It was as though the entire universe was going through a cleanse.
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.
People do not die from suicide, they die from sadness.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide has deeply affected many of us. At a time when everyone is being forced to introspect and to face their demons, there is a feeling of fragility being experienced by many.
It’s not just sadness. It is this feeling of connecting with a person standing on the edge of a precipice and trying to understand what he must have been feeling. Suddenly, you’re not sure of what you see on the surface. Suddenly, you realise that there is so much that goes on within that is unfathomable … an overwhelming sense of being adrift, lonely and forlorn. Driven to the point of stepping off a precipice.
Today, there is this big, urgent, unprecedented pause where everyone is flailing, trying to hold on to what they have always known but being compelled to release and let go. The vacant pause is becoming larger and the fog is still not showing any signs of lifting. The earth has tilted on its axis and nothing much makes sense anymore.
At a time like this, SSR has become a symbol of collective pain and collective consciousness. The question WHY reverberates and echoes. Again. Again. And again. Carrying with it millions of personal stories that have found a connection with this one act.
This pain that so many struggle with, disturbing and unsettling as it is, moving away from judgement maybe the first step in the right direction.
The New World is coming
Breaking habits is hard but with this months long, enforced lockdown and a broken economy we will all find ourselves moving towards some changes in our lifestyles and in our social and political structures. A few that come to my mind are :
Reducing the stress on over populated cities
Less global and more local
Building outlying satellite towns and making them autonomous and independent
Flattening hierarchies, helping rebuild smaller businesses
Adoption of a global digital currency
Kick starting our agriculture and farming on a priority basis
Investing in health care
Digital transformation will pick up pace. Simplifying tasks so they can be attributed to tech and robotics and thus free up time to innovate and create a new world order.
Appreciating and acknowledging the co-dependence between man and nature. Nurturing our planet and the environment.
Collaborations and task teams will take precedence over monopolistic leaders and organisations.
Most importantly, we will see global citizens rise in a wave against the existing inequities and work towards building a common future. As we can see the pandemic was the first blow to setting our house in order. War, injustice, hatred, apathy, divisiveness are all being aggravated. All that is negative is coming to the surface and showing us a mirror to our ugliness. It will eventually be replaced by a new world order but not before the planet and its people have paid a price to learn these lessons.
The world in pause mode
It’s difficult to wrap my head around what we are experiencing today. Just a month ago it was life as I had always known it. Stepping outside of the door was never accompanied by a jolt of fear or doubt. It was just something you did unthinkingly as you set out and about.
Today, I worry about my car as its stands unused like the others in the car park. The cars are all washed regularly. They gleam and glint like showpieces but the tyres are slowly losing air.
The park has a huge padlock at the gate. It looks verdant, peaceful and alive. Not a single human is visible but birds are reclaiming their territory with evident delight.
The air is filled with bird song and eerie quiet. There is no honking. No traffic sound. No chatter of people. No motorbikes driving through noisily without their silencers. No lovers hidden in the folds of the lanes. No fitness obsessed people jogging with single minded intent. No flights roaring overhead.
The outdoors are calm. Deserted. Surreal. And yet they seem to be in a state of regeneration. The buildings, on the other hand, pulse with hidden energy. You expect them to explode with all that suppressed fear they are holding within them. Each apartment brimming with people 24/7. Reined in. Restricted. Locked down.
Where am I? What is this place? How did we get here? There is a feeling of inevitability to the life we are all suddenly leading. That breathless, endless surge of people through the cities, rocking back and forth between home and work has ceased. Completely. We have been forced to retract, retrace. To pull back and stop. The machines have ground to a halt. The malls have shut.
And yet the world has come alive. Were it not for the lonely deaths and the rapidly spreading contagion, the pressure on the medical teams and the local governments, the absolute halt of the economy … I swear, you could hear an underlying strain of melody. There’s a faint tremor to the note but it’s pure and sharp. And it’s fighting its way through. I can feel the world straining to rise like a phoenix from the ashes … and when it does … what an enthralling sight it will be.
Till then … stay safe.