(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
As the monsoons sneaked upon us with torrential rains so devastating that they could only be interpreted as Mother Nature’s version of ‘we need to talk,’ the sun wasn’t the only ancient object that was being forcefully made to fade into the background. That was also the fate of BJP leader and UNESCO World Heritage Site, LK Advani. Always the optimist, where others saw a barely filled glass crowded with cobwebs and hardly able to sustain its own weight, he saw a glass that was brimming with leadership skills powerful enough to lead other glasses to victory. In a span of a few days, Advani’s narrative went from ‘look at how they’re bullying the elderly’ to ‘grandpa just took all his toys and went home,’ to making people ask the question, ‘ZOMG! Does he have dementia?’
Not to be outdone, the UPA dug up old Egyptian mummies, sent an urgent telegram to Transylvania asking all vampires to report for duty, found a few dozen zombies roaming the rabid wasteland of theatres still playing After Earth, and inducted all of them into its Cabinet of the Undead. The members of the UPA’s council of ministers are so old, their average age is ‘quadruple AK Hangal.’ From now on, all their meetings are going to take place in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy room, so as to save on the cost of individual oxygen tanks. After all, their catheter bills are already through the roof! Apparently, individuals who were born when all the continents on the planet were one single land mass are supposed to reinvigorate the government and help their party avoid its impending electoral implosion. The last time so many old people came together to save a messianic bloodline from disaster, they were called the Priory of Sion.
Infosys, one of the leaders of India’s technology boom, has had a lacklustre few years. Their stagnant growth had a negative impact on their earnings, which further eroded the value of their stock. So, to energize the employees and put a lid on the rapid attrition, the management of the company decided that they needed to hire someone with fresh ideas to lead the recovery. Someone with a new approach to doing business. A dynamic go-getter who dances to his own tune. Naturally, the only person who fit the bill was their former chairman who formally retired a few years ago.
One of the major myths that has persisted for centuries in this country is that the higher your age, the more wisdom you possess. The old are always right and the young are supposed to follow them blindly, because chronology! Even if the old person in question has nothing more to offer than banal nostalgia about how things were better in their day. The past is always perfect, even if it wrought discrimination, bigotry, ignorance, disease, and unnecessary hardship. Remember when you had to send a letter before the internet became widely accessible? Things were so simple! First you bought stamps, paper, envelopes and an adhesive. Then you sat down to write the letter. Once you were done, you put your letter in an envelope, sealed it, wrote the address on the front, calculated the postage and then stuck a stamp of appropriate value on the right hand corner. Afterwards, you would post the letter at your nearest mailbox. Your letter would reach its destination in three to eight weeks, depending upon the weather conditions. It would take another three to eight weeks for a reply to come back to you. And then the whole process would begin again. Nowadays, you can click a button and send a letter anywhere in the world in a couple of seconds. Where’s the romance in that?
Despite our fixation with the past, we have refused to learn anything constructive from it. Most of our important institutions - just like the people who run them - have become lethargic, ineffective and of no use to anyone. Neither do they possess the capability to understand the multitude of problems that we face, nor are they interested in solving them. You can’t get people who studied science before the invention of electricity to understand the importance of combating climate change. Or make those who were brainwashed since the day they were born into believing the superiority of their group over everyone else understand the importance of equal rights. The fact that in this day and age some people still think that the best way to ensure the safety of a large percentage of our citizens is to treat them like prisoners is proof enough that they shouldn’t be in any position of authority. And yet, our obsession with deferring to a person’s age keeps them there.
I, for one, still yearn for the time when we weren’t faced with evidence of the looming shitstorm every single day and could take refuge in ignorance and lack of access to proper information.
Things were so much better in my day.