Isn’t that what happens to our memories too? Over a period of time the interpretation is coloured by how we choose to recall the moment.
Are you Addicted?
Tearing ourselves away from the time consuming, eye wearying, mind-reductive lifestyle with screens dominating our personal time will require a sizeable and deliberate effort on our part.
It was as though the entire universe was going through a cleanse.
As Henry David Thoreau put it, ‘An early morning walk is the blessing for the whole day.’
We see examples of intolerance everywhere around us. More often than not, it is from a place of power and control. Those who don’t have power are rarely in a position to exercise intolerance. They are too busy trying to survive oppression.
Hope in Hell
A world that has become so fractured and violent belies the hope we have for a better world but if history is anything to go by, this too will change and we can only pray that all the sacrifice would have been worth it.
Is this what war feels like?
Maybe, this is what war feels like. We have witnessed it from afar in countries where war wages through the year, replete with shelling, gassing, dead bodies and blood. A war in which the eyes of the survivors reflect the pain of loss. Numb. Vacant. Sad.
And yet, there is something different about this war being waged in India. There is no blood. There is no sound. There is no warning of attack.
Maybe, this is what the Spanish flu pandemic felt like. Invisible but aggressive. Leaving death and loss in its wake.
And yet, there is something different about this pandemic. We are feeling the loss and the pain collectively. Sadness is a constant. For some, the loss is immediate and within the family. Close and terrifying. For others, it has almost come home but hasn’t quite crossed the threshold, yet. This pandemic is stained with fear and carries with it a sense of impending doom. It is imbued with guilt. It is heavy. And death is a mere statistic.
The air is acrid with the smell of death as it rises from burning pyres to fill our senses, choking us. It reminds us that many more lives will be sacrificed at the altar of greedy politicians, mismanagement and intractable ego. Many more miserable and desperate people will be exploited by the Big Pharma and the petty crooks all looking to line their pockets. Oblivious to misery until it strikes their homes. This is a politicised pandemic where the administration has forsaken its people. Where the government is intent on whitewashing its image to the point of callousness.
Helplessness has united us all as we move from message to message threads, tracking, locating, identifying, scrambling for oxygen, beds, drugs … chaos fills us and yet this is the only thing that may still save us. The chain of help that has been building steadily, creating a web of resources, reassurance and love. A soothing breath. A crutch for the abandoned.
While our soldiers in blue march on. Tired and overwhelmed.
What are these times we see today around us?
The nation heaves and gasps for air
As the regime rushes to whitewash away
Or look the other way.
Strangers come together to help and to hold
Misery colours all that we behold
Where is the national pride now?
As people wail in despair.
Other nations look aghast at our bloodied canvas
Murder holds India in her throes
As loss upon loss piles up of those we know and those we don’t know.
Let us pledge never to forget
Let us vow to help each other find our way out of this mess
The time has come for our Mann ki Baat
The time has come to say no more. No more. No more.
Atmanirbhar (Self dependent)
I woke up this morning to another depressing set of news headlines. Each news article brings with it anxiety and doubt. ‘Should I trust this as credible? Is this propaganda?’ I continue scrolling compulsively, unable to stop.
I then gravitate to social media for my daily fix of angst, despair and dark humour. That is, until the phone rings and the day descends into a vortex of vicariously lived trauma. A desperate hunt for Remdesivir. A mad search for a single hospital bed. A wild goose chase for oxygen cylinders. Panic. Fear. Burning pyres. Voices drenched with grief.
The word ‘atmanirbhar’ is a term designed specially for the benefit of the citizens of India by our esteemed government.
In this bid to gift us atmanirbharta … citizens of India are today scrambling for basics while policy makers and caretakers of the country try and pivot. Too little. Too late. The second covid-19 wave has us firmly in its grip.
People, even those with access and resources, are running from pillar to post to save their loved ones. Politicians are defining what we can or cannot have access to. People are being forced to negotiate cash payment for medicines, hospital admissions and test results with those who are exploiting this need for profit. So much for demonetisation. Savings are being cleaned out as people are forced to make decisions under pressure with no choice or say in the matter. The person on the street is struggling to stay safe while earning barely enough to feed their dependents.
The hospital staff is in tears. The laboratory staff is working sleeplessly for days on end swamped with covid tests. The health infrastructure can’t bear the weight of this unending surge.
The harsh, inescapable reality is that the virus has brought everyone to their knees.
India is today in an unenviable position. A country of 1.39 billion people. A heaving, gasping population unable to comprehend why there is no respite from this nightmare.
This is what we voted for. A casual cockiness by our well meaning leaders that set the tone and we all celebrated having beaten the virus. We became lax. Mumbai opened its huge suburban public train network. Packed stadiums for cricket matches were witnessed. Political leaders led by example and helmed political rallies without masks. The kumbh mela 2021, originally scheduled for 2022, was brought forward to appease the majority sentiment and stretched across weeks. A well thought through and researched introduction of farming bills was accompanied by a charming reticence to engage in talks. It resulted in an ongoing six month long battle of wills with farmers on the streets, fighting to have their voices heard. All this regardless of a virus that was waiting for its moment to attack.
This is what we voted for. Banging thalis and lighting diyas in support of the medical fraternity and crushing them carelessly under an unending stream of patients.
This is what we voted for. A massive gathering of people serving a political agenda at a time when globally established protocols require countries to be watchful, break the chain of contagion and allow the healthcare teams some breathing space.
This is what we voted for. An ambitious bunch of pied pipers who have led a devout vote bank towards devastation.
Another day draws to a close. I see an ambulance make its way silently down the road with only its lights flashing. We sit within our homes, the ones who are privileged to do so and watch the horror unfold. The less privileged are out there fighting every single day for survival. This is what we voted for.
Conspiracy of the Entitled
- Two colleagues casually discuss how women who get beaten up are usually those who enjoy violence.
- A woman comments on the skimpy clothing worn by her neighbour’s daughter. ‘Kuch hoga toh kiski zimmedari hogi?’
- Teenage boys share text messages talking about how they want to rape their classmate. It’s all one big joke.
- TV serials speak of maryada. This ‘maryada’ is a woman’s cross to bear.
- Strong, independent women are a bad influence. They have no morals. They must be put in their place.
- Social media is filled with ugly and venomous trolls who brazenly threaten and abuse women.
A woman lies brutalized, naked and half dead in the fields. She belongs to a marginalized section of society. 4 upper class men have allegedly gang raped her, cut off her tongue and broken her spine. She dies. Eventually. The entire government machinery conspires to hush it up. She is hurriedly cremated by the police while the family is locked up in their home. If this inhumane and cowardly act were not enough, the family is shamelessly threatened to change their statement by none other than the District Magistrate of Hathras. The media is prevented from entering the village. The forensic report magically mutates into one of violence and not rape … as if that makes everything ok. The arrogance and dismissiveness of the administration in all of this is astounding.
The story evolves to the point where it becomes an absolute farce. The family of the victim is kept under round the clock ‘protective’ surveillance. The family is then accused of committing an honour killing. The four accused submit a letter claiming they are innocent. One of the four accused just happened to be in the fields catching up with the girl on that fateful day as they were old friends. This friendship was apparently frowned upon by the girl’s family. In this cacophony of bizarre developments, we cannot lose sight of this one fact … the girl before dying gave a statement where she named the four accused Sandeep, Luvkush, Ram Kumar and Ravi, of raping her.
As this ridiculousness plays out, the upper class accused are being staged for an acquittal with the help of a well oiled administrative machinery designed to keep them ‘safe’.
This is just one instance but according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 87 (reported) rapes occur per day in India. The age of these women varies from 8 months to 86 years. How many of these get justice?
Which woman in her right mind will want to lodge a FIR if this is the treatment meted out to her and her family? The marginalized are being shown their place in the system. They are being reminded that they have no voice. They are being informed unequivocally that speaking up will have consequences.
As a society, we prefer discriminating and assigning roles. The men are the custodians, owners, managers, controllers, overseers. They are the moral compass. Their discretion and their power give them the license to kill. To maim. To rape. To sell. To buy. To terrorise. The woman is the commodity with no agency over her body, her thoughts, her opinions, her desires.
It is foolish to believe that deeply rooted prejudices in society will change overnight. However, it is also foolish to believe that when a section of society is beaten into submission and broken, it will forever remain defeated. This phoenix will rise from the ashes as the collective conscience of a dehumanized segment that has nothing more to lose. That day, there will be hell to pay.
Till then, the fact remains that a young girl of 19 passed away recently. She was grievously injured. She did not get timely medical treatment. She could not be saved.
Did she commit a crime? Did she deserve this treatment and did her death have to become a parody? Like most cases these days … the truth is obfuscated. The facts are realigned into a more convenient presentation. How ironic that Justice is a personified as a blindfolded woman. As for the dead … it’s a good thing they don’t live to see the travesty.