Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: The Last Post

It is that day of the year when, for one day, the past seems more important than the future. One day to remember and say goodbyes, to sum up and finish - so that one can make a fresh start next day. That's what I am set to do now.

On balance, this year changed my life. It started disastrously, with the sudden death of my brother. From that very low point, today is a long way away. But if I have to look back at what has been the theme of the year, it was this - letting things go - people and relationships, vanity, business associations which were not meaningful. In a sense, I streamlined my life somewhat, focusing on what's important. There is work to be done still, and this needs to carry on into 2012, but I have made a start.

One great thing about letting go is that one starts to realise the value of what is retained. That happened to me: I suddenly discovered how lucky I am in having what I have. I also regretted not knowing the value of things when I had them - how dearly I wished I left everything and stayed with my brother when he needed me - but it felt like a discovery that there are things I have which I should treasure.

I end 2011, and will start 2012, with this sobering feeling. Giving up also means giving up my past, at least the forgettable bits, but retain nostalgia, which was memorably defined as 'memory without pains'. Certain things will remain constant, indeed: I shall surely spend another year plotting my way back to India, and trying to escape my self-imposed exile. At the same time, I shall continue to plan going around the world, living in different places, knowing different people and learning new things. What changed is that I am not anxious about this contradiction anymore. I just know that this tension defines who I am and what I do: My globe-trotting dreams keep me open, ambitious and forever in search of a better life, but my deep attachment to my land, people and ways of life keep me grounded.

Things around me will change, indeed. We are possibly looking at a long recession in Europe and an irreversible change in the way of life and thinking at its wake. The central tenets of selfish capitalism is being questioned and its limitations will continue to show: One would hope we would collectively move towards a more responsible form of social arrangement. In Britain in particular, and Europe in general, intolerance has reared its ugly head: I would hope that this will be contained by a return of common sense. However, I am less optimistic that this can happen under the watch of the current Tory government, who has adapted, with some impunity granted by confused public opinion, a socio-fascist stance and has been trying to refashion everything British. Again, one would hope that this zeal would be contained by recession-induced common sense, that it is simply too dangerous and plainly counter-productive to pander intolerance and closed views in a world perilously close to an economic and social disaster. India, I fear, will let slip its hard-earned global reputation as an up-and-coming global power and sink into economic chaos, just because it is leaderless and is fast becoming one of the worst governed countries in the World. I have a lot to fear here: India is not just my homeland, but an economic disaster may bring into power a Hindu chauvinist government in power in India, and that would be bad for the region and bad for the world. With Pakistan inherently unstable, Iran flexing its nuclear muscles and China trying its best to hold onto its authoritarian system, the current world order is poised precariously in the region anyway: Any brinkmanship by the Indian government may tip everyone into an abyss.

There are dangers elsewhere too. With a sense of foreboding, I shall watch the three upcoming presidential elections in Russia, France and America. Vladimir Putin will almost certainly win the Russian one in March, but this will invariably unleash another round of protests and uncertainty, and may even start a round of internal unrest. Whatever the outcome, it will possibly lead to further isolation of the Russian regime, not a good thing when the world is already full of uncertainty. Since the fight is between the Communist Party and the right wing United Russia, this will also mean a return to fascism in Russia.

In May, President Sarkozy will take on Socialist Francois Hollande, and possibly win, but all eyes will be on Marine La Pen, the National Front candidate and a symbol of extreme Right in Europe. If Ms La Pen manages an upset like her father did, and reaches the second round, that will mark a new phase in Europe, an unrestrained march to social fascism, which has somewhat started already.

Finally, in November, President Obama may finally pay the price of not being the change he promised to be, and lose to Mitt Romney, who will hopefully manage to win the Republicans. Mr Romney is able, but he has to make sacrifices to win the power: This will mean further social conservatism in America, and a belligerent approach to the world, which will further push the world into recession and uncertainty.

This dark view of the world isn't something I live with. I am generally optimistic and believe that things will turn out better than we expect them to be. Indeed, I believe in human ingenuity and enterprise: I have always lived an optimistic and active life based on these beliefs. But at the same time, I don't wish to be blind: Hope isn't a strategy and the lack of leadership is all too evident all around us. I have already made my choice: I have committed myself to a career in Higher Education and know that the greatest goal that I can hope to achieve is to equip the students I come in contact with to be able to conduct themselves, in whatever they do in life, responsibly and conscientiously all the time. Indeed, this is not my 'change the world' declaration, but this is 'do whatever I can' mantra that I have learnt to live by.

This is a purpose worth living for: As I wrap up 2011, I am full of this sense of purpose. That will make 2012 worth living through.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Last Words

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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