They were always there when the families needed them. Each family depended on the family physician to advise them on various ailments and the doctor never failed to arrive whenever he was called. Unfortutely that breed of family physicians seems to have become extinct. I really miss those kind doctors, who were always ready to offer medical aid at any time any day.
Undoubtedly in the present era mankind is achieving great success. The problems faced by the people in the early era are no longer there and life has been much easier with miracle products of the great brains. Yet the modem face has lost its smile and the modern mind its peace. Perhaps that is the greatest contradiction of life today. We seem to have everything, yet we feel that we have achieved nothing worthwhile. Man is progressing more and more every year and losing more and more peace and happiness every year. That is the greatest tragedy of human life. The world seems to be moving in opposite ways. It is really very sad when we realize the fact that we have materially progressed a lot, but spiritually we are at the rock bottom. Some people say that this is ‘Kaliyuga’ and according to the legend the ‘Kaliyuga’ signifies the end of the world. Crimes and sins are apparently the special feature of this era. Perhaps the heartless perpetrations of crimes indicate the imminent end of this beautiful world along with humanity and other creations. This melancholic thought does give me a chilly sensation.
Anyway it is no use philosophizing over the tragedies occurring in the world. We all understand that going by the previous years we cannot expect much good from the New Year. Yet we cannot abandon ‘hope’ and it springs eterl. Actually it is ‘hope’ that keeps us going. How can we survive in the world without hope? Really these various festivities do bring a glimmer of hope for better days. They bring colour to our otherwise dull and drab life.
So the year 2015 arrived to a very joyous and warm welcome. Hundreds of crackers burst all over the city and the glittering fireworks display brightened the dark night. Guwahati stayed awake along with the rest of the world. It was a momentous event and it warmed all our hearts. Cheers and excited jubilations could be heard everywhere. At these moments surely we feel that whatever the cynics might say the New Year’s Day does have something special about it. We cannot belittle it by saying that it is just another ordiry day. I think these cynics are a depressing lot. They just do not know what they are missing with their misanthropic point of view. I know that we have suffered a lot in all those previous years, but one can’t always wallow in self–pity. Pessimists always harp on the tragedies of life. They are always unhappy and make others unhappy as well.
Anyway at the backdrop of all the mayhem, New Year’s Day was celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy. Of course people celebrated the day in different ways. Some went for picnic with family or friends, some took the children to the Zoo, some went to the cinema and some spent the day at home with family and enjoyed the bliss of being together. In whatever way they spent the day, the main thing was that they did have a very nice time. Many people visited different temples in the city to worship the deity for blessing and a happy future.
Although logically the New Year’s Day is nothing special; it is just like another day, logic cannot do justice to our emotions. Hence emotiolly New Year’s Day is a unique day, big with promises and hope for the future. At least that is what we can hope for. Incidentally, have you made your New Year resolutions, dear reader? I think they are very important to make us better human beings. I do make them every year, but unfortutely I have never been able to stick to them seriously. Hence that is another resolution for me—to abide by the resolutions with sincerity and devotion.
A year by itself cannot be good or bad; only human activities do so. It is very important for us to be better human beings. If everybody resolves to be a good human being, the world will certainly gain peace and happiness. That should be our endeavour. Let us then make the New Year a happy and prosperous year. If we can do that the world will be a much better place to live in. For that we have to revive our lost humanity.
A very happy new year to you, dear reader!
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)