Sunday, December 30, 2007

The ghost of columns past

The world works according to certain incontrovertible truths that you may not like, but that it is pointless, or at least exhausting, to argue with. Random examples: Four sides to a square, 100 paise to a rupee, three laws of thermodynamics, 2.2 pounds to the kilogram, one partridge in a pear tree, 21 points in blackjack, seven dwarves, a dime a dozen, 52 weekly columns in a year.

If there’s anything more certain than these universal laws, it is that the fifty-second and final instalment of the column will do a Top Ten kind of wrap-up of the year. This is partly because other columnists will be doing the same and you have to compete, and partly because it’s an obvious and easy topic, and when you’re desperately scrabbling to find a subject for what feels like the six millionth time, it’s nice to have one handed to you on a plate.

For people who regularly throw themselves out of airplanes or bring joy and succour to the underprivileged or know other people’s secrets and don’t mind telling them, finding things to write about is not a problem; but it’s less easy if you’ve spent most of your year diligently watching ants and spiders duel to the death between old bills and dead batteries on your desk.

(Watching this, by the way, is a useful insight into power dynamics, and I’m not talking just about the dead batteries. You learn about stalking; about lunging in with deadly speed to deliver a paralytic sting and retreating until it has taken effect; about backstabbing; flushing out prey without ceding your own advantage; and that while ants never give up even while proceeding down the enemy’s gullet, spiders couldn’t care less about heroics as long as their tummies are full. It’s all very reminiscent of family life.)

Either way, every year-end column is under bone-crushing pressure to look back on the year and identify its salient moments. The trouble is that in most cases, the year gone by is exactly like the year before it, and likely to be much like the year coming up. Still, after a bit of thinking, I was able to come up with a list of events and realisations that did really seem like watershed moments in 2007. That they are relevant only to me will be my USP in a welter of columns recapping things you’ve already read about.

1. I travelled to Barbados and St. Lucia in the Caribbean, Spain, France, and Scotland.
2. People you meet at dinner parties are more than willing to talk about what they do; as soon as you ask what they think, they suddenly cross the room in search of someone who will ask them what they do.
3. Siblings and old friends are wonderful things.
4. Christmas is a traditional Indian celebration, as long as it involves gifts; if we could only find a way of commercialising Thanksgiving, we’d do that one too. Maybe in 2008?
5. I rediscovered a number of people I haven’t met in twenty years or more, thanks to Facebook—which also lets you play Scrabble online.
6. More people will comment on an article about chocolate than will comment on an article about social ills.
7. I’ve entered that stage of life when you go to as many funerals as you do weddings and births.
8. A new pair of jeans can make you feel like a million bucks, should you be one of those people who do not actually have a million bucks.
9. Eat fish oil.
10. Just 52 more columns to go next year.

Happy 2008.

1 comment:

ArSENik said...

But Thanksgiving is a commercial thing here in the US, as millions of people lining up in the cold in the wee hours of the morning will attest to. I am sure the Indian business are waiting to lap this sort of thing up with unprecedented enthusiasm.