Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Random thoughts at the end of 2014

Another year is coming to an end but I can't get over the senselessness of much that happened in the year. 

Take for example, the news: on the one hand the TV and newspapers bring us reports of senseless but unending wars, of accidents, of hate, of killing and death, of people suffering  for no fault of theirs -- children left to fend for themselves, women and young girls raped and killed, men beheaded or simply bombed, and on the other hand the images of many of my friends happily going on holidays,  shopping, eating out, enjoying life with family and friends -- pretty pictures of upper middle-class prosperity and well-being. The contrast is particularly stark on platforms like FB where posts of chilling horror and misery can get unwittingly concatenated with posts portraying middle-class frivolousness and dissipation. These last days saw reports about the killings in Bodoland juxtaposed with pictures of partying and whole-hearted freaking out over Christmas.

And I asked myself -- what sort of a world do we live in? Has something gone wrong with us? Reminded me of Arundhati Roy's searing critique of the Indian middle classes whom she accuses of turning a blind eye to the country's poor in order to not have a bad conscience while going out partying. Of course it is clear my friends do not go partying to spite those who can't, they go simply because they can -- they can afford to do so. They are not stealing, not cheating, not killing, they are spending their own hard-earned money, fair enough. And for those who can't, well, bad luck. Try harder, maybe next time you can join us... But this will not do. If we agree that admitting that there is something to be done is the first step towards getting it done then since we are not ready to accept that the poor and the wretched exist, nothing can or will ever change for them... we are all guilty of looking away simply because it is too unpleasant not to; it is too much of a strain for our consciences. We are not ready to face the fact that if each one of us would be ready to do 'our bit' like the little bird that Satyarthi spoke about in his Nobel speech, things might get better, a lot better, for everyone, including us. Hence we look away and pretend that all is well with the world, our little worlds at least.

For at the end of the day, for days on end, how much of the same news can one take -- the people who die are different, the places and circumstances too, but they die all the same. So for a change, I watched an international circus competition going on in Monte Carlo on TV yesterday evening. The evening before I watched a French Ballet. These days the TV here often show the Ski Championships that are on in the Alps. I wondered about the vast amounts of disciplined hard work and concentrated practice that the participants of these events must have put in over many years to achieve that level of perfection, that level of mastery over their craft; there were some amazing acrobats and incredible performers from China at Monte Carlo, and I also wondered why there was not a single entry from India. Could it be that we as a nation are not good at anything that requires strict self discipline and arduous practice regimes and hard work over extended period of time? Maybe we had that kind of discipline at some point in the past (our rishis and munis are proof of that), but are gradually losing it in our impatience and need to produce quick results -- is that why these days we prefer limited overs cricket matches to test matches, pop songs to classical music, smart phones over land lines, imitation to invention?  

Let it be, you will say, our country does not support these activities -- how can anyone afford to excel in anything when one has to constantly worry about getting (and then keeping) a job and earning enough to be able to afford a decent life. Well... let us not start on that, for hand on heart, is it not also true that once we have a job we take it for granted and then try to get away with doing the least amount of work that the system will allow us to?  But back to the circus acrobats and ballet dancers -- why I think these are nice things to do, to engage with, is not only for their beauty and their artistry, but also because when a person is engaged in such a serious pursuit, he/she is so engrossed in it that there can be no danger that he/she might want to turn into  a terrorist or an insurgent and just take a plane and fly it into the Twin Towers, there can be no fear that he/she might get so disgruntled with his/her life that he decides to become God's little soldier and end his life as a suicide bomber.

It is not about winning a gold medal at Monte Carlo,  it is about finding something to do -- a vocation, a profession (or even a hobby) -- that would consume us, that would really engage our minds and keep us busy, that would allow us to develop our hidden talents. [A friend of mine has wild life photography as a hobby. And she takes beautiful photos. Between her job, her hobby and her family, she has no time left to take selfies or to sulk about how unfair the world is.] Now you will tell me that most of the ISIS soldiers are also engaged and busy and consumed by their hatred for the infidels. Yes, that is perhaps true -- so let me qualify the kind of activities I meant -- playing a musical instrument, or knitting, or making clay toys, or painting or flying a kite, or playing tennis or learning all the numbers in the telephone book.... see what I mean. ...Once we have found something we are good at, and can take pride in it, we would stop being restless, we would become a lot calmer. And that would probably lead to a decrease in the general levels of violence and aggression and madness around us.  And that would be good, wouldn't it?

So, it has been a rather confused argument, but two small resolutions to make for this new year: try to find a thing I like doing and am good at doing, and pursue it, get better at it, and keep honing it... who knows, some day it might get me even to Monte Carlo... and two, try not to look away but to do 'my bit' like the little bird did in the Satyarthi story...Happy New Year everyone...

1 comment:

  1. Liked reading your thoughts at the end of the year. The trouble with most of us is that since we resign ourselves to the fact that we cant ever be like Satyarthi we just avoid doing anything. The Talmud has a saying in Hebrew: Those who save one life . save mankind entire.
    Let us all try to help just one soul in distress and believe me mankind will be saved.