It has been a virtual deluge. Over the last 48-72 hours, ‘Happy New Year’ messages have been moving back and forth at lightning speed, peaking in the two hours on either side of what is called, in an altogether new definition of the term, ‘Zero Hour’ before tapering off somewhat after 2 AM, only to pick up momentum this morning. Those with a large number of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ on social media have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of New Year wishes, struggling to keep pace with the speed at which the messages have kept popping up. It is as if no one wants to be left behind – in wishing each other everything from good health to global peace! [On his part, this columnist tried to keep pace – typing away, alternatively in English, Odia and Hindi – furiously on his smart phone before finding that it was a hopeless task and giving up midway through New Year day!]
As the Zero Hour struck, Facebook saw almost everyone going ‘live’, gyrating vigorously but ungraciously to the raucous beats of DJ music at hotels, clubs and other places, inviting this wry, derisive comment from a wag: “If everyone goes live, I wonder who will watch it?” The fact that local TV stations were covering the revelry ‘live’ must have acted as a huge incentive and encouraged even dance illiterates to shake a leg or two on the floor – or on the streets. Even those not obsessed with the social media made sure they did not miss out on the ‘fun’ by partying through the night and dancing till they conked out. Those without a smart phone made do with calls and text messages to their friends.
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But at the end of it all – the feverish exchange of New Year wishes, the full-throated shouting and screaming and the night-long revelry – one wonders if it was worth it at all! After all, as poet-publisher Saroj Bal said in an impromptu poem, nothing is going to change in the New Year except the calendar. There were other ‘spoilsports’ like activist Jagdish Pradhan, who struck a rather discordant (for the revellers, that is) note while inviting attention to the plight of farmers in western Odisha, already wrecked by unseasonal rains and insect attacks, waiting with their produce under the open sky for the elusive buyer as others waited with bated breath for the ‘Zero Hour’ to arrive.
There were other groups of people too, who chose not to celebrate the ‘English’ New Year. I received this particular message from a close friend; “Mera Nav Varsh aarambh hoga chaitra shukla pratipada se; 18 March, 2018.” (No prizes for guessing his ideological leanings). It left me wondering why, in that case, he had to send this message at 11.04 PM on December 31, 2017. Clearly, there are some people willing to pay heed to the call by the Puri Shankaracharya and his ideological fellow travellers to boycott this ‘foreign’ concept of New Year that apparently endangers their Hindu identity. It is another matter, however, that the seer’s writ did not run even in the Jagannath Temple next door – where he holds a special place – with the administration deciding to hold special darshan for the lakhs of devotees in the wee hours of the morning!
It is obvious the New Year revelers could not care less either about the religious preachings of the Shankaracharya or the eminently sensible entreaties of Jagdish Pradhan. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop them from having a blast. Those who wear their Hindu identity on their sleeves will continue to boycott – and call others to do so – the ‘English’ New Year. Those whose hearts bleed for the poor and the down trodden will continue to stay away from the revelry. And those who want to celebrate will continue to celebrate no matter what.
This author, for one, has no problems with people having fun and celebrating New Year. But it does get on the nerves when your personal space – and that of the social media – gets taken over for days by the pointless exercise of exchanging goodwill notes, knowing very well that nothing is going to change in the New Year!