Signs of the time: The vacuumby HUMRA QURAISHI February 27 2021, 1:00 pm Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 36 secs
Humra Quraishi imagines what it would be like if India is to have a ministry of loneliness and leaves you to ponder over a beautiful piece of verse
Japan has appointed a Minister of Loneliness. As news reports state, this minister’s focus will be to combat loneliness leading to rising suicides. And if I’m not mistaken, almost three years ago, in 2018, the UK had also appointed a Minister of Loneliness to try reaching out to those battling loneliness. Don’t know whether this made a difference to the lives of the lonely, but it sure does indicate that loneliness is one of the most urgent concerns of the day.
What if our sarkar appoints a Minister of Loneliness, here in our country! First and foremost, all those politicians who didn’t utter a word about their lonely existence till date, will start talking about the vacuums in their own lives, in an attempt to grab that ministerial seat! Once that’s done, they will keep track of all the lonely souls and be thrilled they can now legitimately intrude into their personal spaces. They will give them bogus gyaan on how they should beat loneliness! Maybe all the sarkari yoga gurus too, will be given platforms to teach the various asanas, but of course after the gullible have been made to buy an array of hurriedly manufactured concoctions?
Perhaps, fresh rules and regulations are already just around the corner to keep track of the lonely Indian’s professional and personal life. There will be a whole list of don’ts and do’s. Hundreds of queries, to be duly filled in lengthy forms. And special squads could be unleashed all around, in our cities and towns and qasbahs to question and poke their noses and to find out if the lonely Indian has managed to grab or steal or pluck or even temporarily borrow a companion - is the companion a composer, creator or editor of any of the tool kits?
Is he from the tukde-tukde gang? Does he or his grandmother or grandfather have links with any of the dead or alive Maoists in any of the so-called Naxal belts? Did he take part in the farmer protests at the borders of the capital city, New Delhi? Did he cry aloud against the CAA-NRC-NPR? Did he insist for a re-investigation into the Delhi pogrom of 2020 and Gujarat pogrom of 2002, as the political masterminds and also the foot soldiers are seen roaming around - all freely? Did he dare point out that in the pogroms, the poor victims are shown as culprits, with the actual killers getting away untouched? Did he question why the cops are not arresting the communal hate-speech givers? Did he of late travel to Canada or China and by any remote chance come across or even stray past any of the international rebels? Did he get critical of any of the Hindutva gangs or goons hovering around, making life hell for the hapless? Did he raise his voice against the lynch killers? Above all, he did try to convert the poor lonely soul, from this to that religion – commit Love Jihad?
Towards the end or even midway the grilling session, the lonely Indian will be so fed up with the questioning, cry aloud and beg to be left alone - to be spared the vendetta storm. Yes, there’s no denying that loneliness could be as lethal as cancer or coronavirus but here, on social media we don’t want to talk about the emotional realities. All seems to be okay! It’s only when the situation crosses the boundaries, that cries for help are heard. Who is there to hear those cries? No one! For till date in India, nobody gives a damn about loneliness! It’s a privilege and luxury to be lonely out here – for those who can afford to seek help.
If even a minister of Loneliness gets installed, do you think he will reach out to the ‘real’ lonely Indian! After all, don’t we have ministers for women and children, for the supposed welfare of the minorities and also for the several other disadvantaged groups and communities. And yes, there are also departments and ministries for the farmers, industrial workers and mazdoors, and above all, for the collective health of all! But look at the dismal conditions prevailing all around us. Needless to mention rapes and murders, the hounding of those who dare defy or question sarkari ploys!
Can any of the victims or their kin dare raise their voice against the political mafia or for that matter against any of the mantris and santris and the thanedars and subedars; the administrative machinery under their control? The dark reality is this: hundreds of lonely Indians die unsung and prematurely even in the joint families or in those beemaru marriages! Yes, in those fake useless marriages, which are made to drag on for the sake of the so many sakes!
While we are talking about the many ministries for various reasons that are mostly doing nothing, let’s also discuss the International Women’s Day, which is just a fortnight away from today.
A whole fortnight away, but all those typical women’s day announcements are already doing the rounds. I, for one, have had enough! It’s about time we look at the conditions in which women inmates suffer in prisons across the country. Are there any studies; any research undertaken to look into the emotional, physical and psychological well-being of women prisoners?
And if one were to broaden the sphere and ask, how does the entire imprisoned population survive, under what conditions? Men and women languish there for years. Most of the under-trials are technically innocent, yet so many years of their lives are completely wasted. Also, let’s not overlook this new trend, where in riots and pogroms it can very well be the victims that are paraded as the dangais-rioters-culprits! Double or triple whammy for them as they sit with a nothingness clutched to themselves! What’s becoming of us, with these bizarre happenings. With the arrests and detentions of even the innocent? Dark times getting darker every day?
So, let me leave you with these lines of Akbar Hussain Akbar Allahabadi, tucked in the volume, ‘Celebrating the best of Urdu Poetry’ by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad (Penguin): “My rivals have lodged complaints against me in police stations for the crime that Akbar continues to take the name of God in the present age and time”