24 October 2015

Everything changes, and everything stays the same

It’s almost the end of October with Diwali fast nipping at our heels and for those of us in the North, a distinct tang of winter in the air. Which means that another year is almost over. This isn’t a year-end column though—even though Dusshera and its burning of all evils should be a good place to start—but a way of examining my feelings about the news lately. Which is a great weary feeling that nothing has changed, nothing at all, and we’re still stuck in the same place, outraging about the same things. Here’s a list I made of the more “evergreen” news stories as it were. (Warning: it’s very depressing.)

1)   I guess we’re still talking about beef? It all began with a ban(g), when the sale of beef was stopped in Maharashtra. This actually had a personal impact on me, because we were travelling in Goa at the time, and one night all of us had a great steak craving. There was none to be had for love or money, the owner of the restaurant we picked said. I think that was the first time it struck home for us that a ban on a certain kind of meat could actually happen. But, naively, I assumed it would blow over. Blow over? Hardly. Over the next six months, beef became such a hot button topic that people are dying all over the place and trucks are being burnt and people are being told to go back to Pakistan if they like beef so much, that argument so loved by the uneducated.
2)   Caste shouldn’t be a thing anymore in 2015, should it? But it is. This is the year that saw huge injustices against Dalits. I’m thinking of just a few days ago, the story of two small children killed in a fire set to their house while they slept because of some pride thing the upper castes of their village had. Or a headline that said, “In Jodhpur, a family lives in fear after boy touches non-Dalit’s plate.” Or the several lower caste women who are sexually assaulted in villages across India, unable to get justice because the system is so heavily biased towards the upper castes, their rapists.
3)   Dengue! Again, I’m going to marvel that the year that Marty McFly chose to travel to is the year where we still haven’t managed to come up with a way to keep away an illness which is basically caused by a mosquito bite. I get that it’s mostly a question of a social situation: crowded areas with more stagnant water get dengue mosquitoes, but instead of panic and fear, just get everyone to slap on a cheaper version of Odomos (or Odomos itself, since that’s the only thing that seems to work against the mosquitos in my house). It would be truly ironic if I got dengue after writing this though. Ironic, and yet, proving my point.
4)   Murder most foul and our not-so-great justice system. Ugh, the cops and investigators tumbled from one bad story to another. If it wasn’t the whole Aarushi case resurfacing, it was the very weird Sheena Bora one or the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq (where the cops very usefully performed a post-mortem not on the body but on the meat in the fridge.) Here’s a fun fact I unearthed when researching this: “India has earned the dubious distinction of securing a spot for the eighth year in a row on a global index which ranks the countries around the world where journalists are murdered and their killers go unpunished.” Yup.
5)   Finally, this last thing is less of a news story and more of a way people react to a news story: people have got to stop responding to a rant about one thing by saying, “Oh, why didn’t you rant about this other terrible thing? Did you not care then? Therefore you do not care now! QED!” (You know who you are!) That’s just stupid. An argument can be made that increasing exposure to bad news can make you feel worse and worse about it till it all comes spilling out, and so you didn’t make a passionate speech about it then, but you will now. An argument can also be made that by derailing an entire discussion and turning it to who-said-what-when you’re kind of killing the point and that’s not doing any good to anyone. Think about that one, internet people. Think hard. 

(A version of this appeared as my column in mydigitalfc.com)

(My new book is out and you should totally buy it. LINK.)

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