The 2014 calendar is the mirror image of the 1947 one, day-wise, date-wise and even on the position of the stars and planets.
“It’s deja vu all over again,” says author, poet and former heroin addict Jeet Thayil.
The 54-year-old, whose first novel Narcopolis was initially rejected by every publisher he approached till Faber signed it up in 2011 and it went on to win the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature this year, could have been talking about the second novel he’s working on. But actually, he is referring to 2014, which is the mirror image of 1947, calendar-wise, if not event-wise.
Both the years start on Tuesday and come to a close on the same day. Both have the same number of weeks and weekends, giving a feeling of time-travelling to the past 66 years ago. And to add to the sense of having been there, done that, astrologer Bejan Daruwalla says both year, the positions of Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Venus and Saturn are identical.
“These planets are the chief significators for giving wealth and justice,” says the 82-year-old who experienced 1947 firsthand. “The implications will be peace, prosperity, happiness. The downtrodden and the needy will get justice and more and more guilty people, however high they may be, will be punished. This applies to the entire world.”
The year 1947 holds a special significance for the Indian subcontinent, witnessing an end to British colonialism and the emergence of an independent India and Pakistan.
Social activist Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, known as the father of the sanitation revolution in India with his Sulabh International that builds affordable toilets for the masses, remembers the sense of joy and euphoria that prevailed in August 1947.
“I was a five-year-old boy at that time,” the 71-year-old follower of Mahatma Gandhi says. “My maternal grandfather, who taught in a government school, was imprisoned for eight months in 1917 for organising a delegation to meet Indian freedom fighters. An uncle was the head of the village council and the family was very politically conscious.”
As a youngster, Pathak did not know exactly what “being free” meant but he sensed the joy around him and the sense of expectations.
“On August 15 we took part in a parade in the morning, going round the village. singing patriotic songs and waving the Indian tricolour,” he reminisces. “People distributed sweets. I understood that something new was happening.”
Now nearly seven decades later, on the verge of another new beginning, he feels it’s a time of change once again. “India is changing now,” he says.
There is an unspoken reference to the recent winds of change blowing through the nation in the bygone state elections that saw the ruling Congress party unseated and expectations of further change when general elections take place in 2014.
“There is going to be a change in the governance system. The new year will see the emergence of honesty in the political system and governments will have to work to reduce corruption and poverty.”
Society is changing too, he says. His organisation is associated with some of these changes. Sulabh is campaigning to reintroduce to society the dying and destitute widows who were abandoned by their families in the last century for “being unlucky”.
The new year is going to usher in a new era in Pakistan too and its neighbourhood, says Pakistani senator Mushahid Hussain, who is also chairman of the Senate Defence Committee and a former editor.
“Both 1947 and 2014 are important for Pakistan as they symbolise change, an end of one era and a new, uncertain beginning with all its challenges and opportunities,” Hussain says. “For Pakistanis, 1947 is a landmark date, marking, as it does, the culmination of a long political struggle for self-determination with the exit of the British colonial rulers… It is a year of freedom when we took charge of our own destiny.”
Similarly, 2014 is also going to be significant as it “marks the American military exit from Afghanistan, signifying the end of the post 9/11 era, underlining the failure of military might”.
Hussain feels that in 1947, Pakistan bore the brunt of the upheavals “with the geographical map changed, as a new state struggling to survive despite the odds”. It will be the same in 2014 with the geopolitical map changing.
“Having been in the eye of the storm since 1979, Pakistan is pivotal to peace, stability and security in the region. The concern is that whether the transfer of responsibilities results in a messy exit, as in the British case in 1947, or smooth transition, as some would hope in 2014 in the American case.
“Otherwise, the turmoil that followed independence in 1947 could see some sort of ‘action replay’ in the region in 2014.”