My Worst Fear

THUD.

I jolt upright. Granny’s snores from the other side still rumble through the air. No dead bodies are pooling in blood beside my bed either.

THUD.

Windows, ugh.

Rubbing the grogginess out of my eyes, I stifle a tempting yawn, but give in anyway.

Almost.

“AVINAAAASH!!! YOU’RE AWAKE ALREAADYY PA?!” greets my mum with cheery enthusiasm.

And there goes my sleep.

“GEEET AAAP, freshen yourself up and go for a morning walk. Be healthy da, exercise, come do yoga with me,” she urges me on with a clap on the back.

My reply?

“Okay ma, will do, wait..”

And the wait never ends.

After grappling with all the threads connected to my limbs, I tug them to climb out of the bed and shuffle towards the living room.

For the newspaper.

Priorities.

“Sir ji, what’s the occasion? What meeting do you have today?” quips my dad from the dining table, sipping his favorite, not-too-sweet, not-too-dark tea.

I grunt my morning wishes to him as well, and pick up the newspaper roll. Soon, I’m sprawled on my unmade bed, poring over the printed letters.

And that’s when the troubles begin.

You see, all the infections our world is afflicted with, the malaise we shoo ourselves away from, be it in the form of corrupt politicians playing their illegal cards time and again, or the perpetual dumping of effluents into lakes, doesn’t simply pass by my eyes unnoticed, ignored or rebuffed straightaway. Every day, the newspaper ushers with it grim reminders of where we, as either humans buzzing about in our lives, or as a state or country battling internal strife, or, most importantly, as a race, figuring out their probabilities of survival in the next, not 1000, not 500, but 50 years, stand.

I’ll help you understand.

No, do not just understand or empathize with others who are stricken with “misfortune”, as some skeptics may quote, but truly grasp, swallow, believe in what catastrophes have already unfurled and also, are yet to.

Which hopefully will spur you to introspection, followed by action.

I flip the newspaper over, and land on the international news page about scientific developments and lifestyle.

LUXEMBOURG OFFERS FREE MASS TRANSIT TO PUBLIC

BIOPLASTICS MAY NOT BE AS ECOLOGICALLY VIABLE AS PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT

CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS HIT RECORD HIGH

There. A substantially downing headline. Further exploration reveals that the emissions rose almost 3% year-on-year. Last year’s figure stood at 9 gigatons of carbon dioxide. 9. Giga. Tons. That’s one 9, followed by nine 0s, and further followed by three 0s, kilograms of a gas that threatens to wrap the earth in a blanket for a prolonged winter which doesn’t exist, raising the atmosphere’s thermostat at no one’s direct request, and wreaking havoc everywhere.

Sunlight streams into my room, enlivening my drowsy spirit in vain, and illuminating dust motes adrift.

So harmless, weightless…

How long?

How long until they aren’t just motes anymore that you can whisk away with your hand, but have to blow out of your way as if they were mosquitoes?

How long until you witness a malnourished, unnaturally spindly polar bear with yellowed fur and red slime slobbering from its mouth, which is probably blood, on your next joyride to the Arctic?

How long until I revisit my native on the West Coast, only to wade knee-deep through muddy waters to the coconut tree under which I played marbles as a child, ages ago?

Is it worry that creases my forehead now? Anxiety? Foreboding, perhaps?

No.

Fear.

I turn the page over. Sports news is plastered all over, from unintelligible football clubs winning cups I wouldn’t want to drink tea in, to Indian athletes bringing India to the forefront in, well, athletics. Cricket catches my attention (as always), with India sniffing a victory in the proximity over the Oz.

“..during the first dig, Pujara notched up a fifty. India owes this match to its doughty…”

Don’t they ever think about what’d happen to the world while the commentators spectate on, over the players, while the committees hoard in money? How long will this dedicated sportsmanship last? How late is too late for them to realize, to come to senses, to stop making the pitch extra bouncy, and instead shift their focus to other matters imperative for our survival?

You could be thinking that I have been besieged by a lopsided view of matters on the world, and should stop making a fuss.

But that’s the point. That you may think that my views are lopsided.

And it’s my job to show you exactly why they are.

Moving on. Business.

Eh, not exactly a relatable section.

I rush through the global politics section as well, picking up no particular important pieces of info.

Turn the page again, and now comes national news, a harbinger of even more grim reminders.

FARMERS STAGE STAND-IN PROTESTS IN DELHI; MAHARASHTRA FARMERS FIND THEMSELVES IN TURMOIL

My mind tumbles down the slope of perpetual distress.

How long can they withstand these demands bearing down on their shoulders, pushing them into the dark, left with no options at the end of the lightless tunnel but one – to end it all?

India is a country with a population of over a billion, with well over half of them employed in the agricultural sector. For such a large segment devoted to just one, sole cause – to feed the bellies of everyone else in the country – the measures taken to safeguard their assets and jobs have been nothing short of pathetic. A farmer in Maharashtra sold over 2.5 tons of onions, at a paltry and humiliating price of 1 rupee per kilo, and, after deducting all transport and labour costs, was left with 6 rupees.

6 rupees, for all the months of back-breaking work out in the fields.

6 rupees, to feed all others’ families but his own.

6 rupees, an amount we hotel goers wouldn’t bother to give two glances at, while rounding off the bill.

Unable to bear the repercussions, he mailed his proceeds to the CM Fadnavis.

Is this what we have come to? Desecrating the people who keep us well fed, and are the engines of our country’s machinery?

How isn’t this brought to mass media, why don’t we acknowledge their predicament, when we, the consumers buy the same product at 20 times the farmers’ selling price, without batting an eye?

How long will this last?

How long until I open my fridge to find not apples and Cadburys, but thick roti of yesterday and dried pickles gone way salty long since?

How long until the food on my plate will be no longer a necessity, but a luxury?

Below that is another debilitating headline, dragging me deeper into the unknown future:

AIR QUALITY INDEX

Again, a distress call not that far off from the first issue I lamented about in the beginning.

How long until we teach our children that first thing they do in the morning should not be brushing their teeth, but putting on gas masks?

Outside, a car honks away a dozing motorcyclist, leaving plumes of grey smoke in its wake. A cooker goes off in a nearby home, with the sizzle of oil crackling through the air.

That was just one car, and one kitchen, out of the ten others in my view; in just one street, out of the hundreds in my locality; in just one locality, out of the hundreds in my city; in just one city, out of the tens in Telangana; in just one state, out of the 28 others in my country; in just one country, out of 200 others.

It isn’t as difficult to hear the silent wails of help from nature now, crying out under the strain we are putting it in, is it?

Perspective. That is the last resort.

For altering the people’s minds.

One car and one kitchen doesn’t sound much, until you know, no, acknowledge, the existence of billions of other human beings, who wake up the way you do, who eat half-toasted bread and gulp down milk the same way you do, who either commute through their own vehicles or using buses which cough out carbon dioxide, the same way you do, who sigh with relief on Fridays the same way you do, also put the same demands and exploit the earth’s resources, the way you do, every single day of your life.

Tell me if that’s not the least bit terrifying.

“AVINNAAAHSHHH! GO BRUSH YOUR TEETH! COLLEGE JUST CONVERTED YOU INTO A SPOILT BRAT, GO NOW!” screams my mother from the hubbub of the kitchen, breaking the gloom I had surrounded myself in.

“Yeeesss maaaa,” I drag, the gloom piecing itself together again.

How long until the screams of tired persuasion become cries of anguish?

The barrage of dismaying news doesn’t halt, however. Reports of people dying unexpectedly in accidents, politicians bailing themselves out of danger and putting the public in jeopardy, abductions, political vengeance are all splattered over the papers.

How long?

The deaths catch my eye. How morbidly intriguing is the fact, that you could be run over by a car, whose driver was on the phone talking about the vegetable prices with his family, all the while you were snapping your fingers to Taylor Swift’s latest release?

Or, the fact that curiosity could push you to the edge of the platform, just when you lose your balance and plunge head-first onto the tracks, and the din of an engine isn’t as far away as you had previously imagined, merely seconds away from flattening you into strips of mangled bone?

It’s just so abrupt, unanticipated and disbelieving that we refuse to accept a similar situation playing out in our lives. We read those instances, give our condolences, and move on unaffected.

But guess what?

You are as vulnerable to those “unfortunate incidents” as the victims were.

It’s just that your number hasn’t been called out yet.

Every time I go out for a walk or catch up with some old friends, those thoughts don’t ever fail to make a flashy appearance. I mean, what if I lose my balance while boarding the bus? What if that blue Accord swerves to the left instead, and I stand in the way of the speeding vehicle, frozen, unguarded?

The honey-chocolate waffle I just ordered, here I sit munching on those delicacies, while some people out there scamper to gather scraps of leftovers, oblivious to the existence of the word “honey.”

What does that make me?

Where do I stand?

How long can others endure this torment?

“AAAAVIIINASH. DON’T YOU EVER LISTEN TO ME?! HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD I-“

“Coming maa, coming coming,” I whisper, as the rustling of sheets being rearranged joins hands with an unsettling void in my stomach, eating away the morning appetite.

With the final fold, I stumble out of the bed and towards the bathroom with uneven steps. Pushing open the door, I stare at a being, untidy, with unkempt hair, eyes sunken beyond reach, and face almost pale.

Pale…with fear.

How long?

mm

Avinash GS

I don't always complete my bios,

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