Sunday, February 11, 2007

London Diary: Surviving January

I can’t believe I made it. To be honest, I didn’t think I would. Or could. I was sure I would crack, buckle under the pressure and snap under the brunt of other clichés. Yet here I am with a discernible pulse going and my mental health somewhat intact, on the other side of the most depressing day of the year.

The most depressing day of the year started off like any other Monday (surprise, surprise!). I woke up to a dark mid January sky and was greeted by the icy demeanour of our flat. Though most of the night had been spent trying to free the duvet from the clutches of my not-so-better-half, I wasn’t glummer than I usually am at the start of the week. And I couldn’t think of a single reason why I should be. That is until I saw the headlines in the papers.

‘Blue Monday: the most depressing day of the year,’ said The Independent. ‘And now for something completely dreary,’ said The Guardian, as though the temperature plunging well below zero wasn’t dreary enough.

And just how had the media come to such a conclusion? According to research carried out by Cliff Arnall, a part time tutor at the University of Cardiff Monday, January 22nd was the most depressing day of the year. Appalling weather, post Christmas blues, failed New Year resolutions, mounting holiday debts and a lack of motivation all connive to depress people. And before you scoff and pass this off as the machinations of some mad scientist trying to lull us in to a state of depression before taking over the world, Arnall has a formula to prove his theory.

1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA tells us just why Monday 22 spells such doom for us all. Here:
W: Weather
D: Debt
d: Money due in January pay
T: Time since Christmas
Q: Time lapsed since New Year resolution failed
M: General motivational levels
NA: The need to take action

So post this ground breaking scientific discovery, every English newspaper worth the fish ’n’ chips it wraps was full of advice from GPs, other scientists (no doubt kicking themselves for not having thought of it themselves) and Agony Aunts on how to combat the worst case of the Mondays since well, the previous Monday.

I realised I didn’t satisfy most of the criteria listed in the formula to feel as depressed as the day allowed. Sure I lived in a country plagued by miserable weather eight months of the year and my resolution to ensure that I could make a packet of chocolate hobnobs last for at least 2 days had failed at the word go. But other than that, I didn’t owe Visa enough money to call it debt. The only thing I had celebrated over Christmas was the sales that followed it. And as someone in pursuit of the pure art of writing, I wasn’t so crass as to be concerned with matters of money (a statement the editor of this newspaper can ignore). My rapidly growing disdain for January was something new to me.

After all in January Chennai is pleasantness personified. Cool breezes, the hope that a thalaivar film will release and holidays courtesy Pongal and Republic Day. Mumbai Januaries hold the promise of temperatures that ensure one won’t melt in to the pleather seats of its bumble bee cabs. As an advertising professional, January is a slow month. Award deadlines loom and everyone dreams of holding aloft statues and award parties awash with enough champagne to savour victories or drown losses. After years of looking forward to the month and all it promised, it felt odd to suddenly mourn its coming. Instead of evening strolls along Marina beach I’m waddling about in novelty socks and a quilted robe my Mother says embodies the look ’Merlin meets Confucius’. When your own mother brands you a fashion disaster you know it’s time to weep.

Despite all the scientific mumbo jumbo, I was a bit sceptical of the most depressing day of the year. The euphoria brought on by uninhibited shopping, drinking, eating and partying is bound to wear off sometime, so was the reality of everyday life being confused with depression? After all, if you travel by stretch limo to work every day for a week, going by bus after that may be just a tad difficult. Plus, if January the 22nd was the most depressing day of the year, how are the British going to feel the next time England took on Australia at The Ashes? Or at the next interview Madonna gives in riding breeches talking in her faux British accent?

Not wanting to appear churlish and worried I may be accused of not trying to fit in, I assured myself I was depressed and read the advice being doled out by the newspapers. I was told to eat a healthy breakfast, try yoga, write down things I was grateful for, be disciplined or visit Australia where it was brighter and sunnier (something I don’t need a PhD to tell me, thank you very much). So basically, unless I was a health-nut, new-age, army general doing bhunjangasana in Kurri Kurri there was no way out of this psychological quagmire I found myself in? The only one that brought a smile to my face (and hence worked) was to remember that as it was Blue Monday, I wasn’t the only one feeling low. Misery loves company.

Professionals who have access to an unlimited supply of prescription free Valium and Prozac can no doubt afford to pontificate all they like and ask people to take a holiday to Australia (exactly how that’s possible when people are already up to their cashmere scarf encircled necks in debt is beyond me). I wanted to know what ordinary people who were down in the dumps were doing. So I logged on to and looked at the advice of other sufferers. The forums were clogged with people ranging from ‘I’m holidaying in Mustique’ smug prats to ‘I watch The Sound of Music’ crying out for help saddos. So much for connecting with my troubled brothers and sisters.

So at the end of the day I chucked my newspaper in the recycling bin, hoping it would be reincarnated as a far more useful creation (a winning lotto ticket, a 50 percent discount voucher at Prada, round trip tickets to Paris maybe) and went home to the most comforting thing in the world. Sambhar and a Tamizh potboiler (apologies to the not so better half). Who needs Julie Andrews when you have you have Asin? And for those intolerant to sambhar, Asin and Julie Andrews, I suggest a neat whisky. Or three.

(In this Sunday's Newindpress)


Shyam said...

Nice :) I wasnt as depressed on Jan 22 as I was on Jan 2, when my office re-opened! Beat THAT for the blues!

Vaijayanthi Ben said...

Aap kabhi jooton ke baarein mein nahi likhte?

Vaijayanthi Ben said... is in hindi.
i is meaning to say.. you are not writing about the shoes? Why it is like this?

Terri said...

Shoefie, I'm apologizing in advance if this goes the wrong way.

You write so well, I feel you're selling yourself short (nothing personal against Newindpress, I haven't heard of them, that's all. Maybe I've been out of the country too long.)

Have you tried the local markets? Surely there's a local equivalent of "Writer's Market" in the U.K.

My journalism teacher told us to aim for the smaller publications to begin with. I aimed for the glossies in New York, sent out a dozen query letters and struck gold within two weeks.

Of course, I'm resting on my laurels since, but that's just me.

From my experience, the glossies don't care if you're a beginner or a published writer. They don't want your clips, they pay big bucks for ideas.

Sujatha Bagal said...

I shall second Terri's sage advice.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Shyam -:) You win

behenji - Apologies. a shoe post shall appear soon

Terri (and Sujatha) - Apologies not needed. I have been sending ideas out to other publications, some interest but no bites yet. Fingers crossed. (And the Newindpress the Indian Express.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting. M first impression of London: NOISY. My second,little boxes. There is no space anywhere, although to give the poms their due, they do allocate green spaces, where there are parks and benches which allow you to sit outside, eat your lunch (quickly before the pigeons grab hold of it), and inhale the wonderful scents of the big city smoke, diesel, huge Limo London vehicles, dust and the wonderful aroma of the Thames River!! We went on the London Eye, which is this huge Ferris wheel thing. From it you can see most of London and the surrounding areas. It is bloody high, and it seems jumping off the Gouritz bridge (Western Cape, South Africa) has done little to allay my fear of heights. It was quite spectacular though.
Thanks for the wonderful blog, Keep up the great work!