There are many who I know personally who are publicly vocal against the lamp lighting ceremony today.
For many of them I have high respect. Because I know their scientific and rational bend of mind. I know they love their Country no less than any other.
Yet. Today they choose to criticise the call by Prime Minister. And they decided not to participate in the activity.
Firstly, I salute them for their courage. In today’s India. In these very trying times it takes courage to be a critic. Not everyone is courageous to speak his or her mind. Those colleagues of mine who speak against this with their deep knowledge of science and social science. I respect them for they speak their mind withstanding criticism.
I do not challenge them either. Who am I to challenge these friends of mine who I know are most rational in their thinking, love the Nation as much as I do and think above politics. And in times ordinary, these friends of mine participate in Nation building as much as any other Indian does. If not more.
So, I ask myself. Why did I participate?
When I know the three broad questions that these critics, my friends ask.
1: What good will lamp lighting do? This is a coverup to distract a billion mind away from the real issue. The lack of resources. The unpreparedness.
2: It is almost unethical given that so many lives have been lost and the economically weak are in deep distress.
3: The PM said to light lamps. Some citizens burst crackers too. This is defeating the whole purpose. People are celebrating when they should more focus on bracing for a tragedy to come.
I do not refute any of these. All of the above have elements of thought in it.
Yet I and my family celebrated.
We celebrated because:
1: We wanted to be one again as a community with loud cheer from children from their balconies. Children do not come to the park anymore. We miss them. They all came out today. They clapped. They cheered. They sang the National Anthem. Mousumi and I felt very happy. We were deeply hungry for this happiness. We were missing the laughter of children of our society.
2: I am reading a lot on the fallout of Covid 19 in short and long term. One prediction is that this will heavily impact mental health. People are increasingly getting into the phase of loneliness. In a country like India where social connections are about prime driver, the adda, the gup-sup, the bakwas party, the hang outs, we are beginning to feel the brunt of distancing. Netflix is no solution. Nor is Facebook. Skype and Teams. We are no more beting able to shout at each other ‘abbé gale lag ja’ or able to click our coffee cups and daru-glasses. Today as I had expected we saw each other on balconies. Some waved. I felt good.
I know we have not made one step forward today in fighting the Coronavirus by lighting a million lamps. But today, we have felt together one as a Nation. A Nation together. Present. In balconies. In front of houses. Resilient. Together. Fighting back.
Mousumi and I celebrated for a selfish reason. To see my neighbours. To hear cheering voices of children. And to come out of loneliness.
Nothing more. Nothing less.