January 03, 2014

Changing Tradition: "Happy New Year"

Note: This post was written last year, but still remains relevant for this year. The update for this year is at the bottom. 

It's been a week since the New Year's Day has passed and I am still getting an occasional wish here and there. And that's pretty awesome. New Year and Diwali are the 2 days I get to realize that I have SO MANY friends and contacts! But this New Year's Day I was wondering how the traditions of wishing each other on New Year (or any other festival for that matter) has changed over the years. 

When I was a little I used to love sending and receiving greeting cards, big and small from every damn friend in the neighborhood and beyond. The colors, the scent and the decoration of them all was fascinating for a child. And the words, the rhymes and shayari in them (mostly repetitive) would be heartwarming, amusing and hilarious all at the same time!

But then Internet came in our lives, and we guys, the lazy people that we are, moved on from tangible cards to e-cards. Just login to the next available website, select the card, write 2 lines of the message and send it as an email to the concerned person  and voila! you are done! They even gave an option of bulk-sending, for heaven's sake.

But lives got busier and we acquired Mobile phones, and started sending each other texts. 160 characters per message, the SMS lingo and bulk SMS packs, it would never get any easier (and cheaper) than that! And you didn't need to bother writing those 160 characters, you could always forward a nice sounding message received from another friend. 

And later came this growing trend of Social Networks like Orkut and now Facebook. One status update wishing them all in one go and you are all gravy for the occasion! Then slowly in last 2 years we moved to Mobile Internet and Bam! came the Internet Messaging applications like WhatsApp, and now you were even saving the cost of sending that single message also! 

Well of course, some of use still love to call (and annoy) each other right at 12 O'Clock and wish and talk and stuff. And this tradition continues today as well.  

During these last 6 days, I got a tonne of wishes on Whatsapp, dozens of people wishing 'everyone' or 'all the friends', 4 SMS and a dozen or so calls wishing me. Then there were a few wishes on chat, and 3-4 emails thrown in to complete the list. 2 of my friends visited home and that makes it the best wishes of them all, but then a few people didn't wish at all and that was disappointing because I expected them to do that.

A few years ago, I preferred to personally call everyone (with whom I am comfortable enough) because there is always that feeling of connection when you talk. But the explosion of contact list in recent times has made it impractical. So, now I reply to everyone using the same medium they use to wish me. Also, I hate to receive forwarded messages, take it as an insult that people didn't find time to even write a few personal words. Naturally, I myself prefer to write personal messages (even if that means writing a single line). 

But in all this, I wonder what is the point of wishing after all? Are these wishes a medium to reconnect with those whom we haven't been in contact for a while? Or are they a way to be a part of each other's happiness? Do we genuinely care that they have a great year, or is just a social norm, a duty that we should fulfill?

I think these are really important points that we should ask every time we wish anyone. A non-genuine wish or wish without warmth and love mixed in it, is a wish wasted, in my opinion.

Update: This year I received all the wishes almost exclusively on Whatsapp (thank God for quitting FB), besides a few close friends calling. That made it super manageable for me, and I sent a personal note to everyone (unlike Diwali). I was also happy that this year, almost everybody preferred to keep it simple. There weren't a lot of those irritating forwarded greetings, or those big incomprehensible words like 'joyous', 'prosperous', 'marvelous' et al.

Also, I am on to a good start for my new year resolution of calling people; have already called quite a few of them, and many others lined in the coming days. Once again, Happy New Year everyone! I truly hope this turns out to be one your (if not THE) greatest year of your life, yet.