January 2, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

Wish you all a peaceful 2017!

  1. Many greetings received over the past holiday week have the tone of relief that 2016 is over. Several people have commented about events of 2016 as being painful, polarising and pessimistic. It is more a reflection of my circle of friends and colleagues, than the world in general. A long taxi ride to a small rural airport last month near Durham indicated that rural, small town folks in northern England were actually quite optimistic post-Brexit.
  2. The death of a popular Tamil Nadu politician Ms Jayalalitha brought out an amazing outpouring of personal grief and loss from millions of ordinary citizens. She was a popular film star, and known as ‘Amma’ (mother) for her caring leadership of her people in the province. Yet, it is hard to understand how hundreds of her faithful followers would self-immolate and commit suicides in grief in this era! Populist leaders around the world had a great year 2016?
  3. In recent years, several Bollywood films have focused on themes of sports and women. The latest is ‘Dangal’, about wrestling by young girls in Haryana. A popular film like this one (and one of the first of this type ‘Chak De’) does bring home the message of discriminatory attitudes in contemporary Indian society towards sports for girls and women. Sports federations, administrators and officials in relevant government departments continue to demonstrate through their actions that girls are weak, and unable to compete. How long?
  4. Violence has disrupted normal lifestyles of more people in more nations during the past months. Public assemblies— cinema halls, theatre, night clubs, markets, shopping malls—have become dangerous in most countries and regions of the world. Such widespread acts of violence—irrespective of age, gender, caste, class, religion—may not be curtailed through show of military might. Human psyche seems to have lost its normative compass?
  5. Most people around the world make pledges for ‘decent’ behaviours at the start of a new year. Very few actually remember what they promised to do previous years. Are there some patterns to these promises? Focus on exercise & diet, neat & timely, care & compassion—most of it? What about spending time with loved ones doing mundane things?

All the very best

Sincerely

Rajesh Tandon