is a month of tying up loose ends. The mind and heart are soggy with
unfinished business, and unless the tangles are sorted into neat bundles,
you know you are going to shuffle into a New Year that will be stale
before it starts.
thaws us out. Just when you think it’s all about things, and things and
more things someone changes your mind. Like this security guard who told
me about having to go to pick up his 13-year-old daughter from school, and
then casually added, “I took her from the hospital you know, by chance,
when I was visiting someone. She was abandoned, and looked so defenceless,
and the hospital said they couldn’t keep her any longer. I didn’t have
the heart to leave her, so I just got the legal aspects sorted out and
took her home. She’s been with me ever since.”
at him, astonished. Here was a man in a relatively low-paying job, a
nondescript man, with no particular swagger or dash, gold chain or bank
account to distinguish him. A man you wouldn’t look at twice, a man no
longer young, with four children of his own, simply taking a newborn home
because he “didn’t have the heart to leave her there”.
there was no sense of self-importance there. No exaggerated piety or
self-righteousness. Just simple human goodness, extraordinary because it
was so natural, so unself-conscious.
is a month of perspectives. There was the secretary who was determined to
have a good time at her office dinner. Her colleagues looked subdued, sad
even, as December is also the month of unfulfilled longings. But she
wouldn’t stop trying to inject her bubbling self into everyone else.
“What’s wrong with you?” she harangued her glum colleagues
“let’s have a good time.”
got December blues”, I replied, implying that even if she wasn’t
weighed down by life’s blows, it sometimes got a bit too heavy for the
rest of us.
year,” she replied, “two of my cousins died — young bright boys,
smarter than any I’ve known, within one week in two separate accidents.
My uncle literally went out of his mind, and my aunt couldn’t speak for
days. I think of them, of my beloved father who died two years back.”
fact, she was saying “Grieve when you have to, but if happiness is
within your reach, even for a few hours, in the form of familiar faces
over good food and drink, grab the moment.”
Because of her, we did, and the night took on a momentum of such
celebration, warmth, and exuberance, that it left us glowing for days.
December can be the cruelest month. Just opposite the Kapok Hotel on a
pavement, an elderly, overweight man was doubled up, just lying there as
car after car went past.
suffering with my heart”, he said, and I could see the tablets under his
just need to get to the bank for my pension.” He told me between deep,
shaky intakes of breath, sweating profusely, he was a widower, he lived
alone, he was childless, his extended family “wasn’t around.”
worst of this story was he had no expectation of anyone stopping to help.
He was prepared to die on the pavement. That lack of expectation turned
the festive season into a macabre farce, and I saw the monsters in us all,
lapping up goodies with such absorption and gusto that we don’t notice
the dying and the alone amongst us.
is a magnificent dawn before day breaks. A woman friend diagnosed with
cancer, who had undergone a year of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation,
says, “I don’t know where I found the strength, but I have never felt
better. I have never felt more hope, or been surrounded with more love. I
know I’m going to make it through.”
And somehow, you just know she’s going to make it.
forces us to open up and drain out our neglected, soggy selves, clearing
pathways to patch up quarrels, call up neglected friends to summon up the
courage that may have failed us when we were clogged up.
is the magnifying glass of human kindness, cruelty and hope. December
drives us finally to be resolute, not to stay still and stale, but towards
movement, to face the New Year, unafraid.
too, will take the plunge and share with you, a poem written for friends,
hoping you’ll excuse the lack of technique meter and rhyme.
of the unknown
hush of beauty
strong and healthy body
own bright minds eye
branches, sand dunes
waves, mountains casting
of cool shadow
of sugarcane or deep red
of life really
faith in whatever's
you were emptied out
warmth with friends
in the New year
own lovely self
of the husk
struggling little poem
wish you (and send you my quota too)