Each year passes, bringing with it the joys and sorrows that make life what it is. The year 2016 might not have been a particularly good year for many around the world with the threat of disruption and intolerance looming all over the globe. The misery of thousands of migrants has raked up more hostility than compassion. Even on the eve of the New Year, violence and death was the fate of revelers in Turkey.
Despite this, as we go out in the streets of the major world cities, people are thronging market places, restaurants and clubs, and also celebrating in their homes. The enthusiasm is global, infectious, and permeates all sections of society. This is a celebration that cuts across class, creed and religion, and is accepted by all. What is the reason for these celebrations? Why are people so enthusiastic about a date, about a day that is like any other except for its marking on a calendar that does not even belong to everyone? It does not seem to matter that there are many communities across the world and in India itself that have their new years on very different days. It is a collective and symbolic gesture, namely a collective effort to believe that perhaps the bad days that have just gone by will pave way for better days to come.
Each greeting that we receive, each greeting that we send out, emphasises only one thing, there are better days coming, there is a chance that the bad things that happened in the past will not happen again; that somehow by some miracle of collective wish giving, things will improve. Even as we wish each other, even as pretty cards are lined up, even as we wish that things will turn better, there is the nagging feeling that all this is just wishful thinking; that good and bad will be as much part of the coming year as it has been for the previous ones.
Yet, year after year, we celebrate New Year with the same enthusiasm, the same degree of involvement, the same fervor, why? Because the New Year symbolises hope, something to which we cling as the harbinger of new and hopefully better things. The word “new” has hope built into it. Anything that is “new” is in exchange for the old, the one already experienced, and the future is, if nothing else, entitled to hope and positivity. The future that is yet to come exists only in our imagination and we would always like to imagine it as better, as something that is like a surprise gift filled with anticipation of wonderful things.
It is said that when Pandora opened the forbidden box, she let lose all the miseries of the world. Every pestilence, every misfortune escaped from the box to plague human kind forever. Just Hope lay at the bottom and came out as the only savior for human beings. It is said and understood that we live and survive only on hope. If there was no hope, life would not be worth living. People have survived the worst of conditions, survived concentration camps, all forms of misery and torture, only on the basis of hope. We struggle, we toil, and we suffer, only because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the light of hope that keeps us going.
Hope is the greatest psychological booster, something without which none of us would be able to survive. It is the greatest gift to human kind so that when all else fails, we still can hope. The importance of New Year is that it is the harbinger of hope. An arbitrary date that encapsulates the collective hope of every one by telling us that no matter what happens, there is always the possibility, the probability, the chance, that things will be better. Herein lies the magic of the words, Happy New Year; the psychological boost, the prop, the elixir of all life, Hope. The belief and the conviction that the new is what we have imagined for ourselves, it is yet to happen, so it is still the fairy tale world, yet to become realistic history.