By Frank F Islam

Social cohesion within countries has been slowly eroding for some time; social media has accelerated that erosion.

In a few days, the curtain will fall on one of the most tragic years in the history of independent India. Not since the dark days of partition in 1947 have the nation’s streets witnessed death and misery of such a magnitude as they did in 2021.

Compared to many other parts of the world, 2021 began on a somewhat optimistic note for many Indians. The country had seemingly warded off the Covid-19 pandemic and managed to prevent the kind of devastation that the US and many European nations witnessed in 2020.

Buoyed by the apparent success in fighting the pandemic, India had even started exporting millions of doses of Covid vaccines newly manufactured in the country.

Dance of death

Then, a three-week period in April and May changed everything. A devastating second wave of Covid-19 killed hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of Indians and exposed the fragility of the country’s public health infrastructure.

Now, as India and the world prepare to ring in 2022, it is appropriate that we remember the lives that were lost, honour their memory, and commit to the future. To do that, here are my holiday and New Year thoughts and wishes:

Let us keep in our thoughts and prayers all those lives lost to the pandemic.  There is hardly an Indian who did not lose a close relative or friend this year. Let us remember those who were lost and pray for them and their families.

Let us sympathize with those who are struggling to make ends meet. It was not just the second wave of Covid that made 2021 an annus horibilis for India. Covid caused tens of millions to lose employment and livelihood in 2020. The labour market has not picked up substantially.  As a result, millions of Indian families are still struggling to put food on the table.  Let us think of and provide for them.

Draw right lessons

Let us learn the pandemic lessons. The virus is likely to be in our midst for the foreseeable future. We should recognize that reality and adapt our lifestyles accordingly.  Covid protocols should be followed at all times. And, those who have not been vaccinated should do so right away.

Let us love and not hate one another. Social cohesion within countries has been slowly eroding for some time; social media has accelerated that erosion. Our fault lines are deeper and wider than ever before. This is as true in the US, my adopted land, and India my motherland.  We need to see each other as compatriots and fellow human beings and not through the prism of politics and religions.

Let us put ourselves in other people’s shoes. One of the reasons there is so much division within society is due to our inability to understand the perspectives and positions of others. Not only do we not respect the views of others, we frequently don’t think others are entitled to have an opinion. Let us exchange our views and shoes for to wear those of others for a while.

Kindness needed

Let us lift the spirit of the country through kindness and love. Let us make India and the world a better place.  To borrow a phrase from the great English poet William Wordsworth, let us do this through our “little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love”. Those acts of compassion and caring will lift the spirit of Indians and India.

Finally, let us not further pollute the earth and its atmosphere. Planet Earth, this abode of ours, is a beautiful and unique spot in the universe. But for centuries, we have been defiling it through senseless use of its resources. We are fast approaching a point of no return. Before we reach that point, let us commit to doing everything possible to stop further degradation of the climate and environment.

In concluding, I draw upon and share a couplet from the sage of modern India, Rabindranath Tagore:

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you

Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.

Let us make the holidays a time for reflection, kindness and generosity.  And let us make 2022 a year to “reach high” and “dream deep” in order to discover and take the actions necessary to create a better and fairer future for all.