Mar 30, 2020

The End

The last few years have been tough.
But let's admit it - The last few days have been harder.

5 days ago, our PM did it again. He delivered a primetime speech, filled with enough anecdotes that included breaking Corona into an interesting acronym, to shut down our country. 
Yes, we had to shut down. Because let's face it. Our healthcare infrastructure is not prepared to handle an epidemic, let alone a pandemic.
Yes, we need to do what we need to do to prevent India from becoming a powder keg for the deadly virus.

My beef is with the way our PM does this. Sure, this virus much like black-money and corruption needs be to nipped and tough measures need to be taken. 
Like demonetization, he gave a country of 1.2 billion just 4 hours to shut down and stay home for 21 days. 
He had to be seen taking a tough and a much-needed stand. He had to be seen in control. 
But what ensued was utter chaos. Today, he came out with guns blazing defending his decision. Who else thinks our PM hasn't learned any lesson yet. 

Thousands of cities and towns across India has seen a crisis on the scale of what happened when Partition happened. Millions of people scrambled to stock up on essentials and more. Often stripping shelves bare. The early birds got the ready-to-eat packets and then more. The later birds were lathi-charged and if they were lucky, stood in lines 2 meters apart for hours to get milk and the bare necessities. I know because I stood in a line for 3 hours myself. 

And we're the lucky ones. 

The millions of migrants that build and run India heard half the first half, panicked, picked themselves, and ran. For their lives. It was either stay home and starve to death or flee and die in transit. For millions, this is still the prevailing truth. 

To the millions (in India, and billions across the world) who aren't quarantining themselves, declaring their travel history, or are otherwise continuing with their daily lives with a cavalier attitude I wonder- 
What will it take for them to take this outbreak seriously?

Where the politicians left, our media cued in with their own brand of paranoia and fed on the collective fear of apocalypse. Astrologers and your helpful chatty neighbor have been having a field day predicting all sorts of bullshit. 

But enough of the negativity.
As the world learns to stay, work, and play from home, I want this post to help you count your blessings. I know I do.

  • Most importantly, I am thankful that I am healthy (at the time of writing this post). I ask that you join me in silent prayer for the lakhs who are fighting this virus.
  • I am thankful millions like me can work from home. Unlike the tens of millions more who cannot. It would have been unimaginable to work from home even 15 years ago. Today, I don't even have to step out of my home to be productive. 
  • I am thankful that we have a roof over our heads. A safe haven. Unlike the millions in countries like Syria and Iraq and the millions of refugees, the homeless, the disenfranchised, and the persecuted. Apart from making sure we stay safe and clean, we don't have to worry about a drone or a missile strike killing us when we least expect it.
  • I am thankful, and this is for the millions who are actually taking this seriously, that we have the mental and emotional awareness of what we are going through and the gravity of the situation. Unlike those suffering from mental illness or are otherwise unable to understand why their worlds have suddenly changed.
  • I am thankful that I have the intellect to discern information from propaganda. I am glad I question and like to verify the facts instead of consuming every piece of information we're fed now. Being able to separate the fake from the truth is such a valuable trait. 
  • I am thankful that I have the money to buy what I'll need to ride this wave. I silently pray for the millions who aren't sure if they will be alive in 30 days from now.
  • I am thankful that my family, friends, coworkers, and loved ones are safe. I can't imagine the grief of those who lost someone close to their hearts at a time like this.
  • I am thankful that I am able to stay in touch with all my loved ones. I am thankful for all the love and prayers. I am alive only because of your prayers and I hope to be able to return all the love I've got.
  • I am thankful that we have millions of people who are doing what they need to do so that I can write and you can read this post. I am thankful to all the millions who are keeping our cities and towns powered, sewage clear, and water running. Asians, unlike our western cousins, don't use TP.
  • I am thankful that we have doctors and healthcare professionals working round the clock doing everything humanly possible to heal the sick, save the dying, and immunize the rest of us. 
  • I am glad we still have millions of good Samaritans helping our communities stay afloat, at these times. Cooking, cleaning and doing everything else we cannot (or would not) do. 
  • I am thankful that I am able to spend more time with my loved ones at home. I regret not spending enough time with my dad in his final years. I don't want to regret not spending time with family anymore. I am thankful for technology that enables us to be as connected as ever, even during an unprecedented crisis like this, to everyone and everything that matters. 
  • I am thankful we have stopped polluting our skies and clogging our roads, even if it is for a brief moment. Can I say how wonderful it is to wake up to birds chirping rather than the horns blaring?
  • I am thankful for this time of quiet introspection and solitude. Unlike the millions whose lives have changed forever.
  • ...

This list is long.
But you get the drift right. I want our rally cry to be one where we are positively encouraging. We can't shut all the negativity out, but we sure can drown them.

Recently a client of my company said something that struck me as profound - She was relating how she likes to end every conversation, digital or otherwise, by saying 'Choose Joy'. I was inspired. 
Like a lowly candle tearing into the darkness, I want to raise my voice. This time for more goodness. I choose joy.

And beginning with this post, I've decided to not write politics and social satire anymore. 
My readers get more than their daily recommended dosage of that from other sources online and offline.

I'm retiring my brand of satire here because I've grown weary of readers sending me veiled threats. 

Starting as soon as next week, I'll be back. With the renewed focus of a little candle in the darkness. 

Until then, stay safe and be thankful for the little joys of life. 

Feb 27, 2020

When we fear...

They say age is just a number.
As I get to the big four O, I both agree and disagree.
I don't feel forty but I'm not as fearless as I was. 

It's all in the mind they say. But is the mind weary or are you willing to celebrate the glass half full?

The decade that just passed has been tumultuous. As someone who follows politics, regional and otherwise, I've been getting sicker.

Modi with his unique brand of statesmanship has done a fair enough sleight of hand tricks to retain the voting majority. 

We have morphed into a nation where freedom of speech has become a precious nonrenewable resource.
Like slow-cooked frogs, we neither have the muscle to rise up nor the money to keep our fight focused. 
As politicians openly campaign for violence against those who don't share their political enthusiasm, I lament.

I've stayed quiet for the better part of the past decade fearing frivolous lawsuits and death threats from people who don't believe in the basic tenets that made up our great country. 

Politicians will beat their chests with fervent patriotism and claim India has never invaded another country in history, but why invade when we can implode from within. 

To be fair, I like Modi's style of brute force statesmanship. 
I like how he is the hugging saint of politicians. 
I like how he has got people talking about India. 
I like how he can rally his troops just by using words. 
I like how he has the political will to get what he wants.
I like how he has the political majority to do what he wills.
I like how he is fiercely loyal to Gujarat.
I like how he is conscious of his image, political and otherwise.
I admire the Chanakya in him. 

But that's about it.

I don't like how he has dismantled our society, which was delicately held together by common complaints and joys of daily living. 
I don't like how he destroys his political opponents.

But that's not all...

I intensely hate how he can allow people to die. Yes, I have a strange sense of deja vu knowing how Modi feasted with Trump when barely a few km away, the city was burning. 
I am aghast at how he could allow people to kill each other and be silent about it. 
I am appalled at how he could allow politicians within his party to openly call for genocide and not flinch. 
I am surprised we haven't removed politicians who feed us with hate, while we arrest citizens who call them out.
Image result for delhi violence
As the country burns in pockets and patches of violence, our Premier is busy getting ready to win the next election, preparing for the next luncheon meeting with a foreign leader, or trying to schmooze another billionaire.

As Modi grooms his successor and India looks like it is doomed unless we rise in a way we haven't in 70 years, I am overcome with a sense of dread. 

The silver lining in the cloud is - Modi isn't the worst. We've got Shah coming in next. 
We've got golden girl Pragya Thakur.
We've got stud muffin Yogi Adityanath.
Can India survive the onslaught?

The irony in closing:
I am amused Modi had to build a wall to cover up slums from the sacrosanct gaze of the Don. After all, we were always told tall tales of his Gujarat model of progress. 

Well, atleast Don got his wall.

And I step into 40 with a sense of pending doom. With the way things are going, I may soon become the religious minority that our PM is trying to prosecute shield. 

“Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it's way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father,

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