December 1, 2016
Like the Queen once admitted, I too feel that this might go down as annus horribilis. I am looking forward to my India vacation but the eagerly-awaited viewing of Aamir Khan's film, Dangal, in cinema hall will have to be forfeited - I fail the test of showing duty-bound respect. So cinema is out but hey, hubby reminds me, standing in long queues is not. Seems my country folks have finally learnt to stand in line and I shall be joining them soon. What joys await me!
But it is December, the first day of the last month of 2016 and I have much to be thankful for. Even though I have spent last six months being repeatedly assailed by an orange blob. I have also spent that same time immersed in trauma literature. You could commend my prescience - believe me, I surprise myself at times.
But as I have plowed through some of those texts, on Auschwitz, on the South African TRC, on slavery in America and its legacy, on the Indo-Pak conflict, I have concluded that the ability of homo sapiens to dig themselves repeatedly into holes is really quite phenomenal. Keynes be damned, we aren't even getting paid for that. (To be fair to Mr Keynes, he said, dig holes, not get into them.)
So what is the way forward? What do I look to do in the soon-to-be New Year 2017? Besides the same ole same ole, because hey, nobody transforms overnight at the flick of new year's eve - we are humans not pumpkins. (Though we would all like a magic wand-waving fairy godmother.)
When I am lost, I turn to stories. I am still a child that way, you could say, but stories and the telling of them is the one true gift of homo sapiens. So let me tell you one.
In 1705, after the historic Battle of Chamkaur, the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, found himself in the woods of Machhiwara. Alone, having lost his family and his army through Mughal treachery, he wrote a letter to the mighty Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Zafarnama, he called it, the epistle of victory. (Gotta love his spirit!) Openly defiant, its 111 stanzas of Persian poetry hold a mirror to Aurangzeb, his lack of morality and sound the death knell of his empire.
The most quoted couplet from Zafarnamah is:
Chun kar az hameh heelate dar guzasht,
Halal ast burdan bi shamsher dast.
When all else failed, it was right to resist.
Growing up on stories of the Sikh gurus, the most riveting invariably belonged to the tenth. Only as a grown up, have I learnt the love of literature that he married with his martial spirit. To put a contemporary twist on the poetic Zafarnamah, its essential message remains: Down but not out.
Come 2017, that’s what I intend. Stand my ground. Stay the course. Do my duty.
Down but not out.