My Christmases and New Years are pleasantly haunted by the ghosts of Christmases and New Years past
“O Bachchoo, devise that mirror
In which emotions are reflected
Then breathe on it with steamy breath
So the pain may be
But only till the
Evaporates the fog away
And all the shining glass is clear
So love and loss are in interplay.”
— From The Book of the Alley Barber by Bachchoo
The ends of years are usually occasions for celebration and looking forward. Christmas comes close to New Year’s Eve and both days are occasions to abandon restraint. As they used to say of the drug-fuelled 1960s, “if you can remember them, you weren’t there!”
My Christmases and New Years are pleasantly haunted by the ghosts of Christmases and New Years past — not as in spooky spectres which appeared to Ebenezer Scrooge, but as memories. My non-Christian Parsi family celebrated Christmas conscientiously. I don’t think they were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. They used it as an excuse to eat dhan sak and give each other presents.
Of course, Jeff Bezos and other retailers rejoice in the tradition of gift-giving but very few of them, those who give and those who receive, connect this tradition of presents as originating from the New Testament gospel of Matthew. It’s the only one in which the three Magi — Parsi Zoroastrian priests — bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the new-born Jesus.
What Matthew was attempting through this story was the endorsement of the Christ by representatives of the prevalent monotheistic religion which wasn’t the other one — Judaism, from which the gospels wanted to break or progress.
Alas, no one has brought me gold, frankincense or myrrh. I am instead content with a copper bracelet for wrist arthritis, after-shave lotion and a perfumed candle.
Perhaps for most of the world the ghosts of the last two Christmases and New Years are not memories but the threatening, even death-dealing spectre of Delta and Omicron Covid.
People talk and write about a “new normal”. Nature and evolution have, as they occasionally do, inflicted a trial on humanity. Covid-19 may be less dangerous than the plagues one reads about, the Spanish flu or even the Ebola outbreaks, but they have, in this age of mass communication, occasioned impositions on travel and even mass protests in several countries by deniers and conspiracy theorists who pose as lovers of freedom — and …err… not of mind-boggling selfishness.
My personal worry about restrictions born of Omicron is about travel to India. I intended before Omicron hit to see my relatives and friends and participate, as I have been invited to do, in the Jaipur Literary Festival. It’s always a crowded affair, a sort of Kumbh Mela of literature, and we know that Omi is more contagious than previous variants and thrives in crowds.
Will the festival be restricted by law or caution to going ethereal? I hope not. I want to travel but don’t want to catch Covid-19. Perhaps by early January Omicron will have mutated into Pi with a short life and no bite at all. Inshallah!
And in these years a disease has become a political focus, determining political fortunes.
UK’s PM BoJo campaigned and won a majority in the 2019 election by pandering to the English (not Scottish or Welsh) electorate’s “keep Johnny foreigner out” determination. Then Covid-19 hit the nation and though BoJo messed about and delayed any action, allowing a disastrous first wave of infections and deaths, he tried to capitalise on initiating and trumpeting a vaccine programme, boasting it was the best in the world. The boast worked — for a while!
Then the disasters, springing directly from BoJo’s inadequacies, weaknesses and character began to strike. His new young wife fought with his Svengali adviser Dominic Cummings whom she forced out of 10 Downing Street. Dom turned vicious and began to publicly reveal facts about BoJo’s dithering over Covid-19 policy and other scandals.
The new wife, Carrie, now demanded a refurbishment of the prime ministerial flat above 11 Downing Street. BoJo, it is alleged, got a Tory millionaire to pay up to £160,000 for the kitschy redecoration — a scandal that’s being examined as a piece of corruption.
Undeterred, BoJo brazenly attempted to get his party to overturn a charge of corrupt practice by Owen Patterson, his Tory MP friend. Many in his own party rebelled and BoJo had to make a U-turn, leaving the laws preventing MPs from corrupt profiteering in place.
Recently, photographs and recordings of parties in No. 10 emerged, alerting the nation to the hypocrisy of BoJo passing regulations to restrict relatives from visiting their dying parents.
With these revelations, for the first time in two years, the Labour Party’s poll ratings were higher that BoJo’s Tories and the jockeying to replace BoJo has begun. The Tories are said to be waiting for one more characteristic blunder, or even a conclusive report of wrongdoing, to vote BoJo out of office and Carrie out of her bad-taste flat.
Even Margaret Thatcher, one of the most popular Tory PMs, was nevertheless toppled mid-term after political blundering. Now Hedgy Sunak, Liz Truss the foreign secretary, Sajid Covid, the healthwalla, and even Priti Clueless are said to be preparing for the contest.
Yet the big news of the last days of 2021 is neither Covid-19 nor the uncertain fortunes of BoJo.
It’s the arrest in the Windsor Castle grounds of a 19-year-old man called Jaswant Singh Chail. This young man, dressed in a black costume as Darth Vader from the fictional series Star Wars and carrying a crossbow, had posted a video of himself with a declaration of intent to assassinate the Queen in revenge for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, a hundred and two years ago. Jaswant was arrested and sent for mental health tests. He had better be proved to have mental problems, as an attempt to assassinate a British monarch still carries the penalty for treason, which is capital punishment.
After his arrest, home secretary Priti Clueless is passing a law making the possession of a crossbow a criminal offence. What far-sighted and publicly-beneficial legislation! Just what the nation needs. I’m sure Priti has alerted the Sherriff of Nottingham, once her law is passed, to track down Robin Hood and bring him in chains to London. The other contenders for the Tory leadership had better watch it!