An open letter to 2017
There are so many things I want to tell you that I don't know where to begin. So let me make it simple and start by saying the first thing that comes to my mind: Thank you, twenty-seventeen, for retiring. In a country where retirement is a dreaded concept, and even people long past their prime would rather die than relinquish their posts, you did that quietly, without any fuss.
For that you have my gratitude.
Now that you're gone, perhaps I can finally reflect with a degree of objectivity on the highlights of your 12-month lifespan, and how that affected me as a person, and us as a nation. To be frank, a lot of people are actually happy to see you gone. You brought them grief and sorrow, and caused untold sufferings in their life. So much so that they just feel lucky to have survived you, something that many others couldn't.
They must have had a few laughs along the way. But as you know, bad memories have a way of overshadowing the good ones. The good ones will be lost in time—“like tears in rain”—while the bad ones will lurk around the edges of their minds, waiting to strike every time there is a weak moment, a meltdown or something.
For these people, you've left a legacy steeped in suffering.
In my weakest moments I also feel tempted to see you in the same light. If I combine all the sleepless nights, the tense hours spent looking over my shoulder for trouble, failures and betrayals, the losses and stupid mistakes, as well as spillovers from the year before that you refused to heal… you cut a sorry figure, really.
But if I were to be honest, you don't deserve such blanket generalisations. You had your moments—I'll give you that. There were times when I felt as though you came as a blessing from the heavens. But there were also times when I wished you didn't exist at all. Or it could be just that I was expecting too much of you, hence the anger and frustration at the slightest deviation from the course that I had so naïvely set for myself.
Although many of the promises that you came with remain unmet, I choose to believe that it was for my own good, and I will keep my fingers crossed as I set foot on the uncharted territory of 2018, not getting my hopes up too much to be hurt easily but not being too cynical either. You also taught me some valuable lessons by throwing down challenges that I needed to overcome. Challenges that I believe made me a better person.
Looking back, there were quite a few accomplishments as well. I camped out for the first time in my life in 2017. I hiked the entire width of the world's longest Marine Drive along the Cox's Bazar Beach. I got my father back after 20 years, and landed my first contract as a translator. I also met some exceptional people and have had the opportunity to hear their stories.
And I finally finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which was on my bucket list for as far back as I can remember. I also watched some wonderful movies. The memories of these events will be “locked away like the beetles of our childhood.”
Being a journalist also meant that, throughout the year, from the first day till the last, I would be closely and unfailingly observing events that would shape the nation's future.
There were some developments that made us proud as a nation. A year-end roundup by The Daily Star lists some of these developments including various awards and accolades received by individuals and organisations, the UNESCO's recognition of the historic March 7 speech, the rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs, Bangladesh's march into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, people's spontaneous participation in relief efforts during trying times like the floods, landslides in the hills, and the Rohingya crisis—to name just a few.
But like darkness under the light, evil lurked around every corner to undo all that we've achieved. For every good example, there were at least a dozen egregious examples of failures, problems, crimes, and so on. Every day my heart yearned for headlines that didn't make me crazy and every day I went to bed fuming over the lack of them.
The fact is, you forced us to reduce our expectations from life, making us believe that the absence of bad news is also good news. So while you kept us waiting for good things to happen, often we had to contend with bad things not happening, which is not a very fulfilling experience by the way.
We also had one of the worst floods in recent history; prices of food and other essentials soared like never before; the banking sector was in disarray; corruption was rampant; and the persecution of the minorities continued as usual. The roads proved to be perilous. Crimes against women and children increased at an alarming pace. Civil liberties were crushed while draconian laws like Section 57 and extrajudicial methods like enforced disappearances were used to stifle dissent.
The Islamists, on the other hand, were allowed free rein to intimidate. The fight between the judiciary and the executive got nastier. On the political scene, the situation was not very uplifting either. The politicians had more than their fair share of fights, gaffes and blunders, and with an election coming later in 2018, we don't know if they can get us through to that without making everyone's life a living hell.
We also lost some great men and women. And finally, as if all these were not upsetting enough, the Rohingyas came, with stories of horrors that made even the hardest of hearts melt into puddles.
Did I tell you that you're not being particularly missed right now? That's because if you had a few shiny moments, both on personal and national levels, those were lost in the avalanche of crazy things that marked the rest of your time. I just hope 2018 will be better, which is basically saying that there will be fewer heart-sinking headlines.
I take this particular outlook on life as your parting gift.
Thank you for that.
Badiuzzaman Bay is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star.