A Town

By Shruti Vairagkar (L&T Howden)

At the stroke of midnight, the new year is welcomed with toasts and cheers. Celebrations are in full swing with the hope that a new year will bring a fresh beginning, leaving behind the ennui and lethargy in the previous year. Resolutions are made with the hope of fulfilling them this year, never mind the scores of unfulfilled promises of the years past. Laughter, music and dance, bright lights and colours are in abundance everywhere. The gaiety only pauses to fill a glass, pass the platter of food, or exchange greetings and pleasantries with who has currently crossed one’s path. All happy families are alike, as said Mr Tolstoy. And each of these celebrations indeed look the same.

Traversing from one merriment to another with no distinct boundary separating them, a rather quiet town would pique one’s interest at this time of the year. Otherwise nondescript, this town may escape the notice of an outsider on any other day. Bustling with those who have lived here for generations, it rarely has any new settlers. Make no mistake, the citizens are not of a hostile variety. They are as welcoming and friendly as they can be. Always stopping for a chat when meeting acquaintances on the street, lending a hand to strangers, and helping those in need are a common occurrence in the daily lives of the residents. Always smiling, their faces are never marked with worry, anger or even a furrowed brow. Raised voices or any form of violence is rarity. In fact, one could say with absolute confidence that such incidents would only occur due to an outsider.

This night, however is like any other. One goes about their business as usual. Till a few minutes prior to midnight. As everyone else is counting down towards the new year, the citizens of this town gather in the town square ready to welcome a new year. From the elderly to the infants. A distinct humming rises in the air. It’s neither too loud nor too soft. They are wrapped around themselves, as if their skin has grown to cocoon them. They start moving, shifting from foot to another, stretching one limb and then another. Gradually they emerge from their chrysalis, renewed. Any trace of negativity, sins, ill-doings are shed in these few minutes. Bygones, literally being bygones. Every memory of the year gone past and their lives is also shed with their skin.

Everything comes at a price.

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