No one sends me a New Year card now. However, some former students and a few fellow members of my senior citizens' association call me or send me greeting on the SMS. When I was young, I enjoyed sending and receiving these cards.
My friends Bharat Mittar (BM) and Janardhan Dutt (JD), when they were alive, always sent me beautiful cards with memorable messages. BM would put in a couplet or a self-composed poem suited to the occasion. He passed away on February 22, 2012. When I went to his funeral in Delhi, I discovered in his papers an unfinished letter and a New Year card for me. As usual, there was a new poem written inside. I reproduce a few lines from it here:
Zindagi ka safar bhi kya safar hai
is mein kabhi zer hai kabhi zabar hai
Samajh mein nahi ataa ei dost
kya mein hun kya dahar hai
Ao pal bhar hans kar dekh lain
doosron ko hansa kar dekh lain
(What is this journey called life
with all the ups and downs
I can't make out, o' friend
what am I and what is world
Come and laugh together for a moment,
let's try and make others laugh, too)
The card he was too ill to mail brought tears to my eyes. In 1953, JD had presented to me a diary on Christmas and advised me to write it daily. An extract from the entry made on January 1, 1954: "I was expected to study from 8am to 11am. JD came in at 11, expecting Raj (his girlfriend) to arrive by the 3.15 train, and took me along to the station, where hundreds of boys and girls were returning to the city after winter break. Raj did not arrive. We went to Chaura Bazaar (Ludhiana) in the hope that she might be there but she wasn't. JD was heartbroken, and his New Year's Day was spoiled."
"I said goodbye to JD and ran into my friend Lakhbir. We came over to my room and, after dinner, decided to watch the movie "Laila Majnu" at Deepak. We had balcony tickets and some girls for company upstairs. After the show, we went to the station, as Lakhbir was to catch the morning train. The platform which was a scene of merriment in the afternoon now wore a deserted look. I realised sadness follows joy as night follows day," I wrote.
For me the year began well, with most of the first day spent in the company of my dearest friends (BM, JD and Lakhbir), who are no more. The memory of the New Year's Day of 1954 reminds me of Shakespeare's poem.
Youth is nimble,
Age is lame,
Youth is hot and bold,
Age is weak and cold.
Youth is wild,
Age is tame
As Keats said, if spring is a season of joyful songs, autumn too has its music. Similarly, if youth is a period of energy, old age is a time of pacific serenity.
(The writer is a Ludhiana-based retired English professor)