Sunday, May 18, 2014

Here's Hoping

After the heat and the dust, the allegations and counter-allegations, the millions of reams and bytes of declamation, discussion and debate, the surprisingly stirring spectacle of the world's largest electoral exercise comes to its conclusion. 

And over the last couple of days, I seem to have come to some conclusions too. 

In 2009, 2009 looked like a tipping point, a coming of age. In 2014, this year of records broken and unprecedented firsts and a parliamentary overhaul, 2009 begins to look like nothing more than an opportunity squandered (if you're feeling charitable) or something of a con-job in the making (if you aren't). 

In 2009, I thought I could read the papers and follow blogs and go to websites and talk to friends and develop a legitimate sense of what people wanted and how things would unfold. In 2014,  I realize that many of us belong to charmed circles, so entrenched in our world-views and so confident of our intrinsic superiority that we think we get to proclaim the indefensibility of opposing views via FB status updates and Whatsapp messages. Smug and self-assured as we are, maybe 2014 is a timely reminder that participating in a democracy is about learning that Other People - whatever our definitions of that other might be - have as much of a right as anyone else to chart this country's course. In constructing our notions of what our political and/or ideological 'others' look and sound like, have we equally considered how we might look and sound to them? 

I'm not saying that one shouldn't have strength of conviction, or that beliefs and values should be infinitely negotiable - of course not. But everyone gets to choose, and everyone's choice is equally valid (and in numerical terms, equally valuable). That's the premise that underlies democracy, universal adult franchise, free and fair elections. Once every five years, we are compelled to contend with each other - biases, prejudices and all - and we reluctantly realize that we have a stake and a say in a shared future no matter how vehemently we disagree. 

No one said democracy was going to be comfortable. And so, in the spirit of being constructive rather than cynical, here's hoping:

Here's hoping we have a government that honours its mandate
Here's hoping that it isn't business as usual
Here's hoping that our collective expectations energize and animate its actions
Here's hoping we have an opposition that is responsible and rises above rabble-rousing
Here's hoping the Congress finds a semblance of its soul. And then searches it 
Here's hoping that the people of this country - wherever they might slot themselves on a political spectrum - continue to feel less and less obliged to put their aspirations and ambitions on slow-burn 

You know what they say about hope. It springs eternal. 

It gets you every time. 

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