My alarm went off at 5:45am on Monday. I had a vague memory of setting it for that time, but I still managed to get angry. There’s just no need for beeping that early on a Monday. But, after closing for the holidays, People’s Watch was opening again that day, and my boss had told us to be at the office early for some sort of ritual. I didn’t have to be at the office until seven, but I wanted to do my morning chanting and still leave time for a cup of strong black tea. Hence, 5:45.
I arrived at the office at 7:01, heavily caffeinated. I was immediately ushered into a van, which immediately departed. Ten minutes later, we arrived at a cemetery. I looked skeptically at the neat row of graves—what sort of ritual was this? The names inscribed on each headstone made clear that these were priests—all the names were preceded by “Fr.” or “Rev.” A priest cemetery.
The rest of the staff had already arrived. They were gathered around a particular grave, which was adorned with flowers. Several garlands and candles graced the headstone. I hadn’t seen most of the staff since before the holidays, so we shook hands and wished each other a happy new year.
I stood patiently for several minutes, but then the suspense finally got to me. I asked why we had been summoned to a priest cemetery at seven in the morning on a Monday. I was told that we were standing at the grave of Father Diamondraj, the founder of People’s Watch. He died some years ago on New Year’s Day, and so every January, before reopening after the holiday break, the staff returns to his grave to honor him, to reflect about the past year, and to set a vision for the coming one.
There were several speeches—about his life, about his character, about his commitment to human rights (at least, that’s what I think they were about, because they were all in Tamil). One person read a poem. Finally, we were all invited to take flower petals and scatter them on his grave.
It was just what I needed. The week prior, including the New Year, had been a frantic blur—I flew to the US, attended a bachelor party, a rehearsal dinner, and a wedding, and then came right back to India—and I was craving some quiet time to reflect. I hadn’t found it since my return to India—I had been too jet lagged and sick. But I suddenly found myself in the middle of a beautiful ritual of remembrance and I let my mind wander.
I reflected on some endings that had recently occurred in my personal life. I remembered a dear friend who had passed away in early 2012. I let the future dance in my mind—where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, how I wanted to feel. Possibilities. I gave thanks for all the wonderful things in my life—for the many people who support me and give me strength; for my family, so far away, but whose love I can always feel; and for the delightful little things that make life so rich, including a New Year’s ritual at a priest cemetery. I consciously released fear and doubt about many, many things. And I decided that 2013 is going to be an amazing year.