At the start of this year, I decided to keep a jar of wonders. Each time something very good – truly meaningful, or in the form of an accomplishment – happened, I wrote it down, folded the paper and kept it in a container meant just for this purpose.
Some years ago, during a time of struggle, I had embarked on a similar exercise, though far different in scale. Each day I would find three things I could be thankful for and write them down. They were the smallest things. A chance to wear certain earrings. Somebody’s smile. Ice cream. They were all I could have at the time.
A new year is like a birthday: no matter what we say about not taking them seriously, we do. Something in the stardust of our bodies responds to the orbit of the earth around the sun, and so we keep score, mark off tallies, calculate and clear the slate. Some years allow you to enjoy looking behind you; some years demand that you turn your back on them.
And where do I find you? Here we are at the very last page of that free tearaway calendar everyone has in their kitchen. Are you looking forward, or are you holding back? What did you make, using what you were given, this year? What do you carry with you as you step over, trying to keep your lucky foot forward, into the next?
It doesn’t feel like December in Madras this year. It’s not cold enough. It’s quiet, too. The intangible fabric of the city has been creased by the strandline of floodwaters.
But tomorrow can still feel like January. We’re only two weeks deep into mystical, romantic Margazhi. The harvest is around the corner – may our pots overflow!
Tonight, I will open my jar of wonders and read the notes, and bask in gratitude. This was the year I was blessed enough, and brave enough, to ask for more. This was the year the Queen of England was in my audience, listening to me recite a poem. This was the year I finished writing books I worked on for years. This was the year I started writing The Venus Flytrap again! For every piece of paper I fish out of that jar, I will be thankful, thankful, thankful.
I feel like I should add a dhrishti-dab, so let me just say that somewhere there’s an inverse of that jar and it contains disappointments, dead-ends, lost friendship, fear, grief, nights when even the moon snubbed my company and – of course – my perennial heart condition (i.e. broken). But I didn’t keep that jar.
And so, after reading the notes in the one I did keep, I will clear it out so that it will be not empty, just not yet filled. I don’t know how I will measure the coming year, whether it will be a year for asking or for accepting. Whether I will collect pebbles or count cairns. But that’s the beauty of a turning year, and the human need to reckon. We can always begin again.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on December 31st. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.