On New Year’s day , I woke up to five hundred unread messages on WhatsApp . Five hundred impersonal , generic and formulaic bursts of white noise that I wanted to ignore but couldn’t because they were from people who mattered to me and people who once mattered to me.
As I replied to those inane bursts of goodwill with generic and inane wishes of my own , boredom set in and I dreamt my way across to January 1 of the years gone by , where New year’s day meant something significant.
January 1, 1994 — We did not have a phone at home and therefore we sent greeting cards to our near and dear , following a process that almost felt like a ritual. Sometime in December, Appa would buy a bunch of greeting cards from the stationary shop and a shortlist would be made. Amma would then copy the addresses from the diary on to the envelopes and then attach the stamps using mashed rice as glue. The four of us would then sit in a circle and sign the cards one by one and once we were done , the cards would be slipped into the envelopes and off to the main post office we’d go and slip the cards into the slots meant for the various cities the cards were addressed to. My seven year old self used to shiver with excitement as she dropped the envelopes off , wishing them a speedy journey to their destination. Our wishes arrived the same way — signed greeting cards dropped at our doorstep in pairs , containing warm wishes expressed in the crooked handwriting of the elders and cousins . Birthday cards , at times made an early appearance , causing that extra bit of suspense and excitement as I opened an envelope .
January 1 , 1996 — We had a telephone connection with STD facility that year. Greeting cards were sent out as usual , but that year , we called our relatives that had a phone to wish them in person. Calls had to be short for the STD rates were still steep and conversations were limited to the four of us playing phone relay with every person at home on the other end to wish them a happy new year . Nothing else was discussed < We still couldn’t afford those longer calls> but hearing the wishes in a loved one’s warm voice was something we cherished.
January 1 , 2000 — The Y2K year where writing 00 on the year column of my notebook gave me a secret thrill. The year where we stopped sending em greeting cards and moved on to e-greetings sent to the NRI cousins via the slow and moody dial-up connection we had at home. The mandatory happy new year phone calls were made and we lingered over the phone discussing odds and ends thanks to our upward mobility and lowered STD rates. The excitement of wishing someone had gone away and the calls had become mere formality.
January 1 , 2005 — My first cellphone and the first time I sent out wishes on my own. We stopped congregating as a family to wish people and sent fancy SMSes out well before January 1 . It felt pretty cool to do this. It made me , all of eighteen , feel like an adult . It made me feel that I was coming in to my own , independent enough to make my own decisions.
January 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017 — These were the glorious rinse and repeat years where I partied into the wee hours of January 1st , sent my whatsApp wishes semi-drunk and woke up late in the evening , lamenting the end of the holidays and making elaborate plans to keep up with my resolutions .
And WHOOSH — my mind wandered back to 2019 as the husband kept poking me continuously . I looked up from my phone , eyes and fingers fatigued from typing replies and messages . With a Sheepish grin , he asked me if I could reply to his whatsApp messages too. He didn’t quite know how to manage the deluge of wishes on his WhatsApp . Shaking my head I left the room , wishing that the glory days of 1994 would make a come back.
P.S : I want to write physical letters and postcards this year. I’m not sure that there are people who would like to receive them . But if you are one , and you would like to receive a written post card from me sometime this year , do drop me a note/comment with your address. Let me see if I can surprise you .