New 12 months wishlist

Keki Daruwalla

LORD, before the New Year dawns, I get my wishlist ready. Christmas intervenes, I mean Good Governance Day, as so felicitously re-phrased by Madam Minister. I never ask Santa Claus to intercede. I come straight to you. Firstly Lord, let there be less noise on the streets, television and legislatures. Less slogans, for all slogans are half-truths, if not downright lies. No one can encapsulate what is good for the world in three words, or four? Utopia may not be a long word, but it stretches right out of our gravitational fields into space.

Let the coming year be one of open rather than closed doors, which means more openings through windows and skylights. Open doors mean more light and vision, more compassion, more appreciation of antagonists and their views, more sightings of the moon, more cracks visible in governmental shibboleths, and in propaganda, better reading of the past and of history. Let history be history and not myth. And let myths belong to children and to Amar Chitra Katha.

May I wish that Covid-19 is eliminated in 2021, all the havoc it has wreaked, may it be a thing of the past. We may live without masks in an unmasked future. May the wet markets in Wuhan and other Chinese cities be closed forever. Humanity has faced the Black Death, which left such a scar on collective memory that people thought that as the year 1500 dawned, the world could come to an end. During the Black Death, people huddled together in terror — so death had a feast. This time we are wiser and hence sticking to social distancing. May we be allowed to resume our lives — meaning steadily ruin our planet. No, let sense be dinned into our heads. In this vast, ever-expanding universe, it is the only planet where life exists. May we keep it safe.

Back to some semblance of simplicity, would be another wish. To give examples Lord, a Rajdhani Express rather than a bullet train, the same old New Delhi vistas and Parliament House rather than the new ones, the same Safdarjung Road premises for the PM rather than another one. May our leaders realise that we are a poor country and our economy is bedevilled by Covid as well as our poor policies. And less of these corporate honchos muscling around. I went to attend a seminar in Gujarat, Lord, and found a ship docked at an Adani seaport. The seminar was on a naval ship. Seaports and airports with corporate honchos, Lord! Took me by surprise.

May I wish for the safety of children, no beating them into conformity. Less of learning by rote. More of creativity, more laughter in their arduous process of learning. Let TV anchors give news rather than expel their prejudices and hate. Let a Hindu male and a Muslim woman, or a Muslim man and a Hindu woman live in peace without sucking up to some DM, SP or sundry thanedars.

Going back to nature for a while, is not such a bad idea. More respect for trees and plants. Another wish Lord, though the majoritarians ain’t gonna like it. Minorities need care, they are smaller in number, or they would not have been minorities. The Rohingya are being shifted to an island by the Bangladesh government, which has stood by them for these last few years, when even Aung San Suu Kyi ignored them. What is their fault? They are Muslims among a landmass where Buddhists thrive. Let us not forget our leader went to Myanmar to discuss the security threats posed by the Rohingya! Let people live! Our migrants had a bad time this year. But at least they had a home to go back to. Refugees the world over were worse off. To quote Polish poet Adam Zagajewski:

“Shuffling their feet,

they move slowly,

very slowly

toward the country

of nowhere,

and the city of no one

and the river of never”

A wish regarding Union Territories, may no state be turned into a UT. Sorry Lord, I withdraw that wish. What about Uttar Pradesh turning into a UT? A state today, UT tomorrow. Ki farak painda, as we say so rationally in Punjab. Each state could be turned into a UT, but then what would happen to federalism? We could leave that to the constitutionalists. Lord, less definitions of what is good for me, or the farmer, coming down from the Red Fort. Some of us are aware of what is good for us. Lord, suppose the government enacts a law about poetry. What would happen to some of us? We would have to turn to prose! Horrific thought! May the farm laws be withdrawn. May they go back to the warmth of their homes. More real respect for them, and their intelligence, not just speeches to pacify them. We don’t want mixing of truth with lies and half-lies. Let no one be despised because of pigment, family name and family tree. Let not the farmer be let down, the way the migrants were.

Lord, please find a nice way to grant my next wish. Less humans on the earth so that there are more animals — this planet is as much theirs as ours. May the rhino horn and the elephant’s ivory survive the poachers. The Chinese are even after tiger-bones. Please tell the Chinese they won’t become more virile with tiger-bone decoctions. Tough task Lord. How will you manage that?

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