2007: Promises and Pitfalls

A new year may be just one more footprint in the end less passage of time. Indeed if day follows night without help from self-obsessed mankind, so should a year naturally succeed another, with none ‘heralding it’ or ‘ringing it in’. And what’s the big deal for Indians who celebrate several new years right through the year? Yet, as homo sapiens, imprisoned in time capsules with dimensions of 24x7x365 and calendars and clocks keeping constant company, the passing of Dec and the dawn of Jan do qualify as a signpost in life’s journey, to pause, look back and forward and take stock.

The transition from one year to another is most often seamless, with no big break from the immediate past, though the shift from ‘04 to ‘05 was a sad exception when the Tsunami literally made a sea of difference to multitudes. Yet this transit point in time does offer a vantage position to assess and assimilate the kind of times that we live in. In a way no new year starts on a clean slate and does have balances, negative and positive, brought forward from earlier ones. 2007 too would have such liberal imprints of the past, though none can predict what fresh tidings, good and bad, the year has hidden in its unknowable womb.

The most visible positive signs of the times are overall economic prosperity and technological advancements. The two walk hand in hand into the ending year’s sunset and are likely to emerge with greater gusto at sunrise of the ensuing one. The happy news about the current boom is that it is spread over a wider population with the emerging economies of the Third World acting as the prime engines of growth, contributing more that 50% of global output. The unhappy flip side is that this boom is not equitable and large swathes of population have been left out of the loop. The stupendous success of effort, enterprise and entrepreneurship of not just the cliched ‘Tatas and Birlas’ but even the ‘Kuppans and Suppans’ have been slightly put to shade by the failures of Governments to bridge the divide. The conscience weighs as much as the money bags!

Technology is no longer a NASA project or a Spielberg fantasy. It is now a common man’s property and a consumer’s right. And in a globalised and integrated web world, there are no elite inventors with propriety over some idea, but hordes of talented ones, from child prodigies to gizmo mechanics, who keep contributing to an ever enlarging pool of knowledge and know-how. Google, You Tube, X Boxes, LCDs, Plasma, Laptops, Mobiles, SMSs, Blogs et al are now part of daily household lexicon, mouthed by tinytots and tottering oldies alike. However, here too, large sections still remain on the wrong side of the digital divide. But the challenge to make tech available and affordable to them has also been taken up in full swing, thanks to competition and the aforementioned ‘democratisation’ of technology.

The Marxists and Freudians who claimed that materialism plus science would spell the death of spirituality will now have to do some penance. Far from being mutually exclusive, the most prosperous and scientific decade is also turning out to be the most religious. While Western media is awash with reverential stories of revivalism, in India the surge of piety never abated in the first place for it to stage a comeback. But look at this logic: If t’was indeed God’s helping hand that handed out all this prosperity, something we often claim, then don’t we need all of His arms to retain the wealth, which is a bigger challenge? The weight on our laps does make us insecure, probably, or is it that the philosopher in us has discovered the futility of fortune in filling our lives with true happiness and bliss? And technology? God knows … that too! The Supreme One, who straddles time and space, pervades talk-time and cyber-space also. Doubters can check up the ringtones and screen savers of their pious friends. Small wonder, the devout all over are downloading their own versions of the divine into their daily lives. True scientific ‘spirit’!

War and strife look likely to prevail with the familiar flashpoints like Iraq, West Asia and Kashmir figuring in the bloody brought forward list. But those venues are not the sole playground for blood-letting. With terrorism going retail, violent death could be delivered DTH anywhere on Earth. While there were some near lucky misses in 2006 for USA, UK and even in India, Mumbai was not so fortunate. The unceasing warnings of attacks and frequent busting of terror cells are a grim pointer to the future. A safe year is what one should truly wish for.

The Indian political theatre can be trusted to throw up its usual climaxes, anti-climaxes and comic interludes, but charades all the same. But whatever, our political cast will play true to familiar scripts. Sonia can be expected to make a few more sacrifices-without exactly losing anything-if the going gets tough. For Manmohan, it will be status quo as second fiddle. The Left will play its double role with aplomb. The BJP, remembering Lord Rama suddenly, will try to bring Him back from exile with renewed vigour. With the judicial reprieve, Laloo, Rabri, their entire clan, cadre and even cattle, will raise the pitch on communal and upper caste forces. In TN, J & K, after pausing to greet us for the new year, would get on with mutual mudslinging. V’kanth would look to inching forward … steadily. Ramadoss and his band of lexicographers would already be busy what with a slew of Pongal relases in the offing. And for poor Vaiko, 2007 seems like a dark, bottomless abyss!

Well, the more momentous the times, the merrier it is for the likes of us, journos. After all, how are we to earn our bread bereft of all that action and of course, such actors who give us the grist? Let us, therefore, look forward to an eventfilled but surely a safe and secure year.

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Jawahar T R