December is the month when we take stock of what we went through the year that just slipped by and draw up the final balance-sheet. This is the time for New Year Resolutions.
Many of us see the new year as the time to make course-corrections in case there have been deviations from the straight and the narrow. Small wonder, then, that resolutions, more often than not, have something do with giving up a bad habit, though some do resolve to pick up some new skill.
Anil Koshy who used to finish two packs of 20’s a day vowed to himself six years back to give up smoking and has stuck to the decision. The divorce from Lady Nicotine, once decided, was final. Never again could she seduce him. Many are not lion-hearted like Anil. Though used to just a cigarette after a meal and not more than five a day, Hariharan found that he could not stick to his new year resolution beyond the 4th January. Quoting a humorist, he says: my prayer is “Oh Lord, lead me not into temptations, for I have a low threshold.” He appears to be a little more strong-willed than Oscar Wilde who confessed his absolute helplessness when he admitted, “I can resist everything except temptation.”
There is an interesting story behind the new year resolution that a few colleagues in a government office made in 1991. This group got together one evening for ‘the last drink of their lives’, because they had decided to kick the habit. So, there they were, at the usual joint on the usual day at the usual time to raise the glass in toast for the last time ‘for old times’ sake’. Bharathan never drank but he was an integral part of the gathering because he would treat them to the soulful Kundal Lal Saigal numbers complete with the feeling and the nasal accent.
As they uncorked the bottle, they exchanged the latest filmi gossip and shared what they had heard on the office grapevine. Over the bubbly, they dissected Salvador Dali and deconstruction, Rashomon and Derrida as any self-respecting Malayalee is wont to. As the animated discussion on post-modernism heated up, Bharathan, who had never had a drink in the past, poured a drink for himself ‘for company’s sake’.
And he has not looked back. He has to have his two drinks every evening!
Opinions are divided on whether it was the case of a non-resolution or a resolution in the reverse gear.
Eight-year old Ashwin says his new year resolultion is to ‘put away the third chocolate for tomorrow’. Little does he know that his mother has upped the ante on him by resolving not to give in to the tantrums he may throw in support of his demand ‘for the second chocolate’!
Paraphrasing Descartes who said, ‘Cogito, ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am) Arun, who is eagerly a waiting the results of the CAT for gaining entry into the portals of the hallowed B-school, is given to saying, ‘I think, therefore IIM.’ He is not one to waste the six months between the test and the admission. Till then, he says, “I’ve decided to learn a foreign language. And French it will be.”
His sister is, however, not very optimistic. Malini predicts that if the spelling and the pronunciation do not get him, the gender will. Well, she knows how her brother struggled with his Hindi where it is ‘meri kitaab’ but ‘uska pustak’. For the life of him, Arun could not understand why. Malini knows that though, to the eyes of the unsuspecting learner, soup has no masculine or feminine features, in French, it is masculine if called potage and feminine if called soupe.
The other day students of a local college were seen playing a game in the India Coffee House. They were running a contest on the best new year resolution for 2003. A rugged-looking bearded chap in a shaggy T-shirt and cargo trousers, obviously a backbencher, said, “I will sit in the front bench and embarrass the Malayalam lecturer who will send me out of the class.” He’ll have the best of both worlds: not lose out on the attendance, but get the freedom he yearns for. A baby-faced boy said, “I am not going to play hookey with the hostel fee and spend it in movie halls.” We do not yet know if he was making a pledge he would not be able to keep.
The game evolved, as time slipped by. You could pretend to be someone else and come up with novel ideas. One with a crew cut imitated the mannerism of a well-known political leader and said, “Wait for a fortnight: I’ll announce my new year resolution on the 12th January. Till then I will not speak a word about it.” One of the two girls in the group assumed the demeanour of a social activist and announced, “I’ll include authors among the endangered species and give them protection.” In an obvious reference to the Indianisation brigade, the other girl said, “New year resolutuions, like Valentine cards and MTV, are a western concept. I will have a Nav Varsh ka Dridh Sankalp”. With a twinkle in her eye, she adds, “But I’ll wager ten to one that you’ll have to wait for three more months - for the advent of Chaitra maas - for the Nav Varsh of the Saka era.’
If we are not true to ourselves, these resolutions can become farcical, points out octogenarian Appunni Kurup. Today’s youngsters, he says, may not have heard of the practice among those aging pursuing their path to salvation of giving up something after a pilgrimage as a token renunciation. After trudging all the way to Kashi, his uncle Ravunni Kurup resolved never again to touch bitter gourd. It is not known to many that he would prefer hemlock to this vegetable. On days bitter gourd found its way to the dining table, Ammalu Ammayi was fated to be the victim of a bitter tongue-lashing.
There are novel resolutions that people come up with. Sarada Menon believes that finally, wisdom has dawned on her husband Sadananda Menon. He turned sixty this year and his new year resolution is not to have any new year resolution at all. A resolution not to make any resolutions might remind the historically inclined amongst us of the clichéd expression ‘the war to end all wars’. Coming as it does from someone who has made at least forty new year resolutions only to break them as soon as they were made, she says it is indeed a wise decision. One only hopes that Menon does not break this resolution!
So, what is your new year resolution?