One step at a time

Dear 2017,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health, perhaps just settling into your cushioned armchair for yet another day in office. I am, I realise well, by no means the first person to send you this letter, and I certainly won’t be the last. We know for a certainty that twelve months from now, you’ll have a barrage of letters either thanking you for all you’ve done during your term or chiding you for the things you got wrong.

By today, I hope, you are done with your celebrations. It seems like you got ahead of yourself a little there during your victory gala, what with Istanbul and Bangalore, but that was before you were officially sworn in, so I guess we can let that slide. Maybe you even made some rather hasty decisions in your first two days here, but, again, we can get past that. After today, though, I hope you have gotten serious. You have had plenty of time to learn the ropes, and I hope you have gotten the hang of it.

On your desk sits a red folder labelled “Catastrophe”, which chronicles the events which occurred during the reign of your predecessor, 2016. The folder also contains a list of deaths which came too soon, or too suddenly, or just at a wrong time. You will notice that towards the end of 2016’s term, things got violently out of hand. Perhaps due to the constant berating that it had gotten throughout the year, or because it was eager to leave office with a bang, or maybe it just wasn’t ready to leave yet, 2016 lost control of what was happening. I hope, and trust, that the same will not be the case with you.

We all learn from our mistakes. Some things, of course, are beyond your control. Anyone who has ever held an office of any sort will realise that tough decisions need to be made. We will try to not begrudge you your hard, and seemingly cruel, decisions, but we are creatures of hope after all. The good thing is that your predecessor set a very low standard of how a year should progress, so there is a lot of room for you to shine. My only advice to you, and I realise that I may be overstepping my welcome here, is that you take it one step at a time.

Your office, at this moment, is probably cluttered with documents detailing the events that took place in 2016, both good and bad, large and small. All I ask of you is to not be alarmed. Glance periodically at the “Catastrophe” folder and remember that most of those events haven’t gone down in history as the best of times. Do not feel the need to catch up to 2016. Remember, fires that burn bright usually burn for a short time. Be the steadily flame that we need; give us light when we need it, and warmth when we want it. You do not need to follow in the footsteps of 2016. You are your own entity, and it is up to you to create a name for yourself.

Though, this may just be the same advice that 2016 was given when it took office. Maybe everything that 2016 has done has been its way of making a name for itself. If that is the case, then you have to be careful. It is better to go down in history as careful than fiery. Making a name for yourself doesn’t mean that you outrage against the people, for we are the reason you exist. We have defined you and brought you into existence and have chosen you to carry us through the next trip around the sun. Do not ever forget that. Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

A hundred years ago, your predecessors decided that they would like to make a name for themselves, too. 1914-1918 were bad examples of how this office should be run. Learn from them, as 1918 eventually did, but do not get inspired by them, as 1939 probably did. Do not worry about oblivion, though. Just because you haven’t been exploding all over the place doesn’t mean we won’t remember you. Yours will be the term when hundreds of people are born, close ones die, great things are invented, and many discoveries made. And even if it were not so, you become a part of a chronology when you swear yourself in, and chronologies don’t exclude one of their own. You will not fade out, I promise you.

Knowing how much you have seen, you would already know this, but I feel it is my duty to remind you nonetheless: there is no such thing as universal popularity. There has not been a single year which has been liked by everyone, and, conversely, no one year has been completely hated. The best example of that is 2016. Amongst the hate mail which was sent towards 2016, a large part of it was my own, I saw a lot of fan letters. I was astounded at how many people held 2016 in a positive regard. One of 2016’s earliest judgements was the death of Alan Rickman, so my affection for it had never picked up to start with, but for millions, it was a year of self-discovery.

So you see? You can do everything right, and still be hated for it, and you can mess up on colossal scales and still have people who love you. Remember, though, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Do not let the affection of the few deter you from the path of what is right and, what is infinitely more important, what is sensible. There is no rush to prove yourself. You have been given a fixed time and no one can take this time away from you. Use it well. It just so happens that you have taken office when we have to give you one less day than we did 2016. Please don’t take that personally; it’s just the way things are done around here.

We have faith in you, 2017, please do not let us down. One step at a time, my dear, and you should be just fine. The world is caught in a maddening race, and you need to be the one who provides us with the stillness of surety. Do not get roped into the race yourself. Do not try to outrun your people, because we will keep going on even if we lose, but this is your only shot at it, and you cannot waste it running races.

One step at a time, my love, and you should be just fine.

Yours,

Anirudh

Dancing Tables

There is something undeniably eerie about the mysterious companion we lovingly call memory. I have found myself, on more occasions than I can name for lack of remembrance, thinking about the unending onslaught of memory. The devious monster parts ways with us when we need it most of all, but returns with vivid images of a past we have long forgotten when we are least on guard. Usually these flashbacks are a consequence of lack of activity, yet there are days when the cunning scythe of memory eradicates all in its path and resurfaces, unabated.

Today was one such day. You see, I had been busy all day long, and whereas I had willingly kept myself preoccupied with trivial ongoings, I was largely unavailable for random thought through no effort of my own. Yet despite being so very engaged, and with yet a truckload of very consuming chores lined up ahead, I found my mind drifting off into a time which I vaguely remembered. After fighting the subconscious recollections of that past for some time, I gave in and decided to embrace my enemy as a friend.

But I refused to be thrown into a pit of sorrow on a day when things had been favouring the tide. So instead of wallowing in the more demoralising parts of my existence, I decided to focus on the fair. I am proud to say that I did not fail. In fact, I succeeded rather remarkably. I managed to look deep into the recess of my mind and find the one memory which is the high to all lows, the up to all downs, the sunshine to all clouds. It is a memory of the simpler days, when being carefree was the only care we had.

Amongst the many great things about this one memory which has helped me through thick and thin is that I can share it with someone. It may seem like a trivial point, but in a way it makes all the difference in the world. I do not know what it is, but there is a feeling which fills your mind when you think of a happy moment spent in the company of someone you swore never to forget, and that feeling drives all worries from your mind. The feeling probably cannot be described, for it is slightly irrational, making it all the more satisfying.

Only the other day I was telling a close friend of mine about the basic principles which govern our lives, for no other reason that to make conversation, when I realised how flawed all my theories would have been were it not for this particular memory. For I have based almost all my life’s greatest decisions on the sensation of comfort which this memory gave me. Today, while trying to remember the feeling which the memory always left me with, I was presented with the greatest curse to have befallen mankind since temptation: forgetfulness.

I have spent the last few paragraphs speaking about the sweet comforts of a memory which I claim has stayed with me all these years and has been a  great part of my life, yet I honestly cannot recall most of the details of the memory at all. I do not know what I was wearing that day, what the weather was like, what time of year was it, or even how I ended up in that particular place at that particular time. So why is that memory so significant?

I do, despite my rather pitiful recollection powers, recall the person I was with, the joke which had us laughing for almost half a day hence, the place where we were and the disinterest of those around us. The disinterest, in the most corrupt way possible, gives me hope: it tells me that even when no one else cares about that one day sometime in the last ten years, I always will.

Does that suffice? Are a few details about a once happy-go-lucky time spent with an old childhood comrade enough to imbibe the feeling of warmth, comfort and security? Is that all it would take for someone to calm me down: a sketchy picture of a past I barely remember?

Somehow, I find that very unconvincing.

It is not always that I sit at my desk and lose myself in a sea of memories only to resurface hours later bathed in the sweet joy of recollection. In fact, when asked, I would say that I am amongst those few unfortunate souls who condemns dwelling in the past. And so I find myself justified when I say that there is something about this memory which not only allows me to let go of my principles, but also encourages me to indulge myself in a habit I can only ever call pathetic.

Think as I may, I cannot find the answer. I do not intend to pile upon your already swamped lives the trifle tale of a troubled boy, and I shan’t either, but in this time of the unknowing I find it best to share my woes while harbouring the illusion that someone is listening. You will find on multiple occasions that you, too, have this sketchy, unusually comforting memory, with no apparent reason for its existence; tell me when that happens, and I shall be all ears.

Life has always had a way of presenting me with opportunities to create great memories out of, and I shall be forever grateful for that. However, I do wish, on occasion, that since life is so gracious in giving memories, if it would be just as gracious with taking them, if only to create space for new ones. It is not that I do not value this particular memory above all others, for I do, but as long as this one has caught my hold, I doubt I’ll be able to move on to a newer, potentially more comforting one.

At last, I would like to thank the person who shares this memory with me, making this memory and my life come alive when I most need it. For I may one day forget all the details of this memory, and I may forget the memory itself, and the feeling that this memory leaves me with and anything about this memory, but I shall always remember my companion.

Thank you dear comrade: Dancing Tables.