Most people I talk to seem to agree that 2008 has been a ratty, perfidious, thoroughly avoidable year, and many of them have sworn never to repeat it. It’s been particularly frustrating because much as I’d like to quietly strangle the thing, hide the body, and move on, I can’t, because some really nice things were interspersed among the many really godawful things.
Petrol breached the $100 per barrel barrier, but mobile phones got cheaper and better. Sarah Palin came perilously close to the Presidency of the United States, but Barack Obama actually got it. The Chinese government cracked down on Tibetan protesters, but democracy came to Nepal and Bhutan. Over 400 sq kms of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica melted into oblivion, but Sariska National Park’s tiger population is looking a bit better. The global economy felt a bit queasy and then suddenly had to be taken to the ER, but we all became just a little more invested in the health of the planet. I lost a grandmother, but gained a nephew, whose facial structure I look forward to discovering whenever it fights its way out of his cheeks.
So there it is: A year I’d rather forget, but must grudgingly admire.
All this wouldn’t be so aggravating if it weren’t for my mother’s voice echoing in my head, telling me how everything and everyone is a mix of good and bad, and nothing and nobody is perfect, and that I’d better learn to take the good with the bad, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater. (She doesn’t think much of my own theory, which is that if the baby’s been in there long enough it’s probably going to be wrinkly and waterlogged anyway so it’s best to throw it out too as a precautionary measure; you don’t want to risk any kind of mould.)
2008 drove me to consult a Tarot card reader for the first time in my life, at a restaurant, greatly encouraged by a glass of wine and a giddy friend. The format was to fork over Rs 200 to a mean-looking lady with green eyeshadow, who laid down the following rules of engagement: You were allowed to ask one very specific question, to which she would answer Yes, or No. I asked if a friend of mine would be all right in the coming months. She flipped a couple of cards open and, scanning the room over my shoulder for more suckers, said, No. Could you explain what the cards mean? I asked. No, she said firmly, if you want explanations, come to my studio and pay Rs 2,000. I thought the whole deal ungenerous at best, and between you and me, wouldn’t be shattered if her fortune-telling business went the way of Lehman Brothers.
All in all, it’s been a hell of a ride. My mother rolls her eyes and mutters things about the mid-thirties, and I tell myself that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, although I really believe that Martin Amis is more accurate when he writes, in a bleak little book on love and gulags called House of Meetings, that “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker and kills you later”.
Let this benighted year, declared the International Year of Planet Earth, the International Year of Languages, the International Year of the Potato, the International Year of Sanitation and the International Year of the Frog, cede to 2009, the International Year of Astronomy and the International Year of Natural Fibres.
I have big hopes for 2009. Here’s to that.