candleNormally I do not party for the New Year. Instead I prefer to be home, quietly enjoying the New Year’s Eve with my wife Beth, maybe a few drinks, order a takeaway, watch special New Year TV programs, a film or finish a book (I normally keep a few pages to finish just on that day). And, of course, closer to midnight is earmarked for a –forced- dance, just the two of us. This has been a pattern for many years now post my marriage. Before that I used to prefer spending New Year’s Eve alone, mostly reflecting on the year gone by. Days of hard party were well over by the time I crossed my thirties.

Over the last few years the added feature is evening meditation and subtracted feature is reflecting on the year gone by. I don’t do much reflecting on New Year’s Eve, I don’t see a point just to reflect on that particular day, it is more of an everyday feature.

This New Year’s Eve however proved to be an exception. Firstly, Beth and I were lucky that, just as it struck mid-night in India, we were able to have a Skype video call with dearest friends in India, that was all very exciting to build a mood for celebration, but something else made it an exception.

As I sat down for my usual evening meditation I experienced a discomfort, as if I wasn’t ready for it, so it took me a few minutes to settle with the usual breathing pattern and once I finished after an hour, I stood up feeling very sad. This was very strange occurrence. Normally when I finish meditation I don’t feel a thing – it’s just an emotionless calm space. As I was coming downstairs I triggered my erstwhile dormant thoughts to enquire with ‘self’ on what could be the reason behind it. Strangely I saw a visual of some children, tiny hands and baby fingers; at that instant I just stood still for few moments and then sat on the stairs with immense sadness engulfing me. I was just short of tears flowing down my cheeks.

Earlier that day, I had watched some ‘year that was’ kind of program on the TV and the images of Peshawar school terrorist attack had subconsciously stayed with me. Probably my previous meditative state created a deeper connection. Difficult to explain and no need.

Here I was, like millions of people across the world, ready to welcome another year with dreams, hopes and aspirations and at the same time, in a faraway land, more than a hundred little children would have no new year celebration, for they now lie 6 feet beneath the ground, buried with all their dreams, hopes and aspirations. Their hands will neither hold any balloons celebrating new year nor will their eyes moist with the smoke from new year fireworks. They will neither give high-fives to each other or clap to some dance tune welcoming the new year.

All that will never happen now, as they were put to an early sleep by some grown-ups!

Now I was gripped by thoughts and feelings of what their families and loved ones must be going through at that very moment. I tried visualising with deepest compassion. I constructed faces to imaginary mothers and fathers, their conversations, expressions – all galore. None of it was celebratory. It just couldn’t be. My erstwhile sadness was now comfortably shaking hands with my helplessness. There was nothing I could do, at that moment at least. However it was perfectly possible for me to be silent or tone down or mute my celebration. And that’s what I did. I, for one, could not sever that compassionate connection and gather courage to say  ‘the show must go on’ while thinking about those children sleeping in their graves.

The least I could do now and going forward is to continue my resolve in love, trust, compassion and just hope that in the new year and in the years to come it spreads and becomes stronger and stronger. Hopefully some day, somewhere, it makes a difference!

Happy New Year!!
– Ani

Written: 31st December 2014.
Published: 1st January 2015.