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Happier Diwali


Will 2020 be different? Diwali, or Deepavali—a festival of lights that stretches back more than 2,500 years is celebrated during the period of October-November every year. Specifically, every autumn, around the new moon between the Hindu months of Asvina and Kartika. The festival’s origins are linked with the incarnations of Lord Vishnu – Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, who both in their ways epitomized the victory of good over evil. While some are also linked with prosperity, Goddess Lakshmi, Gujarati new year, and marking of the last harvest before winter.

A pandemic called COVID is today the biggest evil. Will it eventually get vanquished by an act of another incarnation of Lord Vishnu? However, our 21st Century world would like to depend on rationality and logic where science and technology will come to rescue all of us from that evil. Moreover, the victory of light can only illuminate the whole world when the darkness in form of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, illness, violence, and exclusion is completely vanquished.The world as one family then can truly celebrate the festival of ‘lights’. Far from real?

The new human. The origin of human date back to more than 6 million years. Modern humans evolved some 60 thousand years ago and civil societies got formed many thousands of years thereafter. The present 21st Century of Common Era (CE) times and Before the Common Era (BCE) times are poles apart in comparison. We are living today in the digital age and we presume to be superior compared to all living beings. In the hindsight, we might be also ignorant of the fact that our very presence is the formative stage of a more evolved human in the distant future? Still why in 2100 CE, there has to be‘darkness’ of despair everywhere; why people have to lose lives and livelihoods; and why there have to be dark clouds of doom and gloom looming over our sustainable future?

Unarguably, we need a new human spirit to uphold the sanctity of our being regardless of gender or status to illuminate ourselves and communities. The COVID pandemic has offered the flash of silver lining in form of the ‘light’ of digital technology for wider inclusion in cyberspace! While the fortunate digital-haves are happy working and networking from anywhere and anytime the unfortunate have-nots are becoming jobless and helpless. Only an equitable digital inclusion can lead us to an inclusive future with sustainablebiotic and abiotic ecosystems. Enter the new human, who can lead the world economy to win as a combine overcoming the evil entities and events. That collective strength of the chain can only bail everyone out from the slippery slopes of ignorance and irrationality. We individually can be lesser a Tagore but our diverse minds can get included as a collective – to think without fear with heads held high; to gather knowledge that is more open and free, to not get fragmented as digital-haves and have-nots in narrow digital ‘firewalls’; to share expressions from the depth of truth undeterred by powerful influences, and finally to see the clear stream of reason. For a change,the new human is not awaiting the incarnation of Lord Vishnu for saving humanity from human-made evils. Rather, in 2100 CE times the new human will be looking forward to employing innovative and digital technology-enabled ways to unbiasedly empower the under-educated, under-included, under-sighted, under-privileged, under-nourished, and under-par income groups. That new human will be by the people, of the people, and for the people. The new human is the new real?

The new real. Had it not been for the COVID pandemic, health, safety, and environmental concerns would not have come to the fore. Ordinary people who were earlier passive about such concerns would not have become mindful agents later to address those. The many Indian States would not have enacted regulations banning the use of firecrackers in Diwali at the cost of losing popular votes, and even the recent US presidential elections arguably would not have been such a cliff-hanger without the COVID. Has this pandemic been a blessing in disguise? In favor, it has taught us essential lessons of life. For example, we can be minimalistic, we can also live without — customary rituals, recurrent visits to the healthcare centers, the malls,and the places of worship. Besides, we can learn and work from homes and even profit from slowing our pace in life. Moreover, we all have worn a common ‘human’ identity in form of a mask in the wider interest of public hygiene and health, which has been an exemplary act of social responsibility by one and all. The most important lesson that we have learned is the happiness of Sita, Suzy, Salma, Ram, Rahim,and Roger are all dependent on each other’s well-being, their lean-clean-green practices, their civil behaviors, and their meaningful agencies for a better tomorrow for all. This new real shall add more to lighting humanity as a whole. Here is wishing you all a happier Diwali!

Krishnendu Sarkar

Former Head of Academics and presently, Chief of strategy and impact, NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata, and Durgapur. He can be reached at krishnendu.sarkar@nshm.com [ A thought capsule from the sidelines of Kolkata Media Conference 2020, NSHM ]