In another 3 days the year 2006 will begin its 365 day life.
I like all the hoopla surrounding the birth of a new year. The parties, the countless resolutions that everyone will keep for a few months (or a few hours), and the general feeling of hope, that this year will be different and better somehow.
But my favourite New Year thing by far is buying a new diary. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was 8 and it’s one of the few childhood things of mine that have stood the test of time (the Mickey Mouse filo fax lasted about 6 months).
The first diary was a freebie – one of the many my father would be inundated with at the beginning of the year. I won it guessing the bill amount after one of our family lunches at Bombay Palace. The prize was getting ‘anything I wanted’. I beat my sister and asked for the diary. The relief was evident on my parent’s face. (Thank god she’s too stupid to ask for that kitten she’s been pestering us about). But on that day was born a tradition that has continued for more than 16 years.
Now when I say diary I don’t mean the ‘Dear Diary, today he finally smiled at me or at least he squinted in my direction’ kind of diary. I had those too but stopped when my sister found one and amused herself with the pathetic outpourings of my tortured soul. No. This was a proper diary that grown-ups used. It had a world map on the first page. The STD and ISD codes of every place on that map (very handy if I ever needed to make a call to Angola). Metric conversions. SI Units. Fahrenheit to Celsius conversions. Each day was split up in to tiny one hour slots to pen in appointments and important working lunches. In short, it was everything an 8 year old girl needed.
Most of my initial diaries were like the one above. Covers in vile dark blue or depressing grey with the year stamped on the cover in a gold that would peel away if your finger brushed against it. But it was nothing a quick nip/tuck couldn’t fix. So armed with left over wrapping paper or tiny pots of my sister’s Camel paint (remember those?) I would give my diary a face lift. Tiny sprigs of spring blooms, Cindy Crawford in those Omega print ads, multi-coloured stripes – whatever could be spared and that no one would miss found its way to the front of my diary.
Of course, every year I would try my luck and see if my parents would buy me those expensive diaries at Landmark. For Rs. 125 a gorgeous CRY diary with lovely pictures or abstract prints. Even my ‘it’s for a good cause’ argument didn’t work.
Then in 1998 I met The Tulika Celebrate India Diary. Colourful, vivacious and so Indian – it was fuchsia slap in the face of all those dull grey tomes of the past. I was in college then and could afford it with some of the money I’d won in inter-collegiate debates. I fell in love with each page of the diary – peppered with a little illustration and snippets of trivia.
Since 1998, every December the Tulika Diary finds its way to me. Some years as gifts to myself and some times from a loved one. When I moved to Bombay my mother started sending them to me as little year end pick-me-ups. Always with a little note of love and luck from her inside. It’s something she still does even though I now live in London. Every day of the last few weeks of year are filled with a delicious anticipation till it arrives.
Some people can’t understand this love affair of mine with diaries. Why not get a Palm Pilot they ask? How old fashioned they say.
There’s something about the blank pages of a diary that fascinates me. It’s almost as though I’m presented with a fresh start and that only the ink of my pen will charter my path. I know - it sounds so silly. But I love writing down the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family. And I love making little lists – the mundane – grocery lists, things to do lists, guess who’s coming for dinner lists. Other’s rather baffling even to me, with just – CHANGE YOUR LIFE FROM TODAY on them.
And as the year draws to an end I like looking back through the pages of my diary. The first few months of 2005 were filled with job application information – later angrily scratched out when I didn’t get interview calls. A little later there were job interviews pencilled in (with fingers crossed written in brackets). There was a big smiley on the day I got my job. There were lists of things I wanted to buy with my first salary. Accounts. Promises to lose weight. Books that friends had recommended to me.
What strikes me is that even during October and November when there wasn’t much of the year left – I was still making resolutions and promises to myself. And that’s the beauty of a diary. There’s always one more blank page. Waiting to be filled with happy thoughts, promises and most importantly - with hope.