India welcomes 2006 a second late

But Indians ushered in the New Year in style with a sense of anticipation, even though there were minor hiccups.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2006 16:56 IST

It didn't really matter that 2006 arrived a second late, but in tens of millions of homes, clubs, hotels and banquet halls across the country, Indians welcomed the new year in style and with a sense of anticipation, even though there were minor hiccups in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.

The economy is growing at a fast clip, corporate salaries are reaching astronomical heights, city stores are overflowing with all manner of goodies, eateries are offering an overwhelming variety of cuisine from around the world.

"So why should we not celebrate" - that was the prevailing feeling across the country as just about everyone prepared for the year ahead firmly believing that things can only get better.

As the clock struck midnight, fireworks lit up the sky, music blared and glasses were raised in toast and a collective hurrah went up across the nation to usher in a year that promises to be one of plenty.

Of course, there are many things from 2005 that can never be forgotten - the serial terror blasts in Delhi, the terror attack in Bangalore, the devastating earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir, and the TV sting that snared 18 parliamentarians - and the dawn of a new year was also a time for introspection even as it served as an occasion to recharge one's inner batteries for what the future held in store.

In the otherwise scenic but restive northeast too, peace and hope were the catchwords as people in the region welcomed the New Year with a sense of great optimism.

The states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura - popularly referred to as the seven sisters - are besieged by a myriad of problems, mainly ethnic conflicts and armed insurgencies.

Barring Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and to some extent Meghalaya, the other four states have for long been battling some 30 odd rebel groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to autonomy.

But there is a ray of hope this New Year with New Delhi trying to broker peace with some of the frontline militant groups.

Even the security threats that kept the police on their toes in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai did not fail to dampen the spirits of millions of revellers who partied late into the night, with many stopping even as the dawn crept in over the horizon.

"We chose to stay at home because we are essentially private people," said homemaker Bela Swarup as she and her lawyer husband touched up the decorations that had originally been put up for Christmas, with her three children eagerly chipping in.

"There's only problem we have," she said in mock complaint. "The children first wanted the decorations to stay up till New Year's day and now they want another set of presents!"

Hospitality consultant Atul Seth had a dilemma of a different sort - to attend a gathering of over-50s like him or a Gen X party his son Sahil had been invited to. He chose the path of least resistance, first rocking with the younger set and then heading for the other party.

"Actually, all that dancing did wonders for my appetite," he conceded.

This is not to say that all of India was partying. For the vast majority of those who live in urban slums, in rural areas and in villages, it perhaps made hardly a difference that one year had ended and another had begun. The problems of this vast multitude of a billion - poverty, hunger, lack of health care, to name just a few - would continue even as the government manfully tries to find solutions to the country's long-standing problems.

As for 2006's late arrival, this was because one second was added to the world's timepieces to make up for a slower Earth rotation.

The so-called "leap second" was added by tweaking the atomic clocks, the world's most precise timekeepers that measure time according to the vibrations of caesium-133.

The added second means Saturday night's countdown went like this: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 1.

In the end, that didn't really matter - because the New Year had brought with it New Hope.

First Published: Jan 01, 2006 16:40 IST