By Mohsin Abdullah
For the past couple of years I've found it hard to wish friends, relatives and acquaintances Happy New Year.
The reason? The folks whom I wanted to send New Year greetings to and I somehow knew there were not many things in store which would make the coming year a happy one.
With such unhappiness, how could I say Happy New Year to them? Just three simple words. Yet to me it was like a very heavy task.
We're now a week into 2017. I must admit that at the tail end of last year I found it much harder to say those three simple words because things are now worse than then.
The value of the ringgit was shrinking. Prices of essential goods were skyrocketing. Jobs were hard to come by. The list goes on. And what's more depressing is there were no signs things were about to turn for the better.
And on the New Year Eve, the government announced the petrol hike. This time the increase was painful. What a new year gift!
A day or two before the new school term, parents complained of the high costs to send their children to school. Prices of school bags, utensils, uniforms, shoes and everything has gone up.
A working mum was quoted in the media as saying while she had spent RM180 last year for her son, it has now become RM500.
Another parent was reported to have said she must wait for her next salary at the end of January to buy her daughter a second pair of white canvas shoes.
There are many more parents like them. Sad.
And there's the issue of higher school bus fees. But I must say I feel for the bus operators, with the current high petrol prices. They, like all of us, need to earn a living too. And try to survive.
There are hardship all around us. Affecting our friends and loved ones, and us as well. I don't have to go into details. You know the story.
As I write this, a friend sent a message via a WhatsApp group. It read simply: "Whaa now US$1=RM 4. 52. Aiyoo."
Another friend responded: "Three months ago RM4.40."
And another friend, obviously referring to the fact Malaysia is an oil producer and the current world oil prices, said this: "Oil prices have gone up. Our currency also should be stronger."
True, but it's not. Our currency continues to be weak. And dare I say getting weaker.
In short, our gloomy economy is set to continue to be gloomy or God forbid, gloomier. No matter what the powers that be tells us.
The economy is sluggish and that is putting it mildly. Alleged scandals tainting the prime minister have not been resolved and continue to haunt the nation. The political scene is not reassuring, to say the least.
Hence, against such a backdrop and the uncertainty that lies ahead, I think I can't be blamed for finding it harder this year to say Happy 2017 to everybody.
But I still managed to come up with a New Year message despite all the sadness, just like what I did since 2013 or 2014. I'll just repeat the message. The same one which I sent out few years ago.
And here it goes. "To all Malaysians: I wish we all have a Happy New Year. Let's pray and try to have a Happy New Year."
That I say from the bottom of my heart. And I think its still not too late to send such a message of hope. Hopefully the sun shines on us amidst the darkness.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else. )