Yes, I know, it is customary to make Christmas wishes and New Year resolutions. But this year, I am going to go all contrary on you and compile a wish list for New Year rather than yet another dreary set of resolutions (that are broken within a month of being made, anyway). So, if you would indulge me just this once, here’s what I would like for 2015.
* The certainty that every child who sets off to school in his or her freshly laundered uniform, satchel carelessly slung on the shoulder, gets to come back home alive, dishevelled and dirty, covered with the mud from the schoolyard – not doused in his or her own blood or indeed, the blood of classmates butchered before his or her shocked eyes.
* The guarantee that every religion gets a place in the sun in our great country. That everyone – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi – is allowed to celebrate their festivals without the government muscling in to hijack their day for its own agenda. And that, in keeping with our secular ethos, we take the same pleasure and joy in celebrating each other’s festivals that we do in celebrating our own.
* That women finally get what has always been their right: safety in public places. That they can walk the streets without being jostled and jeered at. That they ride in buses, metros and trains without being groped. That they can drink in pubs without being leered at or propositioned. That they can take a taxi back home and fall asleep in the back seat, secure in the knowledge that they will not be molested, robbed or raped by the driver. (If you would like this too, then check out a movement called Why Loiter, and do your own bit to make our cities safer for women.)
* That the assorted sadhus and sadhvis who litter our political landscape realise that they can only use these honorifics if they actually undertake ‘sadhana’. And that is only possible if they renounce the material world and retreat to the realm of spirituality instead. (If that’s asking for too much, I would quite happily settle for some of them just going on a ‘maun vrat’ for the next five years or so.)
* That religious conversions – no matter which faith is being renounced or embraced – are recognised and respected for what they should be: a genuine change of heart that leads to a change of religion. And that assorted religious bodies – be they Hindu, Muslim or Christian – stop trying to shore up their numbers by resorting to bribes, inducements, money, special favours, or simply, brute force and blackmail.
* That we finally call a spade a bloody shovel. Anyone who kills innocents for a political cause is a terrorist, no matter what religion he takes his inspiration from. So, the men who terrorised the city of Mumbai on 26/11 are not ‘gunmen’; they are terrorists. The men who massacred 132 schoolchildren in Peshawar are not ‘Taliban’ (which, rather ironically, translates to students); they are terrorists. The Bodo group which went on a rampage in Assam and killed 78 people are not ‘militants’; they are terrorists. Let’s not mince our words when it comes to violence on innocents.
* The realisation that we cannot achieve a clean India – a Swachh Bharat – by just posing with a broom in streets strewn with specially procured dirt, while the TV cameras zoom in for a close-up. Sanitation and hygiene are incredibly complex issues. We need to discuss not just how to collect the dirt but also how to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.
We need to focus on cleaning not just our cities but also our rivers. But most importantly, we need to work on changing the mindset of our people. Yes, those very people who think nothing of cleaning up their houses and throwing the rubbish on the street outside; those who spit whenever they feel like, wherever they feel like; or those who drive expensive cars but feel no embarrassment in throwing litter out of the window as they speed past.
* But most of all, what I really want for 2015, is peace and harmony. Peace between nations. Harmony between religions. Camaraderie between people no matter what their faith or nationality. And an end to the cycle of senseless violence that we have seen in 2014.
I know. It is a very tall order, indeed. And I know at a subliminal level, that I am doomed to disappointment in 12 months time. But how else do you enter a new year, except with a hope and a prayer? And the fervent desire that this time round, things will be much better.
From HT Brunch, January 4, 2015
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