I do not know much about you. I realised this when, after spending 15 oblivious years in your cradle, I turned to look and see who held me. The sight I doubt will ever leave me or my heart. It is seared with a hot press into my mind while the pain of it sizzles my entire nervous system.
I wish I had seen you sooner. I remember walking in your fields when I was five, my pinky finger held by my father, taking in all the sights and smells of the countryside.
I remember, when I was seven, how I felt American poet Walt Whitman’s urban ‘blab of the pave’ right in the heart of New Delhi, walking in a busy street to shop with mother on a casual summer evening. I remember being 10 and gazing as far as the eye can see from my terrace, in the warm embrace of a winter afternoon.
I thought I met you, India.
But I am here, now, in 2021. And I am so disappointed. Disappointed not in you, India, but in myself for not opening my eyes sooner, and in the people who were meant to keep you safe. Under the guise of glory, they are squandering money on infrastructural projects while the same funds can be diverted to efforts dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The same pandemic to which you lose more than 3,000 people daily.
They ignored the warning issues by the INSACOG — a consortia of 10 labs across the country tasked with scanning Covid-19 samples — about the new and more deadly variant in March. They put no restrictions on public gatherings and even allowed the Kumbh mela, which became a coronavirus super-spreader event.
The demands of rightfully protesting farmers remained unconsidered, and activists remained wrongfully detained under a draconian national security law. Let us not forget the mass rallies in West Bengal during the state elections, when the grave pandemic remained background noise. Talking of remains, overworked (mostly Dalit) crematorium workers were left to cremate the remains of those who passed away because of the pandemic.
Quite a tragedy, for a country that is now both metaphorically and literally burning.
But as I said, I know very little about you, India. I doubt I will ever even know what you represent. Uncertainty has led you to unfortunate plains. It will continue to plague you; it is inevitable. All I can wish for, India, is sensibility for those in whose hands you lie, and strength, to those affected by today.
One among 136 crore
Yatika Singh is a student of Welham Girls’ School, Dehradun