For the first time in what could be a long time, I brought the shutters down on the old year without reflecting on it, consciously rejecting a habit of contemplation and journaling – but perhaps still keeping some of the intentionality that the annual cusp usually contains for me. All I wanted, and still want, is to let 2021 go, and let go of all it took from me and all it demanded of me. To let go of my losses, to let go of the questions. But perhaps that, too, is a form of desire – the desire I took the step over this year’s threshold with. And not, of course, the only one.
The word “imponderable” – which I could choose to describe the previous year with, to describe my hesitation to appraise it – has an archaic meaning, according to one dictionary. It also means “very light”. The mul cotton lightness with which we must wear our experiences, our tragedies, our rearranged selves. The weight of my tread across this year’s threshold was necessarily then, in this sense, imponderable.
We stare at another cusp now, and have already crossed into another valley: the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is here in India.
Another heart-sinking weight: the awareness that only those who were careful in the unprecedented first wave and the devastating second, and between these and since them, are going to care at all now. “Lightness, lightness,” I tell myself – “try to hold the knowledge that people don’t care lightly. About themselves, about each other, about you” – the last one twisted up in other knowledges, revelations the year that cannot quite be left behind had brought.
I brought this year in by myself in a borrowed house by a beach: writing, reading, cooking, watching TV, listening to music, healing. Staving off the sorrow with courage and the fear with curiosity. I pondered the question: is it necessary to have hope? Am I better served by taking a sombre, steady approach, letting each small step forward surprise and comfort me, treating each new attainment as miracle and celebration?
I am not alone in my sorrow and my fear, my courage and my curiosity. They are the companions of many, as this new year dawns.
I have not had other companions this week. But there has been the sound of the sea-waves, in a neighbourhood quiet enough to hear them. The dialogues of a frequently-meowing cat, and of frequently-fighting dogs. The other night, a man whom I assume was intoxicated was in the street, shouting at people. Everyone was out of sight; I was out of sight of them all. Except to the crows I observe and who observe me, whom I occasionally feed, and whom I look to for auguries amidst the uncertainty.
This, then, is a way to begin again. It is what I tell myself, reminding myself also that if I survive this pandemic – as I hope I will – there is less lonesomeness on the other side. There is camaraderie and comfort awaiting beyond. We will find each other again. In the meanwhile, we will make of these flows and ebbs what we will.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on January 6th 2022. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.