Opinion and Editorial

Real festive greetings are shared by meeting, not messaging

abhishek@khaleejtimes.com Filed on November 16, 2020

(Stephen Frost / Alamy Stock Photo)

Christmas is coming up. How about sharing some actual pleasantries over hot-cross buns, roasts, and pudding?

So, I have just spent yet another Diwali without sending out a single message of love, prosperity, peace, hope, and happiness, not necessarily in any order, on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, or their likes. Although plenty of that social media largesse has come my way in the form of GIFs of sweets, memes of candles and diyas, stickers and emojis of divine blessings, each stirring my conscience and soul time and again. Yet I have stood

my ground, stuck to my guns, and not fallen for any of those social media snares, as I did on Eid this year and last year’s Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

And this is because my will to keep up with the Joneses has tapered over the years just like the brevity of my ‘wish you the same’ responses has kept getting shorter. Initially, it was fuelled by odd circumstances than by choice or design. Either those messages from friends, families or an acquaintance popped up at a time I had just transitioned from light sleep to deep late into the night or beeped at a time when I had just skidded out of a traffic intersection after waiting for a good two and a half minutes for the signal to turn green. Now it has become a matter of choice for me, albeit unpleasant as it may look, odd circumstances or not.

Not sure if it’s the age catching up or the quirks of the times that are a-changing, but it is precisely for this inability of mine (sometimes sheer indolence) that I have begun to dread festivals in recent years. Not the festival day as much but it’s the run-up to it that actually gives me the chills. And thanks (no thanks!) to social media, that period of onset, when all the world’s messages of manufactured hope and love keep infiltrating your phone, has become rather long, almost never-ending. Most like it but I have just not been able to come to terms with it.

So, I am glad Diwali is finally over and it is back to business for most of us because the last few days have been nothing short of living an uncomfortable lie, of living in denial, of growing a thick skin and cheeks to brook all the manufactured outpouring of love and best wishes on Whatsapp, Facebook, Telegram, and wherever it is the greetings find their course. I am glad that Diwali is over and I can start looking at my mobile phone again without fear of expectations that I have to respond. I am glad Diwali is over so I can have useful, if not always meaningful, conversations again with people I know.

I am not against Diwali wishes you see. World leaders have joined in the chorus of wishing communities celebrating the Indian festival of lights in various parts of the world — from UAE’s leaders to the Potus (both sitting and waiting-in-line) to the Prime Ministers of Canada, UK, and Pakistan. They have spoken the noble truth — of good triumphing over evil, of light taking over darkness and spread positivity and cheer.

Former US president Barack Obama did it several times during his two terms at the White House. As leaders they have done their bit but I can’t be convinced if I will yield the same result as an individual going against the grain wishing everyone happy Diwali, broadcasting my two lines on WhatsApp and spamming, if not spooking, many who may not be expecting a message at that time from an unknown number.

Yes, it has been a terrible year and it couldn’t get any worse and spreading some cheer at a time like this always helps but we could do with less of that forced show of bonhomie with plastic e-wishes to just go through the rituals and instead open our heart strings and share the love over an actual phone call or drop in with some sweets. Does it really matter then if I didn’t send you a message on the phone and called you over for some good Diwali or Eid food instead?

Christmas is coming up. How about sharing some actual pleasantries over hot-cross buns, roasts, and pudding then? —abhishek@khaleejtimes.com


Abhishek Sengupta

Abhishek is the head of multimedia at Khaleej Times and has worked in radio and television channels before joining UAE's first English daily. Semi-skilled in breaking news and storytelling for visual and print media, he feels he is more comfortable talking than writing. A food and travel enthusiast, he is always busy making itineraries when not producing videos for Khaleej Times.

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