The Death of a Year
Years die, do they?
The year began with a ray of hope. Prime ministers and Presidents spoke of a new era. People began making plans- How much money I am going to make this year? Will I die this year? Will my beloved love me this year? Will the government do well this year? Who will win the Oscar? Who will get the Nobel Prize for Peace? Who will shine in sports and games? How luxurious will be my birthday bash? What will I get for Christmas? Will the prices of food go up? Will the world end this year? How is this year different from last year?
A young boy who was collecting coins began to count them. A teenager was staring at his computer screen waiting for a movie to get downloaded. A young woman started guessing the day she is going to give birth. A bald man put some magical oil on his head and waited for his hair to grow. A nurse who applied for a passport and visa waited for it without patience.
A desperate man hoped he wouldn’t get caught after committing a crime. A woman started hating herself for getting married. A man wished he had not boarded the plane that met with an accident. A youth said, ‘If I had gone five minutes earlier I would have got the job.’ A teenager wished he had not driven his motorcycle rashly. A middle aged woman went crying to the confession booth and waited for the priest.
A super computer stopped working. A famous church collapsed in an earthquake. A great tyrant was killed by the mob. A private bank went bankrupt. A petroleum mine got empty.
Accidents. Catastrophes. Massacre. Mass murders.
Kisses. Hugs. Benevolence. Love.
The year moved along to the beats of time and came close to its end.
Madhan took the phone to call his dad. His dad said, ‘Hello’ several times but Madhan did not hear. Madhan listened to the conversation between two strangers. One said, ‘What’s your new year resolution going to be?’The other said, ‘I don’t have any. Do you something? The calendar spoke to me. I am shocked and tensed. I fear the New Year that is yet to come. I don’t want this year to end.’ Madhan put down the phone.
It was common in Madhan’s family to make a dummy representing the old year and burn it at the stroke of twelve when the New Year began. An old Santa Claus mask was used for the face of the dummy; Grandpa’s old shirt, pants and shoes were used to dress the dummy. Madhan’s elder brother jokingly put a cooling glass on the Santa Claus mask and said, ‘The old year looks more realistic now.’ An old post card cover with the old year with the old year written on it was pinned to the shirt of the dummy.
Madhan was afraid of scarecrows in the field. The dummy representing the old year looked just like a scarecrow. Madhan was afraid to go near it.
‘What’s your new year resolution going to be?’ asked Madhan’s father.
‘I will be obedient to my parents and I will not get afraid of scarecrows anymore.’ replied Madhan. His father was impressed.
That night Madhan went all alone to the cowshed where the dummy was left. Echoes of fear still moved up and down his chest. He stood near the dummy that was sitting on the broken chair and looked at his eyes. The light of the streetlamp reflected on the cooling glass to give the impression of two yellow eyes. Madhan tried hard to prepare himself for his resolution. He looked at the eyes of the dummy and said, ‘Old year, I don’t fear you anymore. You are going to die anyway.’
‘Is it so?’ replied the dummy to Madhan’s shock.
‘You can talk!… I am sorry.’ said Madhan.
‘It is fine. Young men are like this. You forgot everything that I did for you. Gratitude is not a word in your dictionary. Anyway, I forgive you. Don’t be afraid. See me as your grandfather.’
‘What did you do for me?’ asked Madhan.
‘There were many accidents, disasters and diseases that travelled through me throughout my life. I did not let anyone of them touch you. I filled the trees with leaves so that you could enjoy the shade after you got tired of playing football. I let the crops grow so that you could eat for the whole year. I did not the sun be too angry nor I did not let the rains be too playful. I am there with you throughout the year as a faithful companion. I took care of you with love and care.’
Madhan’s eyes were filled with tears. He hugged the dummy and the dummy stroked Madhan’s hair. All his fear had lost its way into compassion.
‘Don’t hug too hard. Remember the chair is broken.’
‘I will not. Can I ask a question? Why are you so old even though you are only a year old?’
The dummy laughed and said, ‘It is because I am wearing an old Santa Claus mask. It is because of the experience I have had throughout my life. It is because of my hard work.’
‘They are going to burn you tomorrow. I will help you escape.’
‘No, you will not. What should happen will happen. I must go. You are not doing anything to me. This is an order.’
‘No ‘buts’, my rein is over. I should give way to the younger generation. Remember it is not the hay or the mask that is speaking to you. It is the spirit of the year.’
‘Are you god?’ asked an ignorant Madhan.
‘No, I am his faithful servant. God has millions and millions of servants trying to maintain a balance throughout that universe.’
Madhan remained silent for some time and then said, ‘I will miss you, grandpa.’
‘Don’t worry. I will always remain in your memory and get registered in the big book of the past just like my ancestors.’
Madhan looked deeply into the dummy’s cooling glass. All the incidents that happened that year flashed in fast motion. Madhan mind was enriched.
‘Now you may go, Madhan.’ said the dummy.
‘Yes, I will.’ replied Madhan and went to his bed to sleep.
When the dummy was put on fire, everyone laughed and danced in jubilation. The ashes of the dead year would fly in the air, provide nutrition for the plants and trees and reappear as myriad flowers. The ashes are not dead.
The guests and neighbours enjoyed the feast and fireworks. Madhan was in tears. He remained silent to the questions of his parents and relatives.
After the celebration was over Madhan turned and looked at the burning dummy. A stranger came from nowhere and threw a calendar into the fire. Madhan could only see the silhouette.
His tears melted into wonder and curiosity.
The earth decided to revolve around the sun once again.