One of India’s most popular writers, Shobhaa De has seen it all: life as a model, a copywriter, a journalist, a socialite, a scriptwriter, a bestselling novelist and a busy mother of six children. “Politically Incorrect”, which has been appearing as a column in The Times of India, carries her sharp observations on politics, society, economy and relationships. LESS … MORE
In this brand-new year, let’s pump up the positivity and raise a glass to a beautiful 2021. Beautiful, in every way. In a real way.
While a pale pink pearly dawn breaks over the distant horizon, I find myself singing an old Hindi film song: “Dekh tere sansar ki halat kya ho gayi Bhagwan…Kitna badal gaya insaan…” It’s an evergreen song from the 1954 film ‘Nastik’ (The Atheist), a crime drama written and directed by the irrepressible I S Johar. We all asked god exactly this question in the year just gone — we urged Him to take a good, hard look at the state of the earth, while we lamented on how mankind had changed. It has changed irrevocably, and one fervently hopes, for the better. Since most of us had no choice but to stay cold sober this New Year’s Eve, unless of course you were Bollywood love birds
celebrating in Ranthambore, our thoughts turned to ourselves.
By default, this has been a year designed for introspection. Given the universal state of despair and panic, as the pandemic raged on and on and on, people started on a journey that was entirely unplanned — a long, tumultuous one within their own selves. They arrived at places they did not know existed. Speaking personally, it was one hell of a ride! What started off as a distraction to keep dark, morbid Covid thoughts at bay, turned into an adventure, an exploration — scary and thrilling at the same time. Not sure how many of you experienced ‘insignificance’ and ‘smallness’, but I did.
Compared to the scale of global mass devastation and so many deaths — my life shrank and shrank — in a good way. In the larger scheme of things, we all figured how very inconsequential our pedestrian concerns were. A heightened state of awareness generated mixed feelings — anxiety on one hand, and liberation on the other. We were freed from the pettiness of our daily insecurities. We asked ourselves tough questions, and all those trivial preoccupations of the past slunk away guiltily, leaving us feeling that much lighter.
My biggest learning involved waste. Waste in a larger context. Time became the most precious commodity — who knew how much time was left for each one of us? I became possessive and frugal about my waking hours. Figuring out how best to maximise the one resource (time) that cannot be either bought, borrowed or stretched, made me consciously cut, cut, cut. We all became great editors of our own narratives. We ruthlessly chopped non-essentials — this included people. So many important but tricky decisions that had been kept on hold for decades became crystal clear as we pruned all the annoyances and irritations, the blocks and barriers. Time became an extravagance, a luxury beyond any other. Yes, there was loss — so many of us dealt with the deaths of people we loved. Memories started playing games, as did a surfeit of information. How much more could we possibly absorb?
No matter who propounded which theory, the virus was one step ahead of us all. The French have a lovely expression, c’est la vie. It is mandatory to shrug while uttering these words. It is true, life is what it is, what it has always been, what it will continue to be. We poor creatures will have to adapt and change. Why not? A hard lesson has been learnt by the world. The vaccine will be here shortly. It will provide just one of the answers for our survival, not all. We will certainly beat the virus, and any mutant that shows up. What is equally imperative is for us to change our wretched ways and think anew.
Enough has been said about the environment and how we have abused the very matter that sustains us and nurtures life. If we don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘respect’ now, we will have learnt absolutely nothing during the pandemic. But we are not that stupid, right? We are like cockroaches — we survive! And like cockroaches, we crawl out of dark spaces when required — to find food, find partners, mate, reproduce. We are hard to crush, even when a heavy boot lands on us. During these past months, when everything appeared pretty hopeless, I channelled my inner cockroach and scurried about in my restricted space, confident that I would make it to the other side. The tragedy being, so many didn’t.
To all those who lost loved ones, and to all our courageous frontline workers, 2020 belongs to you. We are alive, thanks to you. It’s a debt that can never be fully repaid. We shall go forth from this point onwards, stronger, wiser, healthier — the journey has just begun. Here’s to a gorgeous new year! I am singing Michael Jackson’s immortal anthem as I write this: “Heal the world…make it a better place…for you and for me and the entire human race… there are people dying…if you care enough for the living… make it a better place… for you and for me.”
Views expressed above are the author’s own.