The romans had a god Janus. He has two faces on either side of his head – an old one on the back looking into the past, and a young one on the front looking to the future. Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, of gates, doors, passages, endings and time. The month of January is fittingly named after him.
As we sit on the threshold of 2014, I am thinking of this god: does he not represent all of us? Even though we exist only in the transitory present, the present is the only thing we cannot feel: our memories look back into the past, while our intellect looks to the future.
A year is an arbitrary thing. As long as it contains 3651/4 days, it can be started from any point of the earth’s orbit around the sun. The reason we have the Gregorian calendar is only chance, since Europe colonised most of the world after the industrial revolution, their systems were imposed. And the Gregorian calendar being the most mathematically precise helped its almost universal adoption in the modern era.
We ring in the New Year with festivities and rejoicing. These celebrations are mostly secular in nature. Apart from the universal human need to celebrate anything and everything, I cannot any reason for these: unless it is to be thankful that one more arbitrary unit of time has passed by, and we are still here.
As part of a new beginning, it is customary to resolve something for the New Year: getting rid of a bad habit, learning something new, etc. Given my miserable track record, I have not had any resolutions in the recent past. However, this year will be different – I have taken three resolutions which should be reasonably easy (!) to keep.
Start Reading the Mahabharata
I have been planning this for a long time – read the Mahabharata in the original Sanskrit. I know the story, have read many condensed versions, read various types of analyses and interpretations… but not the original. It will be a Herculean task; I would need to brush up my school Sanskrit and stick to a strict regimen of reading, a certain number of verses every day. I don’t know whether I will be able to finish it in my lifetime. But I will definitely start – that’s a promise.
A Critical Reading of Das Kapital
In my opinion, people (including myself!) often discuss and argue about communism without knowing the fundamentals. The book which started it all, Karl Marx’s Capital, has taken on the status of a holy book which can only be worshipped or reviled (depending on which side you are), and never analysed critically. I have set myself the task of reading and analysing this epoch-making work in the light of changes in the structure of production and consumption since Marx’s day – within my limitations, of course. I shall be sharing my viewpoints on this blog.
Read More of World Literature
Like the average Indian booklover, my exposure of world literature is limited to Western Europe and America. I will make an effort this year to search out more and more books from the Far East, Africa and Eastern Europe. I have already started with Japanese literature.
Happy New Year, all!