Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006, and all that

This is a piece about the year gone by which I've been meaning to post for a long time, but didn't get around to, because the time was never right; and when the time was right (New Year's Day), I went haring off to Baltimore and DC (where I nearly set off a bomb-scare, but that's another blog post).

When 2006 rolled around, at the stroke of the midnight hour, I was huddled in a sleeping bag on the middle berth of a drafty sleeper coach on a train heading south from Delhi to Aurangabad. It was quite a departure from the usual ringing in of the new year with friends and inebriation and dancing. Unusual enough for me to be superstitious - if I have begun the year traveling, then the rest of the year will see much traveling, I believed.

That's been true. Last year, I spent time in many cities and towns I'd never been to before. Aurangabad, for starters (I had once stopped in the town for a few hours to catch a bus to Bombay, so I'm counting it anew); Meerut; Sardhana; Hyderabad; Calcutta (of which my memories before this year involved being a four year old stuck in a traffic jam on Howrah Bridge during a flood, so am counting that anew too); London; Nottingham (and Southwell); New York; Boston. For the first time in my life, I have traveled outside of Asia; and now my new home address is half the world away from the last one. Yes, it still feels like a big deal.

Returning from that particular New Year journey, flying out of warm and sunny Bombay after a week of Aurangabad, Daulatabad, Ellora, Khuldabad, Ajanta and Bombay; I landed in Delhi on its coldest night for a hundred years, the temperature at just above freezing. Which was freaky, but what was freakier was that the cold didn't last very long at all. February was the warmest recorded in many decades, with the temperatures already heading in to the thirties. The summer was even more of a bitch than usual. The rains flooded some parts of India; but were patchy and insipid in Delhi. But things didn't stop there - a week before I hit London and New York, they had blistering heat waves; and now it's January, and New York hasn't yet seen snow, and maybe two days when the temperatures were actually below freezing. No one is talking El Nino anymore. Last year it was hard to ignore Global Warming.

Ah, but if it was only external weather that was freakish, extreme and unpredictable. Last year my internal weather, the seasons of the heart, mirrored the turbulence of the outside seasons. It was a 'never before' year - never before have I been so violently angry, so deeply sad, and as consistently melancholy as I have been last year. I have never really known loss, and how it can tear up your insides, like I have known last year. But it's also been 'never before' in good ways. It would be hard to find a year in which I have met as many wonderful, interesting people; started as many fascinating conversations; laughed as much with friends. There were many moments (and some whole months!) last year which would count right out there on the happiness scale. And I haven't lost my temper once in the past six months or so (despite British customs trying its best). But sorrow can still sometimes come and catch me off guard, when everything seems to be going well, like a freak blizzard in summer.

This year my prayers are simple. Let the weather (internal and external) be moderate. Let the snow fall in its appointed time.

This new year was welcomed in waiting with friends for the F train, underground at 14th street station. The rest of the evening was much more exciting (yet another blogpost), but the New Year had begun standing still while wanting to be in transit. The next evening, as my friends and I waited endlessly at toll booth traffic jams on our way out of the city - they said, 'This is all your fault.'

The kites are from Aurangabad, January 1, 2006. The photo of the fog is from Delhi, January 1, 2007; taken from this post on Vaibhav's blog.
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