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View: Fiddling and eating pakodas while the world drowns


The skies have darkened, it’s going to rain.

‘Let’s have pakodas!’ I declare.

My mother does an excellent job of ignoring me.

‘Let’s have pakodas!’ I declare, this time with more conviction and volume.

She looks at me like I’m a cockroach in her salad, mutters ‘Yes, yes, your generation will be demanding pakodas through the apocalypse!’ and walks away.

Speaking of apocalypse, it’s raining hard in Chennai this week. When I lament this to a much younger colleague, he looks at me strangely, Chennai floods dangerously every year he says. I realise he was born into a city that floods all the time.

For many years now, Delhi residents have been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day without ever putting a cig to their lips. The Yamuna this week has been gurgling out a toxic white foam from all the pollutants in its waters. It’s as if Shiv, out of whose hair the river comes out of, has been shampooing his matted locks.

With one minute left on the proverbial clock to the end of the world, what is it that we are doing to battle climate change and prevent environmental disasters? For one, we are having conferences. The COP in COP26 stands for Conference of Parties (which I had initially thought to be an electronic and dance music festival in Spain). The 26 stands for the 26th in the series, and is considered especially important.

What have we been doing in the first 25 that now all the pressure to save the world is on the 26th? Well, we got together to declare that we will make sure the planetary temperature does not rise more than 2°C in the next 50 years. Things are apparently that bad now, so bad that we aren’t even trying to reverse or stop climate change any more (we can’t), but the best we can do now is to ensure that it doesn’t get worse. Almost like how New Year resolutions evolve – in 2019 it was ‘Must lose 10 kg’, which going into 2022 is, ‘Must NOT get heavier’.

And what did COP26 achieve that will not save, but at least delay the impending disaster? World leaders fly in on private jets, and lament that people are taking too many flights these days. Richer countries admonish the developing ones for not keeping up with the goals that they never had any hand in setting in the first place.

The US, after being the reason for more than 40% of the carbon emissions in the world, can no longer fingerwag at developing countries for not controlling the menace. That would be like someone yelling at you for turning on the fan in your bedroom while he uses an AC in his loo. If you’re going to be the world leader in causing the problem, it is up to you to be the world leader in solving it, no?

Rich countries have promised developing nations $100 billion to help the latter reduce emissions. But they’ve only dispensed about $20 billion. Barack Obama, who gave a COP speech geared towards the youth and their role in controlling climate change, conveniently forgot that even if the young do finally inherit the planet, they’ll still be victims of the decisions that the people who are going to die in the next decade or so will take. These old men and (far too few) women will go down in whatever is left of our history as the ones who clapped and sang while the world went up in a simmer and a poof.

But before the apocalyptic floods get rid of us physically, Noah-questions-asked, it is the flood of platitudes from our world leaders that will kill us emotionally and mentally. I, like a lot of people of my generation, know that I will be looking out of the window at the dark skies and eating pakodas when the final rain comes.



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