Damn Facebook’s ‘Memories’ feature. The last thing I want to do is look back and remember what I was doing exactly one year ago. Because one year ago, I was full of bubbly optimism, a veritable Pollyanna, down but not out, determinedly seeing silver linings on every cloud, thanking God for the slower days, the chance to smell the flowers, the fact that my empty nest was full of children again, and that we were all baking banana bread together.
One year on, the children are all still here, and we have all gone bananas. The pandemic did not end when 2020 did, so all the people who called it an annus horribilis have had to reluctantly admit that it was not the year that was the real pain in the anus. The real pain, which is not going to go away anytime soon, vaccine or no vaccine, is the choices we made, and continue to make as a voting citizenry.
Because we vote, not just once in five years, but on a daily basis. We vote with our money, with our TV remotes, with the thumbs-up icon on YouTube, the pretty heart icon on Instagram and Twitter, and the forward feature on WhatsApp.
Every time we shell out money to buy tickets to a regressive film full of toxic masculinity, we create an atmosphere that condones incidents like #Kathua, #Hathras #Unnao and #Mahoba. Every time we make a hate-mongering news channel the most watched on television, we encourage our “leaders” to indulge in even more outrageous, hate-mongering, sh#t stirring and performative behaviour.
Every time we “ooh” and “aah” over the birth of a celebrity baby, we bring more clueless, drunk-on-privilege kids like Tanmay Fadnavis into the world.
Every time we abandon logic and make a mindless, jingoistic film full of toxic, “Hindu” pseudo-patriotism cross the 0100 crore mark, or cheer at the building of a 182m tall Statue of Unity, we become directly complicit in the oppression of minorities, students and farmers.
Every time we leap up to defend our leaders for no other reason than the fact that they are our leaders, we pump them full of hubris and encourage to think that it is perfectly fine for them to hold massive, unmasked rallies while fining regular folk for letting their mask slip a centimetre below their nostrils while riding alone in their own cars with the windows up.
And, every time we let the zeal of the “faithful” carry the day, like looking the other way when mosques are knocked down, riots created, temple donations extorted, menstruating women kept out of temples or captain of our cricket team viciously trolled for asking people not to burn crackers on Diwali, we directly create this Titanic-sized blunder. We create this criminally-moronic Shahi Snan at the Maha Kumbh, where the highest-elected leaders of the land act like buffoonish villains from a 1970s potboiler, ignoring the raging pandemic, and effectively telling 31 lakh devotees, “Mona darling, tum nahati raho ( you carry on bathing)”.
Agreed, that yes, sitting locked down in our homes with our face masks on, there is not much we can do physically. But we are not entirely helpless. We can refuse to let the little things slide. To not “uff, let it go, na” because it is just a film/personal opinion/newspaper article. To call out double standards and hypocrisy and discrimination without hesitation. Vote more responsibly with our money, our ‘likes’, our remotes and eventually, with our votes.
So that this time next year, when the Facebook ‘Memories’ come back to haunt us, we will be able to look at them and think, yes, we are in a better place now.