“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering, ”it will be happier”.
[Alfred Lord Tennyson]
New Year observances today are marked by boisterous street celebrations often bordering hooliganism making it a law and order problem. Some years back in the Connaught Place area of Delhi revelers, often drunk would even molest women. Now Delhi Police personnel are extra alert on New Year eve to round up such miscreants.
Is there anything special about celebrating the New Year? Why do people consider the day to have such wild celebrations and uncivil behavior? New Year celebrations are believed to be ubiquitous and its antiquity can be traced to the days of yore. The Chinese celebrated their new year with fireworks hundreds of years ago. According to psychologists “there is something intrinsic in human nature and his animal instinct” to celebrate the arrival of a New Year. Is it the satisfaction of having lived 365 days happily, hoping for a better and happier life in the year to come? It is said that the fear of the unknown and the anxiety about what would be the shape of things to come in the New Year have impact on people’s psyche.
It may be because of this that there is a tendency to introspect and critique the past year and find out our follies and foibles to go for New Year resolutions. A majority of us have resolutions for the New Year to change what we consider the negatives in our lives or think of our bad habits or bad behavior. We resolve not to drink or smoke or gamble; not to use abusive language or control our temper or anger; to have a budget, not be a spendthrift and start saving; to be more loving, caring and faithful to our family, near and dear ones; the list is endless. It is a desire to change for the better. As students we resolved to attend all classes and take our studies more seriously. But the problem is that most of us start the year with hard resolve to change but fall by the wayside due to fickle-mindedness or peer pressure.
We tend to unload the baggage of the dead past as we wait for the dawn of 2019. “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” [William E. Vaughan]. It is for each individual to choose to be an optimist or a pessimist to usher in the New Year.
Moving from individuals to the macro level of the state, don’t we wish to see that our country doing better in the New Year? Don’t we want to have peace, tranquility, absence of confrontations and violence; people being empathetic to their less fortunate fellow beings? The happiness quotient of the Indian people is nothing much to write home about. We are often shocked and rattled about the daily reports of mindless violence-against women, children, minorities and the socially marginalized.
As we welcome 2019, let’s hope that innocent policemen and members of the security forces in their call of duty are neither stoned nor shot. We want our leaders to be more humane and true to their words and not look at political gains but have a genuine desire to bring justice to the families of such people who have suffered loss of their only bread winners or guardians. Belated promises about unending investigations to bring the culprits to book or announcement of monetary compensation cannot wipe out the tears of the bereaved families. We heard the cries and lamentations of victims in Bulandshahar, Ghazipur and all across the country; their beloved ones killed by unruly mobs. Will 2019 see a more caring administration which will not change their stand like weathercocks?
2018 witnessed unprecedented violence and cruelty towards our children. That those who were responsible for protecting them even in shelter homes were exploiting them sexually is a scar on our collective consciousness difficult to wipe off. We have seen that announcement of stringent actions or legislations to punish the guilty not having the desired impact. Violence breeds in the hearts of men and attitudes need change. Those in power need to own the responsibility for protecting our children. Can we hope to have a safer child hood for the hapless little ones in 2019?
Don’t we hear about tales of hatred and violence across the sub continent? Elected leaders, officials and even academics indulging in hate speeches and inciting their followers to fearlessly pursue the agenda of violence against their political or ideological opponents. What about a vice chancellor reportedly asking his students, ‘’if you are a student of this university, never come crying to me,. If you ever get into a fight, beat them, if possible murder them, we’ll take care of it later.” As usual inquiries are going on; ministers are condemning the statement of the VC. When there is this kind of all pervading violent communication, there is a danger of an entire society taking up hatchets. Earlier we heard a state chief minister on camera ordering “kill them mercilessly”! When leaders follow an agenda of hatred and violence, there can be no real peace. Can we hope for a hatred free, violence free 2019? After all this is the land of Gandhi and non violence.
Isn’t it ironic that the United Nations and the world observe 2nd October, Gandhiji’s birth anniversary as International Day of Nonviolence and we ourselves are becoming a more violent nation?
The year gone by has been a terrible one for the people of Kashmir and the state witnessed violence internally and also engineered from across the border. An untenable coalition which was destined to doom on account of internal contradictions and conflicting political agenda has given way to governor’s rule which is yet to be effective. Can we in 2019 witness a more peaceful situation there based on Atal Behari Vajpayee’s rhyming solution based on Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jhamhuriyat?
In 2018 we saw tens of thousands of impoverished farmers marching in the streets of Mumbai, Delhi and other cities asking for waiver of their loans and better economic support to alleviate their pitiable conditions. Our politicians have promised ‘band aid’ solutions but no realistic ones. They compete with each other in bringing in populist measures and no permanent solutions to address farm distress. Can farmers expect remunerative prices for their products and better infrastructural facilities in place of loan waivers? Instead of giving fish it will be better to teach them how to catch fish! Will 2019 usher in at least hope and improvement in the lives of our farmers?
The horrendous plight of over a dozen minors trapped in an illegal rat hole mine in the Jaintiya hills of Meghalaya is an example of open violation of the laws of the land and all pervasive corruption. Even after a fortnight, no one knows whether the poor miners are alive or dead. The rescue teams are there but it is a pity that the operations to save them has been inordinately delayed as we do not have the required equipment to rescue the poor miners. Let’s hope that miracles happen and the poor miners will be rescued in the New Year.
The fourth pillar and the watch dogs of our democracy-the media, seem to deviate from the fundamental tenets of the profession. True, the proactive role of some of the media cannot be ignored; but a number of them consider impartiality, objectivity, truthfulness and balance as outdated and impractical. One feels that rumors and fake news are being used as merchandise for a more profitable media industry. Will we see at least a semblance of the old world virtues of the profession making a comeback in 2019?
General elections are less than a hundred days away. The shape of things to come would depend on how fairly the elections are fought. Will they be fought on real issues and on problems facing the teeming millions of the country? Or will they be acrimonious and fought on empty promises, emotional and sectarian issues or will they be fought on real issues that can improve the lives of our people? 2019 is going to be a momentous year in the country’s history.
One considers it apt to quote an earnest and oft repeated prayer of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in Gitanjali to conclude one’s musings:-
“Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free .
Where the world has not been
broken up into fragments by
narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the
depths of truth
where tireless striving stretches
its arms toward perfection
Where the clear streams of reason
has not lost it’s way
into the dreary desert sand of
Where the mind is led forward by
into ever widening thought and
Into that heaven of freedom, my
LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!”
- Prof. T. K. Thomas, Senior Journalist.
(The views expressed in the article are those of the author).