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2017: looking for something to cheer about

Women
India

At the end of every year, I ponder on the year gone by.

Invariably, a host of unpleasant, often utterly vile events surface in my mind. It's a kind of predictable post mortem. So, is the verdict annus horribilis once again? I started this year with that theme.

Most people will agree, the scenario around the world is troubling. Depressing. In fact, fairly disgusting.

In Britain, the average person is worried about the fall out of Brexit and its repercussions on the economy, jobs, house prices, goods and services. In the US, Trump’s tweets have become the new headlines for the day, with the twitterati depending on their political persuasion, either applauding or abusing him. We have shootings galore in some countries, and some people have ceased to be surprised to see new terrorist attacks in the media.

But...

Always look on the bright side of life goes the song. So, the #MeToo campaign was a historic victory for women. The Weinstein revelations shocked (!) Hollywood, that always pretended not to know, although it was happening with total impunity, in virtually every film studio in America. #MeToo prompted the whole world to start shouting about sexual predators, not merely in the film industry, but also among politicians and in the workplace.

Did the stories achieve catharsis for the victims? If so, it was worth it. Undoubtedly, knowing the rapists and lechers didn't just get away with it – that finally the truth was out – must have helped the women involved.

This was a definitive leap forward for the feminist movement. But most importantly, it was a strike for the budding female actors from Hollywood, Bollywood, from every regional film studio in India (and there are thousands), in Africa and in South America. The name and shame campaign is particularly important, because it will force sexual predators to stop and think about the repercussions, to know that impunity for rape and sexual abuse is not a given, as it was in decades gone by.

In India, some people cheered last week. Because just when those of us who believe in a secular, inclusive India were in despair at the regular killings of Muslims in our country, a dent was made in the vote bank of the seemingly unstoppable party who has promoted a culture of hate and divisiveness.

It brought hope to many hearts. To me personally, the last 20 years have been frightening. I have watched my country, India, pushed into a downward spiral, by the politics of hate. People have been deliberately divided. Using hatred as a currency to create a vote bank, the groups who have urged Hindus to kill Muslims on the slightest pretext, seem not to see that they will destroy a country whose theme used to be 'unity in diversity’.

Modi’s BJP’s loss of 16 seats in its stronghold Gujarat has given hope to millions. It ended the myth that the hate-mongering party is invincible. A rather telling corollary to the story is the fact that more than 550,000 amounting to 1.8 per cent of the total eligible votes, voted for a new option – NOTA, none of the above!

They announced their displeasure pretty forcefully. That voters are thinking seriously, is another sign of hope. To me, it's an important note to end on.

As a person who celebrates Christmas, I’d like to wish my readers a Christmas filled with peace and joy and hope. I wish my Hindu friends a Happy Diwali, my Muslim friends Eid Mubarak and a Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends.

As children, most Indians celebrated all festivals. That’s the way it should be. May 2018 bring us peace and sanity. That is my wish for every single one of you.

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