The history of the past decade can be written in the blood of the countless thousands who lost their lives in the myriad uprisings and wars that engulfed the broader Middle East. Other parts of the world also experienced violent upheaval, but the scale of death and destruction was not nearly as bad. I am glad this decade has come to an end. It was a long nightmare.
My daily job over the decade has mostly involved news selection, vetting, and editing for the Gulf News pages and website. I’d like to think I’ve become numb to the horrific pictures of current events filed by the news agencies on a daily basis. But every once in a while, images pop up that force me to reflect all over again at the enormity of the political violence and instability the people of the Middle East have been subjected to by forces outside their control. The body of a badly-mutilated baby being pulled out of the rubble after an Israeli regime air strike on a family home in Gaza, or the body of a Syrian refugee toddler washing up on the beaches of Turkey.
At another level, over the years, I have observed with growing uneasiness, which has now morphed into alarm, the ways in which my native country, India, is changing. The religious bigotry of the current political dispensation has reached a level that now poses an existential threat to the country’s 200 million Muslim minority. When a paediatrician cousin (who has undergone a heart-transplant) sends me a picture of hers at a silent protest in our hometown, Bangalore, against controversial new legislation, my pride in her activism is tempered by fears for her safety, given the unbelievably brutal manner in which the police have dealt with protesters, especially if they are from the minority community.
But, one can’t lose hope. I want to believe that nothing lasts forever, and things have gone so downhill that there has must be a collective will among the peoples of this region and beyond to make things better, to end the violence that has enveloped their lives and hampered their growth.
We are at that point in time, when one year recedes into memory and the next can be spotted heading for our doorstep even as we are caught between saying goodbye and hello. Caught between reviewing the plans that went bust and the dreams that still remain for the future. Caught between reviewing our place in the world that was and reconfiguring our place in a world that will be because, this world we all live in, sometimes challenges our beliefs and at other times upholds our faith in humanity. And amidst these big shifts, we are left to put together another bucket list and it can about anything really. Buying a new car, saving more money, travelling to Saigon or moving to another city, or a country, or even going back to home base.