2020 - A Dream Year
Not forgettable at all
As the year comes to an end, a shower of writing has emerged on how depressing the year has been. Some have called it "grim". Others, a "forgettable 2020" and the delusional have labelled it "the worst year ever". I would say that this is baloney. Seldom does a year give an amazing variety of opportunities to not do much, to stay at home in comfort and watch a distant world struggle with essentials or to let others do things for you.
Take for instance, this wonderful law that the state of UP has just created to regulate inter-faith marriages. Ignorant people have called it the "love jihad law" or the draconian "entering the bedroom law". Nonsense! Parents of every generation have dreaded their children coming home with strangers and introducing them as their future life partners. This law provides an opportunity to remind them gently "Have you consulted the State? Please do take its approval, before you come to us".
The State, being run by wise elders, will no doubt do a thorough job of vetting these strangers and coming up with fair recommendations. This could also be an opportunity for businesses like Shaadi.com or Bharatmatrimony.com to become service providers for the government . They can create new profitable revenue streams, and potentially employ millions of youth who can be engaged in regular surveillance of unmarried people and in due diligence of their suitability for the proposed matrimonies.
Hopefully we will see new laws on segregation of children in schools based on religion and caste as well as laws on segregating people in different quarters of the cities. Even corporations could do their bit and employ people of faiths that are similar to those of the founders. All this should help in keeping the menace of "inter faith marriages" or "marriages of choice" under control.
The year began with these strangely misguided women gathering to protest the new Citizenship laws. They had erroneously assumed that the State was not thinking in their best interests and that a graded citizenship was not good for the nation's future. This was quickly corrected through various interventions in JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, etc, allegedly the hubs of these activities.
These interventions gave us spectacular Reality TV, and provided opportunities for some great poetry, song and comic acts. Overnight, a chap called Faiz, despite being from Pakistan, became a household name. The land that was otherwise only a target of surgical strikes, is now being seen in a new light, giving hope to a new era of neighbourly relations! Then came this Corona thing. A lot has been written about it. About the crippling of normal lives, the high mortality numbers, the prison like lockdowns, the loss of jobs, etc. Bugs and diseases will come and go. But how many times in our lives will we get opportunities to witness events on a Himalayan scale, such as:
- The brave migration of millions from cities to their villages, proving how fit Indians generally are and how like camels in the desert, they can go for long periods without food and water. Can you imagine the potential this has created for India in future Olympic games? The State has wisely decided against pampering them with excessive free rations. This will ensure that their endurance levels do not suffer
- Over a billion people in India now understand diseases and epidemics, vitamins, nutrition and health, how drugs are made, how clinical trials are done, how results are assessed and how to evaluate which drugs will help you. They can now intelligently advise their doctors on what they need and how they should be treated. Should there be more pandemics, a few hundred million standby doctors are now available to lend a helping hand
- Despite a few million losing their jobs, the Indian stock markets have performed fabulously. No doubt spurred by the modest speculations of these very unemployed people who are trying to put their savings to work and stay productive. I am looking forward to many more Big Bulls emerging from this amazing Bull run.
There was a brief distraction when the country mistakenly believed that it had lost territory to a belligerent China. The Honourable Supreme Leader was quick to reassure the nation that no one had entered the Indian territory. While the deaths of a few soldiers on that border will remain a mystery, it was great fun boycotting all things Chinese. I fulfilled my patriotic duty by boycotting yellow skinned emojis and supporting dark skinned Indian ones.
The US elections have also done their fair bit in our intellectual evolution in 2020. The results of the elections are not important. What gives us hope and joy is that:
- Anybody, really anybody, irrespective of his intellect, emotional maturity, civility and standing in society can become a leader and can convince as many as 75 million people to follow his path - a shining example of "equal opportunity".
- There are creative ways to challenge any law, any norm, any institution or fix any problem or create any narrative by intelligent use of alternate facts. This is an inspiration for even ordinary, mortal souls (like me) to pursue creative writing, film making, citizen journalism and indeed politics.
- The "Kemcho" event in Gujarat will remain a shining example of valour, when a hundred thousand people braving disease and epidemic came together to express their affection and respect for two great souls, urging them to take the world to newer heights. It has subsequently inspired many such gatherings in temples and in election rallies.
Many from the educated elite continued to get an experience of prison life. Hauled up for speaking, they came from all walks of life - they were poets, writers, journalists, lawyers, students and even a pregnant lady. No doubt they have now accumulated a rich understanding of the lives of the incarcerated. One can only hope that we may get some suggestions on prison reform as well as some captivating autobiographies in future. These people should not be confused with the several million in the state of Kashmir, who met with a similar fate but in the warmth of their own homes.
The pandemic provided the State an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the environment and to sustainable development. In a daring move, the same Minister ran both the Environment and Industry ministries and proposed a brilliant Environmental Impact Assessment policy. It removed all barriers for new industries so that they could be set up quickly. Plantations were added to the definition of "Forests" and "Cubs" were added to the numbers of adult wildlife , while de-notifying excessively large and wasteful wild spaces for industrial development. Goa in the Western Ghats, The Nilgiris and the Elephant corridors in the Eastern Ghats and Uttarakhand have received special attention. All this will ensure we come out tops in meeting our Paris Climate Change Goals.
The recent Farmer protests are trying to disprove our long held notion that our food comes from supermarkets. In this process, a whole new world has opened out to us - of Minimum Support Prices, APMC mandis, Public Distribution Systems, crop rotation, crop insurance and much more - all fascinating concepts.
We have also got exposed to these langars - the example of Sikh generosity, which leads one to this puzzling question - why ask for higher crop prices, when one can afford to do langars for all? Anyway, the scenes of farmers having pizzas, sitting in massage chairs and communicating in English were inspiring. We have come a long way from the "Do Bigha Zameen" type of farmers of yore, that had captured our collective imagination.
The year also provided handsome opportunities to explore our digital selves - Video conferencing with colleagues, friends and family, sharing sunset pictures and videos of wildlife, freely encroaching our urban spaces, sharing recipes of food we would otherwise never have explored and binge watching crime dramas on streaming media.
Harshad Mehta re-entered our lives and convinced us that "Risk hai to Ishq hai". Real life courtroom dramas had a heavy duty motorcycle and a one rupee coin feature prominently in the plot.
Will 2021 be as much fun?
Chandru Chawla has a normal day time job and writes at night to keep his insanity intact
Derek Monteiro is a laidback artist, poet and composer, who dabbles in jazz to annoy and disperse pesky pigeons on his windowsill.
Cover Illustration Derek Monteiro