The statute of limitations on Namibians wishing you “Happy New Year!” is probably sometime after Valentine’s Day.
Until then, you could be a month deep into a fresh trip around the sun and someone will sidle up to you, cheesing like we aren’t halfway to Independence Day and say: “Compliments of the season!”
It’s during these moments, already flailing in the flames of February, that I truly wonder which season people are referring to.
With supermarket Christmas fare slashed to half price on sad displays near the checkout counters, I doubt they mean the Jesus jol. Valentine’s Day is also unlikely because despite shopping malls and targeted ads bursting into red hearts and pink confetti, nobody in their right mind is going to assume you have a Valentine. Not in this climate.
The most viable option then is that you’re being wished a happy new year. And so my next mental meandering includes assessing how happy things have been so far.
January, as we all know, is where we go to peer into the abyss.
People are depressed, jong. The party is over, our wallets are in a state of abject shock and the new year has arrived hot on the heels of its predecessor without so much as a buffer zone to pull oneself towards oneself.
The reality that we have to start all over again, that we have to feed, clothe and educate our families, keep the lights on and maybe carve out some personal success is overwhelming and in direct and abrupt contrast to the hedonistic hijinks of the last few weeks.
If the people who designed our capitalist dystopia had even the vaguest interest in our collective mental health, there would be a week or two between January and February.
We’d all blink at our respective money woes, trawl the grocery store for food specials, lie low, make plans, get back on track and eventually meet January with the confidence of people who haven’t been giving Sodom and Gomorrah a run for their money.
Instead, January lands with a thud.
The 31st of December spilling into the first day of the year like an oil tanker trailing dark sludge into supposedly clear water. The return of the daily newspapers does nothing to quell the sense of foreboding.
While December halts the production of most local print media and what bubbles to the surface online can quickly be stifled by the constant stream of scenes from the festive season’s revelry, the barrage of the circadian media is a sobering klap to the head.
From a child killed in the dunes, the school leavers fiasco and floods ravaging the north to unpaid coffee shop workers, raging unemployment, rising crime, a controversial medical supply tender, the whisper of escalating cases of Covid-19 and the seemingly endless reports of rape and murder, 2023 in Namibia seems to walk and talk like many of the years before it.
“Compliments of the season!” we continue to say, through January, into February, whenever we see a soul we have yet to wish the best.
Maybe our “Happy New Years!” keep on coming because as countrymen, colleagues, family and friends, it’s our most fervent and sincere wish. That, despite all evidence to the contrary, this year will be better. It will be lighter, brighter and more merciful than the last.
– [email protected]; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com