It’s 2023. Who would have thought we’d get here? We thought the pandemic would take us out en masse, and we live in the hope that it will not come back for seconds. We feared that a bellicose Russian tsar might nuke half the world, though it’s still not out of the question if he swills a few vodkas with that inflated war-punk from North Korea. And what about that asteroid that’s said to be hurtling towards us? Maybe the aliens backed off and decided to wait it out, because we are much more likely to engineer our own doom.
The times they are a-changin’. While there’s time, enjoy the world as we once cherished it.
Here’s a bucket list for 2023. Feel free to argue.
Breathe some air
That stuff you’re inhaling into your lungs, especially in the national capital, can no longer be called air. It’s a toxic cocktail of all the villainous atmospheric constituents your high school chemistry teacher warned you about. Plus some particulate freebies that will ensure that your pulmonologist retires rich along with his best buddy, the oncologist. Might be a good time to plan a vacation to some unspoilt, underpopulated part of the world (Bhutan comes highly recommended) where you can get high on oxygen and its friends. Too bad you can’t bring back any from duty-free.
Vote in an election
Not your kid’s school PTA elections or your RWA presidential elections. Not to sound fatalistic, but as we hurtle towards becoming a passive electoral autocracy, there is every possibility that our general elections will just become another farce for spending money on the holiday festivities. So, while it matters, don’t go on vacation when it’s time to vote. Head to the hustings and ink that finger while it still means something.
Talk to a child about Gandhi
Non-violence is going out of fashion, almost as fast as handspun khadi is. At many of our government institutions, the Father of the Nation is staring across the wall at his desecrators, and may one day even lock eyes with his killer. You can watch the Richard Attenborough film together, but even better than that, before the light goes out, tell a kid or three about the values that won us Independence from the British. And about that imperfect man, forgive him his trespasses, who smiles at us from our banknotes.
Question the political party you support
Democracy and dissent are fast being outmoded. In their place are blind faith and unquestioning devotion. Now’s a good time to ask yourself about your place as a citizen and a taxpayer. Ask the tough questions of your elected representatives. Demand that they make good on their electoral promises. Every citizen has something to be disgruntled about, find your sore spot. Unless you’re a bhakt. If so, your case is closed.
Join a protest
Even if you don’t have the spine for serious politics, you can still protest against the use of single-use plastic, or garbage dumping, or the cutting of trees to build a golf course. Get a feel of the hope and camaraderie of public activism. Look hard at the world outside. Join those apparently jobless citizens who are doing the most important job, even on your behalf — making a point that democracy is worth a shot.
Delete WhatsApp for a month… or forever
At the risk of interrupting your University education, do it. Hit delete on that big green app icon. Sit back, grit your teeth, and endure the withdrawal symptoms. At first you will be afraid, you might even be petrified. You might experience the seven stages of grief seven times over. And then, poof, life will get better. Oh yes, it will. If you squeeze your tired memory hard enough, you might even remember a time before WhatsApp. It used to be called life. Rinse and repeat the process with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…
Taste a Bhut Jolokia
If you like it hot, you will be seduced by the Bhut Jolokia, the King Chilli or Ghost Pepper, also known as Umorok in Manipur and Raja Mircha Nagaland. Better still, try it in a cuisine that has axone — made from fermented soybean. A humble appreciation of the culinary diversity of northeast India begins here.
Dump your plastic toothbrush
Out in the ocean are all the discarded toothbrushes that humanity flings away into the garbage heap. This may surprise you, but turtles and dolphins don’t need to brush their teeth. Your toothbrush might actually kill them. Switch to a greener toothbrush. Bamboo is the way to go.
Look at the stars
The night sky used to be full of stars. Now it is full of aeroplanes, satellites and the reflected glory of our illuminated downfall. Go far away where the sky is dark (Ladakh gets my vote) and stare up at the star-spangled firmament. Be humbled. Feel small. That’s why it’s called heaven.
On that cheery note, happy 2023!