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Flashes Of Hope In An Annus Horribilis

04/01/2016 12:54 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Globally, 2015 was a year of uncertainty, anxiety, cruelty, bigotry, violence, terrorism, catastrophes, calamities and suffering.

It seemed to be a year filled with madness, with many parts of the world struck with hatred and racism. Women and minorities were some of the usual targets but there were many others who were attacked for being different or even for just expressing their opinions.

The world realised that its borders were porous and easily accessible by people who were either seeking sanctuary or wanting to kill them.

TV screens beamed images of the Syrian war, yet unresolved, and millions of migrants, cold, huddled, shivering together in crammed boats or trucks, abused by their traffickers and by officers of the countries where they sought sanctuary.

Terrorists stood firm in their agendas in going after targets worldwide, including Palmyra, Paris, Aleppo, Homs, Kobani and San Bernardino.

Even the earth seemed to quaver with non-confidence on its axis: the ice caps melting, an earthquake in Nepal, toxic fumes choking Delhi...

There are more examples of ugliness: The Islamic State had an extremely successful year, both in its attacks and its ugly propaganda.

This year also saw atrocities by Boko Haram and the ill treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. The war in Ukraine and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Ruined Gaza, defiant Israel. Negotiations for peace in the Middle East got deferred to another year.

The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Even the earth seemed to quaver with non-confidence on its axis: the ice caps melting, smog taking over Beijing, an earthquake in Nepal and toxic fumes choking Delhi.

In the United States, there were angry protests over police brutality, with racial tensions tearing apart Ferguson and Baltimore. A massacre in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina reignited the debate on gun violence in America.

Presidential politics turned into a theatre of the absurd with comical, horrifying comments on race, women and minorities made by candidates. Well, mostly Donald Trump, the narcissist billionaire.

History was made with the climate deal in Paris and its pledge to cut carbon emissions and help the poorest countries cope. The United States and the UN Security Council reached a deal to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions, promising some sanctions relief. The US recognised Cuba.

And in India. A man was lynched for eating beef. Women continued to be raped. Journalists, especially women, continued to be abused and harassed on social media. Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan were demonised for speaking their minds. Open season on women and minorities. Business as usual.

Writers who choose to take a stand on the "growing intolerance" in India returned their awards in protest, only to be mocked and scorned. A harsh public and even other well-established writers questioned their motives. Twitter went berserk with everyone rushing in to add their two cents.

And it wasn't just the politicians spewing their hateful rhetoric and making dangerous, inflammatory comments on race, religion, minorities and women.

It was the ordinary people. The masses started speaking out in large numbers and their chosen way to do it was to lash out in outrage, anger and hatred on social media, trying to tear down anyone they didn't agree with.

During the Paris attacks, people opened to their doors to strangers to offer them shelter. During the Chennai floods, there were heartwarming stories...

The systemic attacks by mobs of people were horrifying and disturbing. It was hard to not be depressed. To be racked with hopelessness. To be filled with doubts.

Yet I have hope. I also saw kindness, reason, logic and humility and conciliation in 2015. During the Paris attacks, people opened to their doors to strangers to offer them shelter. During the Chennai floods, there were heartwarming stories of people helping people.

There were many individuals who chose to oppose hatred and fear and bigotry with guts, with fearlessness and with bravery. The courage of these people must be applauded.

Evil exists. It always has. In 2015, Anger boiled over. Hate screeched. But the shouting and the cacophony shouldn't drown out the decent and the caring and the logical. Tragedies and violent incidents shrouded the goodness and the decency but they were there. I go into 2016 filled with the memories of goodness, kindness and compassion.

I hope I see more of them. As you clink your champagne glasses at midnight, make a wish. That the world is a happier, gentler and kinder place where we celebrate all the "different" people.

Happy New Year.