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Tonight’s nine-minute *’lamp and torchlight parade’* call by the Prime Minister has given some individuals an opportunity to question his (ir)rationality. Some are his political rivals, others who are ideologically opposed to him and yet others who simply hate the man’s guts. But by and large, the PM’s call will be heeded and people will light their lamps and rekindle their hopes for a better tomorrow. Here are my nine thoughts about this symbolic (in)activity.

#1. One of the primary jobs of any leader is to rally people around an emotionally compelling cause. What can be more compelling than battling a common threat to life, for which there is no vaccine or cure yet?

#2. It is a strong message to essential service providers, victims of the disease and the hugely inconvenienced public. The PM’s stated aim has been the collective expression of solidarity and that ‘Nobody is Alone’ in this fight.

#3. The element of Mystery. Get people wondering what this is all about. Something may just happen. We believe in miracles.

#4. Indians are ardent believers of astrology, numerology, palmistry, the occult and every other kind of traditional practice or wisdom. There is a large component of some of these concepts in play too.

#5. The PM personally believes in spiritualism, yoga and traditional wisdom.

#6. Every minute of our day is overwhelmed with negativity, bad news, destructive behaviour, doomsday speculations, mindless whatsapp forwards and other time-wasters. This exercise may help in creating an environment of peace and quiet, if even just for nine minutes, for people to ponder and reflect on the positives, declutter their minds and focus on the spiritual.

#7. It will create a visual spectacle. A satellite photograph and drone-captured images may fire the imagination of the world and create a notion of global solidarity. This is important as addressing future crises will require committed global responses.

#8. Science does not have all the answers anyway and will never have all the answers. So why not invoke the forces of Nature? Nature has shown us who is boss. So let us pay her the obeisance she commands.

#9. Could the PM be trying to soften the blow that he may have to deliver? What if circumstances demand an extension of lockdown? This is not going to be taken kindly by the population. Can this exercise in solidarity keep the people in check for another week or two of deprivation of their basic liberties? It is a tough game.

Whatever, the future holds, there is no harm investing nine minutes in solitude, peace and hope.

05 Apr 20


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