HOW about starting with the basic question: what is ‘new’ about the New Year? What about the corona-virus Pandemic, you might well be tempted to answer? There is no denying that you do have a point! In our world, besotted as it is with such pestilences as globalization, global warming, the ‘war on terror’, not to forget the United (paper over the cracks) Nations, everything appears to be going round and round in circles at a dizzying speed without actually getting anywhere. Every so often, when a perspicacious person has the time and energy to look around, there is an all pervasive feeling of déjà vu. So what else is new? Harking back to the hullabaloo about the “New” Year, one wonders if the world has shed its handicaps or even made a beginning towards this end, while ‘entering’ this particular Year? Not by a long shot! If anything, life on this blessed planet is becoming more complicated by the day. An already confused world is constantly faced with a situation that is worse confounded. This would hardly be an irrational complaint given the all-pervasive scenario where all appears to be going round and round in circles without actually getting anywhere.
Going back to where one began, what is so sacrosanct about a date anyway? Why is everybody rushing around to speculate about things about to “happen” in the New Year? Soothsayers are up to their old tricks again: predicting the way things will move in 2021. Doomsday merchants are dusting up their old charts and setting fresh dates for the Armageddon to come. Nearer home, volumes will be published containing weighty(?) theses about what will happen in 2021, all while the country is still inextricably entangled in the webs of pestilences such as – among others – corruption, dhardas, NRO’s and the like!
The ongoing battle between the ‘liberal brigade’ and their erstwhile nemesis is still far from over. After all those years, those who matter are tying themselves up in knots in a well-publicized exercise to ‘revisit’ our relations with our ‘strategic ally’. Relations with our neighbour towards the east are still up in the air, the myriad erstwhile CBMs notwithstanding. The Indian government seems to be in a tizzy in a determined effort to up the ante. Add to this the threats of a ‘water-war’ and you have a situation that is getting murkier by the day. All this the New Year will inherit, not to talk of the several other ancillaries picked up along the way. So what else is new?
The country’s planners – such as there are – continue to play ducks and drakes with the nation’s requirements of electricity, gas and water resources. The chasm between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is widening further. Well-endowed and well-fed politicians do not tire of calling for a ‘revolution’; and sinister words like ‘total shut down’ and ‘dharna’ have overtaken ‘tsunami’ in a brand new connotation. Try as he might, the common man fails to understand where this will all lead, if anywhere. All to what end? The one query that readily comes to the mind of the common man is what is he expected to do in all this state of man-made confusion? His main concern of keeping body and soul together does not find honorable mention in any political or other manifesto. The mirage of family planning – on programs for which countless millions have been expended over decades – has melted away leaving behind the morass of lopsided developmental policies. The national priorities, meanwhile, have gone horribly awry. One can hardly decide whether own up that our failings are due to our own incompetence or to shift blame on to the IMF, a body that conveniently has a finger in every pie.
No one is the least concerned as to where the country is headed, if anywhere. Why should he not be surprised, then, if everyone and his uncle claim to posses the panacea for all ills? Who can blame the Man in the Street for looking askance at all promises tossed in his direction; while, at the same time, hoping against hope that at least some few will be honoured. His experience tells him otherwise, yet he continues to cling on to the shreds of hope since that is his wont. Looking at it from another perspective, that is precisely what has kept him going all this while!
But let’s be rational. It would not do to look at just the dark side of things. Some developments do present dim vision of a silver lining of sorts. Two examples: the world, despite its suicidal forays led by the powers that be, appears to be desperately endeavoring to acquire the habit of peaceful protest; hopefully some of it would rub off on this blessed land too! Back home, the cricket eleven of late did give some glimpses of behaving more like a team; less like a motley group of disparate individuals as hitherto. But that, as they say, is neither here nor there! It may not be such a bad idea to resolve to shun negative thoughts and start counting one’s blessings in the New Year. But, like all things desirable, that is easier said than done. Meanwhile, here’s hoping for the best. And wishing a very happy New Year to all!
— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.