By Purba Ray Jan. 02, 2020
This year, instead of using New Year resolutions to crib about having to include more lauki in our diets, why don’t we do things a little differently: Can we instead all agree to be informed citizens, aware of our rights and responsibilities, and active participants in a functioning democracy?
It’s a new year with new promises. Your resolution to embark on a swachh abhiyan to fix your messed-up existence gains momentum. It’s not as if you were unaware that your life was nowhere close to the trajectory of fabulousness you had hoped for. But you had managed to bury the nagging feeling successfully under various useless pursuits and delusions as the months went by.
Come mid-December, you can no longer fight the urge to take stock. You realise with great dismay that your achievements are as scarce as the onions in your mutton do pyaaza. You start looking at yourself critically. The dull ache to fit into a size 2 dress is now a shrill scream. There are two dozen books in your Kindle library with an existential crisis. Your Netflix-and-chill date no longer seems as satisfying. Your quest for finding the best Tunday kebab doesn’t make you breathlessly happy. The Zara sale leaves you cold. You even let the peroxide blonde babe snatch the pink jacket from your arms.
You’ve waited all year to give your life a makeover it badly needs, and your waist a size that you can be proud of. But eventually you’re left with a measly few weeks to scale the Everest of targets. You may begin knocking them off with gusto — you are a super-achieving Duracell bunny after all! However, you soon crash at the base camp after a few half-hearted attempts.
Ever wondered why this cycle repeats? As I am in a terribly preachy mood, allow me to enlighten you. Resolutions fail because they are just a large gathering of “nos” that have assembled to protest your complacency. When your mind sees the long list of don’ts, it gears itself for a non-cooperation movement. And change is not a packet of Maggi noodles that takes 2 minutes to become palatable. It disappoints, keeps you waiting, plays hide and seek, and eventually arrives when you have all but given up.
Your voice will have meaning when you take the effort to gather information from responsible media, civil society and verifiable statistics.
So, why don’t we do things a little differently this time? Let’s flip the proverb “change begins at home”. Instead of putting the spotlight on yourself and your failures, look around and focus on what you “can do” instead.
Let’s start with coming out of the cocoon you’ve built around yourself. That’s right, take the blinkers off. Ugh, I know it’s ugly, uncomfortable, but at least this way you don’t keep blindly walking into shit.
Now clear your throat and try saying a few coherent lines. Congratulations you have a voice, so use it wisely. Nope, name-calling people who don’t agree with your ideology as bigots, libtards or Sanghis won’t help. Your voice will have meaning when you take the effort to gather information from responsible media, civil society and verifiable statistics — facts that will help you make appropriate judgements, and see through propaganda. Read up, engage, have discussions because it’ll help you decide what is right rather than who is right.
We thus have our first resolution — be that informed citizen, aware of their rights and responsibilities, and an active participant in a functioning democracy. Be the truth-sayer who keeps the administration in check, regardless of political affiliations, and ensures we enjoy the rights our Constitution grants us. Put your privilege to good use instead of cribbing about lauki for dinner.
Guess what? This could be a great way to achieve self-awareness. A self-awareness that empowers you to make a difference not only to your life, but to the lives of others as well. Perhaps this awareness will stop you from being an ostrich with its head buried in the sand when they see a woman being harassed, a man in a pool of blood on the highway, or someone being mistreated by authorities. It will enable you to be part of a sisterhood that supports other women’s choices, be their voice and grant them agency. It’ll encourage you to call that friend who has gotten so quiet suddenly. Empathy is a great attribute that can cure the world of some of its rabidness. You may not relate to someone else’s struggles but can always make the effort to understand it. Don’t be the mute spectator when someone is in distress. If you feel powerless, calling for help is usually a good idea (unless the Delhi or UP Police are involved, of course).
Be the truth-sayer who keeps the administration in check, regardless of political affiliations, and ensures we enjoy the rights our Constitution grants us.
Can we all agree that disengagement will never get us the lives we yearn for. What if we decided to instead help shape the narrative? Waiting for someone else to do it for us will only lead to frustration. Exude the kindness, understanding and patience you expect from others — especially to those who aren’t like you.
Sure, these resolutions seem daunting at first. Even writing them down involved a lot of head scratching and soul searching. But you could maybe start by taking those damn earphones off, and looking up from your phone. Now give me that glazed, lost look so that I can throw it in the nearest bin. Brilliant! We have managed to get rid of a few of the pesky impediments that prevent you from using your faculties to the fullest. Our senses are our superpowers. Don’t you go ignoring them.
And so that was our final must-have resolution for the new year. Feel free to add a few more. (I, for one, would definitely like to break up with Zomato. Been spending too much time with that chap).
Since I’ve done a lot of thinking on your behalf, I’m even willing to extend your deadlines. If you think January is too cold to change the world, no worries. In India we have Yugadi, Bihu, Hijri, Poila Boishak, Vishu, Baisakhi, Navroz, Meetei Cheiraoba — take your pick. The weather in March-April is certainly more conducive to shedding complacency, and could possibly even add a spring to your step. What’s more, if you fail, you have scores of benign deities to beg for forgiveness.
Nearly funny, almost liberal, rarely serious, Purba likes to keep a safe distance from perfection. Unfortunately she has an opinion on everything, fact or fiction, beginnings or ends, light or heavy, long and short.