2008, which has to be the most memorably bad year in recent memory, went out with with a sting in the tail. We were vacationing the last couple of weeks, offline and off-media most of the time, but caught snippets of the Israel/Hamas conflict in bits and pieces on airport cameras and hotel newspapers. (As I write this, Yahoo news reports yet another “blistering offensive” on Gaza and public opinion towards Israel’s actions, normally inclined to be favorable, is teetering towards denunciation of the Jewish state for the civilian Palestinian casualties inflicted by the sustained attack.)
All through the East on our two weeks in the region, people we met presented a gloomy outlook for 2009. “Put your money in gold,” observed a friend in banking morosely, utterly pessimistic about the state of his own industry. The financial market in Asia has held up so far, mainly because of the healthier balance sheets of companies in the region, but the ripple effect from the US economic collapse is expected to extract its toll this year as the biggest global consumer puts its wallet away. The one bright spot seems to be the sensible, no-drama transition of President-elect Obama. A mortgage broker friend confided that home equity and refinance had picked up shortly after the elections as buyers and home-owners felt a little reassured by the competent political appointments and calming weekly addresses of the President-elect.
Still, by all accounts, 2009 is poised to be a tough year, as the implications of the US recession begin to sink in. As portfolios shrink and home values dwindle, it’s a time to take stock of what’s really important and I am making my New Year’s resolutions in that spirit –
1. Loving – Extra hugs for my family and more calls to parents back home. In these gloomy times, we have to hold on to the people who have always been and always will be there for us.
2. Living – “I am thankful I have my health, my kids are growing up fine and my brain is still functioning,” said a friend. Amen to that. When you get down to it, what more do you need?
3. Giving – If there’s one thing that the US presidential elections have taught me, it is that a small effort by a large number of people can make a big difference. If each of us spares a buck or two for those less fortunate, charities can continue doing their good work even in these tough economic times. When things get rough it is our instinct to hunker down and get tight-fisted, but I plan to put away a dollar a day to be given to a worthy organization. Don’t forget a charity you’ve been supporting – even if you can’t match the contributions of previous years, every little bit helps.
4. Reaching out – I am truly grateful to Water, No Ice readers for keeping me going. As an Indian American who loves both countries equally, it has been a privilege to write about life and people in the Bay Area and the US for the last couple of years. A big thanks to guest writers who have shared their opinions and advice on this forum – I hope to see more of you this year as we navigate these troubled times.
Happy 2009 to all ! Do share your New Year’s resolutions.