The year-end is an occasion to making new resolutions and chart new courses for growth in the year ahead. It's also the time to take stock of the takeaways from our past follies and foibles. We tom-tom our triumphs and mundane treasures, and undermine the authority of the Almighty, whose writ prevails finally on our wishy-washy plans.
Last year, days before New Year; the entire family of an acquaintance listed out the dos and don'ts for the year ahead. They went meticulously through a gamut of nitty-gritty to pre-empt the chances of losing their course. Priorities were fixed and duties assigned to each member so that everyone lived up to the expectations.
On top of the priority list was an ambitious proposal to turn the family's import-export business into a multi-crore-rupee empire with worldwide clientele and huge profit. The acquaintance's style-icon spouse wanted more gold and diamond jewellery, besides other expensive items to add to her rich oeuvre. She also desired a chauffeur-driven sedan to win the fashion race among the society ladies.
His only son wanted to have a palatial house in a posh area where most of his nouveau-riche buddies lived, as he was tired of their teasing and taunting him for living in the old, decrepit ancestral "haveli" in a non-descript locality, bereft of all civic amenities. His marriageable daughter, an overseas university pass-out, dreamed of having her wedding solemnised in the air, a la her classmate married to an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) probationer.
In the exhaustive list of resolutions and priorities figured the name of their Nepali domestic help, whom they wanted to repay for his more than four decades of loyalty by building him a small house near their dream bungalow. They promised to give him a house big enough for his family of four (his wife and three school-age daughters). They even offered to sponsor the education of one of his daughters. Only my acquaintance, a contented man, had no wish. The list was approved by a voice vote and the countdown started.
Man proposes, God disposes. In June, the family decided to go on a five-day pilgrimage trip to Char Dham (Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri) in the sylvan surroundings of Uttarakhand. On that accursed Sunday when dark clouds started building up, it embarked on the journey by a cab. En route, it kept going over its plans and the strategies to execute those. It had booked two rooms in a pricey private hotel.
Day One passed off visiting places of worship dotting the hills of Kedarnath. The following day, a light drizzle became a rainstorm, which in the twinkling of an eye, turned into a flash-flood catastrophe, leaving thousands dead and displaced. The family was drowned in the hotel invaded by the rogue water, never to return home to chase the dreams it had knitted together.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor)