Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 01/2/16 7:57 AM

Feature: In The New Year….

Make it a happy 2016 !

If the passing of time is inexorable, it is also slightly ridiculous. Ridiculous because before we know it, the year has shut shop, another year is about to dawn on us, and there we are, pretty much where we were last December. As the saying goes, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

As years go, 2015 was larger-than-life, playing out in full dramatic horror and glory on the public stage. Out there, in the wide world, which we have compressed into a global village, a young teenaged girl won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Elsewhere a hydra-headed terrorist monster, which unfortunately shares the same acronym as an Egyptian goddess, burst into being. Social media ruled, and unfortunately, so did the trolls on social media networks.

A good-looking lion named Cecil was ruthlessly massacred. Closer home, a new government helmed by a perceived clean and strong man was swept to power in India. Attempts were made to clean a less-than-clean country. Storms deluged and sank some of our cities and ‘limping back to normalcy’ took that much longer. A tsunami of ‘intolerance’ arose, threatening to decimate our very social and community fabric.

The same old things
Both at home and abroad, many things remained the same. Racism kept raising its ugly head. Women were mistreated, mutilated, raped, murdered. The rich kept getting richer, the poor burst out in protest once in a while but largely kept to themselves, resigned to their lot. Our national capital is perpetually cloaked in a pall of grey air, while our city of Bengaluru is studded with huge piles of stinking garbage.

Actually, this stock-taking process is a somewhat discomfiting one. Because it involves asking ourselves some tough questions and facing up to some hard facts.

So, while 2015 may have been the year of scaling up the success ladder, becoming top honcho, floating your own enterprise, writing your magnum opus, running all the major Marathons, finding your ‘significant other’, marrying the love of your life, having a baby, acing that exam…has all this success been negated by the things you didn’t do?

We are limited by our ignorance, obduracy, indifference. As Gandhiji observed, we must, indeed, be the change we want to see in the world.  And there is no better time than now to take stock of how we have fared in the past 365 days of our lives. It is the small details that count, really. Yes, we kept our homes spick and span. But did we segregate our garbage?

Yes, we went to the temple, church and mosque. But did we practice peace and plurality in our dealings with others?

Yes, we read and forwarded a gazillion news snippets about eating healthy, eating right. But did we actually eliminate unhealthy foods from our daily diet and substitute them with fresh, local produce? Did we opt to cut down on our ordering in food and make the effort to cook up some meals at home? Did we cut down on our eating out? Did we try our hands at least a few of the recipes we watched in such earnest being prepared on Masterchef and other popular cookery shows on TV?

Matter of choice
Let’s get down to the basics, shall we?

Did we junk all those plastic bags the shops keep handing out (charging us anything between three and five rupees per bag), and instead carry around a capacious cloth bag to cart home our purchases?

Yes, we have every right to build ourselves our dream house, but did we do a spot of sincere shopping for environmentally-friendly bricks and building devices? Given that haphazard construction contributes significantly to pollution, did we ensure that the vicinity of our dream home was free of cement, sand and mud heaps?

Did we reduce our carbon footprint? Do we even know how to reduce our carbon footprint? Did we reuse, recycle, and consume less? Did we switch off all lights as we exited rooms? Did we switch off the geyser, iron, microwave and TV at the source?

Did we exhort our corporators and counsellors to clear things up for us, and leave it at that? Or did we accept our collective responsibility and take the activism up a few notches? When it came to new hires at home or in the workplace, did we do our due diligence and run proper background checks on them?

Did we give in to cynicism, or did we attempt to inspire people into doing better for themselves and the society?

Did we tell someone, anyone, what to wear, read, watch, think?

When it came to the way we led our everyday lives, did we make the right choices? Did we keep our vehicle engines idling for interminable periods at the traffic lights? Did we drink and drive? Did we weave and cross lanes haphazardly, endangering ourselves as well as others on the road? Did we ignore red lights and drive on regardless?

Did we throw extravagant parties and end up wasting a criminal amount of food? Did we buy incessantly, consume endlessly?

Are we living mindlessly?

The epiphany here is that if we clean up our act, it could well inspire others to clean up theirs…and before we know it, 2016 could well become the year of our lives.

Of course, fate could come and bludgeon us into abject submission just about any time. And bad things could and do happen at the drop of the proverbial hat. But if we can resolve to get committed, to stay committed, then we learn to cope better with everything the New Year will throw at us.

The introspection checklist at the end of 2015 can hold  good as the guidelines checklist for 2016. It’s never too late.

Happy New Year!

This ran in DECCAN HERALD of 2 Jan 2016.




Deccan HeraldFeatureLivingliving mindfullythe new yearthe old year

Sheila Kumar • January 2, 2016

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