It Is A Strange Time To Be A Young Citizen Of The World
I woke up on Tuesday morning to see pictures of a terribly smoggy Delhi skyline and the Yamuna River covered in foam. As someone who has lived in Delhi for most of my life, I have seen Delhi go through its share of floods, heavy fog, heavy rains, cold and heat waves, but I have never seen something like this. The day began with disbelief seeing these heart breaking photos of the National Capital – a city I have seen growing and grown up in myself.
The last time I visited Delhi towards the end of July, it seemed like the number of vehicles on the road and in the city has just soared over night. The trees on and around the roads stood stiff, with layers of dust resting on their leaves. Despite having lived in the city for several years I have never seen things like this. The city that I call home is today in such circumstances that considering moving back for better opportunities or to be closer to family is not an option. What point are great opportunities and living in one of the best cities in the world when the air there is so unbreathable that it could kill you? Seeing those images with smog hanging in the air, poor visibility and a frothing Yamuna had set the tone of gloom for my day.
The same evening, I refreshed the news related tabs on my screen – something I do every 15 minutes given my fear of missing out on any important or breaking news. The screen flashed ‘Breaking News: PM to address nation at 8pm today’ – something felt unusual because there were no prior reports of it. There were reports of the PM meeting the Army, Navy and Air force chief that morning and I thought the address may be in that regard, or well… another PR gimmick. I messaged my friend to inform her to see it, she replied saying ‘is he going to declare emergency?’ The question didn’t seem bizarre at all, seeing the current developments across the country and the world – if emergency was announced it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Partly excited, partly anxious my friends and I watched the PM’s address, neither of us being very fluent in the Hindi, we struggled to follow the well scripted speech. Half way through his speech, as he announced without even a slight change of tone or expression that notes of 500 and 1000 will be demonetised starting mid – night, all three of looked at each other confirming if what we had understood was correct. It seemed absurd - at half past 8, with the day almost coming to an end, while several people were returning from work or still at work, at the gym, out for a walk, already a sleep or doing whatever else one may do at that hour of the evening, the PM with no prior information was announcing that the highest currency notes of the country will be illegal starting the next day - which was less than four hours away. Three of us sat listening to the speech and as it slowly sunk in, we realised we should go withdraw cash from the ATM before the address ends and it gets crowded. By the time we got to the ATM there were queues beginning to form already, some machines were only dispensing 500’s and 1000’s and some had already stopped working. On returning home, I checked my wallet which is when it really hit me. I had one 500 and eights 10s. At around 9 that evening, I had 580 rupees and I had been told that in three hours from now I will have only 80 left because the 500 will no longer be recognised. After having engaged in intellectually break downing what had just happened – the economics and politics of it; we called it a day, retiring to our beds in disbelief and still attempting to process what had happened, wondering where we will get change for cash transactions the next day and anxiously awaiting the results of the US Presidential Election 2016 to be announced in the morning.
This year’s US Presidential Election, it is known and has been reported to have caused a lot of mental and emotional distress among individuals, given the two candidates - their backgrounds and history. World over there has been keen interest in these elections since whatever the result maybe and the run up to the election has been unprecedented and historic, just as the result.
I message my father expressing my disappointment and outrage at the election result next morning, he replied saying ‘the world has survived worse, it will survive this too…’, that is when it struck me. Being a citizen of the world today has been reduced to mere survival. Socially, politically, culturally, economically and environmentally all we are doing is surviving. In an era where knowledge and technology are abundant and more than ever before, all we are doing each day is surviving. At present there seem to be very few places in the world where people are truly living. Everywhere else people are only surviving – surviving war, drought, communalism, the rise of fascism, failing economies, environmental destruction and catastrophes; even our socio – cultural histories and heritage are struggling for survival in this age of rapid homogenisation and consumerism.
It deeply saddens me to see the current state of affairs across the world, especially as a young citizen of the world. The socio – cultural, economic, ecological and political systems – several of which were set up before I was born and some while I was too young, govern the dynamics of the present world we live in and will decide the future course of this same world. Despite the aching desire to change what is going on around us, the future for our generation seems bleak with wars over water; drought hit lands, rising right wing forces and bottled fresh air.
As a young citizen of the world, it is a strange time to be living in – there is so much you want to change and so much you want to do and yet there is nothing that you can. Our futures have been predestined by flawed individuals, systems and structures of the past and all we have is an illusion of agency and free will.