Year 2021 leaves us with trauma of pandemic, hatred, division; and a longing for peaceful past takes over

This year – 2021 – has been full of deaths and diseases and deceits and destruction. It has left us more than deprived for years to come. Perhaps, the worst affected are our children

Representative photo
Representative photo
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Humra Quraishi

Call it a mere formality or an ongoing dastoor, as the year ends and the new year takes off, one is supposed to take note of the positive highlights. For the last several hours, I have been thinking very hard, on any of the positives of 2021 but sadly nothing came up! Not a single thing that stands out or impresses.

Nah, new airports or highways don’t hold out, as only a very small percentage of our citizens can actually make use of them. The rest of us just cannot afford to travel from here to there, so what if new airports come up! For whom? Not for us!

And what’s all this tamasha and distraction gimmicks of changing names of cities, towns, roads! Even changing age limits for marriage will bring about no change, when all that thrives is sheer poverty, and along with that , ruthless muscle power!

This provokes one to mention that just last week a particular photograph hit – BJP MP, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, slapping a young wrestler during a national championship event in Jharkhand capital Ranchi. Singh also happens to be the president of the Wrestling Federation of India, and was present as chief guest on the first day of the Under-15 National Wrestling Championship event at the Shaheed Ganpat Rai Indoor Stadium in Ranchi. It is during that time that he slapped a young participant in the under 15 age group, who was not supposed to participate as he did not fit in the age category. The young participant could have been told to get off stage but to be slapped in public was horrifying. A very disturbing capture. Wonder if Singh has been ousted from the Wrestling Federation of India, or continues to sit up there, to slap or scar many more of our future sportsmen!

This year – 2021 – has been full of deaths and diseases and deceits and destruction. It has left us more than deprived for years to come. Perhaps, the worst affected are our children.

Mind you, if we don’t reach out to our children, we are doomed. I’m not into any of the new-year resolution sermons, but yes, I feel it is the duty of each of one of us to reach out to children who are deprived of education and food and even the basic woollens to face a very harsh winter. In fact, just last evening, as I walked past a closed down construction site, I spotted a labourer’s family with their children scantily clad. It was one of those bitterly cold December evenings here, in one of the suburbs of the capital city, New Delhi. To the ‘why’ the parents looked sheepish, before uttering, “Because with no-work, we have no money to buy a thing!”

I wonder why there’s little focus on this grim reality of our times. Where is that childhood for our children? It seems in tatters! No childhood! Straight into the rough and tough world of adulthood!

I can't even imagine how tough it would be getting for children with special needs. In fact, I am reminded of a documentary Komal G.B. Singh made titled ‘Neel Gulab’. This news reader turned film maker had made this film years back in the 90s, focusing on a spastic child.

To this day her reasons for making this film hold out: “I felt I was getting stuck in a grove, so thought of making documentaries on social issues, partnering with filmmaker Asha Dutta …I’m making films only on social issues, although it is a struggle to make such social-oriented films but I derive a lot of strength from the satisfaction it gives. Also, your creativity wants you to do more satisfying things in life. All that we want to say or relay is that do not pity them but treat them with a lot of gentle love and then see them bloom.”


Komal had detailed more, “ Actually New York based Gerda Klein’s poem - The Blue Rose - rotating around a little spastic girl, touched Asha and I to such an extent that we decided to make a film on that. We were determined that whatever be the costs or the hurdles or the challenges involved in dealing with such a sensitive subject we’d still go ahead and make this film…Spastic children are special, as rare as the blue rose, and if tended gently and cared for, they could bloom to such heights that you and I would be nowhere in front of them and their talent …Also, full credit to Gulzar saab , MF Husain, Amjad Ali Khan , Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan for making this film bloom …Gulzar saab wrote a beautiful Hindi adaptation of the original poem by Gerda Klein, maestro Amjad Ali Khan rendered music for this film, Hussain sahib did the background canvas for the film and Jaya done the commentary …And none of them charged, saying they were doing this for cause.”

And whilst keying in these words and sentences on Komal GB Singh and on her film, I have been sitting wondering: Why has she moved away, from centre stage to quiet solitude? In fact, years back this courageous woman had spoken out, not concealing the fact that she had gone through a rather rough patch in life. Perhaps, with that she had opted to move away… a total change of scene for her.

Wish she could make more films on the relevant issues of the day.

Let's come back to the present realities. With that, all that I can say: We were better off in those years passed by…when verse and sentiments held sway, with carefree abundance holding out. There was less of violence, hate and divisions and more of togetherness and free flow of the arts and creativity, of words and verse.

Leaving you with Kerala’s celebrated rebel poet Balachandran Chullikad’s verse titled Ghazal:

December 31

In the music hall of the night

Club

Ghulam Ali sings

I’m the singer of lost days …

As the music flows, melting

Urdu with the pangs of separation

Into the soft resonance of Ali’s

voice…

A long pent up melody of grief

breaks open the tremulous

window of the harmonium

Inside, the heart reverberates

with

The tabla of season less years

As Ghulam Ali sings …

*****

Also this verse of the last Mughal Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775 – 1862), to give us the required hope as we move ahead from 2021:

Ode to Hindustan

Matchless is the soil of Hindustan

In it grow love, compassion, fidelity

As sure as the sun rises from the East

So surges from this land sincerity.

This is the true seed of Hind and from its earth

These fruits have spread across the world, far and wide.

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