Kishwar Desai | Market defeats mild' Omicron on warmest' New Year's Day
Deccan Chronicle.| Kishwar Desai
Though the figures keep climbing, and over one lakh people have been infected daily the only plus point is that the infection remains mild
Finally, the last of the Covid memories were kicked away as Londoners with boosters began dreaming of a better year! (Representational Image/ AP)
Well, if I didn’t know it was Christmas — it would have difficult to believe it! It was the warmest we had ever known it to be, and even New Year’s Day passed off at a glorious 15 degrees, with bright sunshine. Is this autumn, queried people in the park, cycling by in T-shirts and jeans.
If this is climate change — then most of us would welcome it with open arms! However, what has not been welcome is the rule of Omicron, the wretched infectious mutant which leaps from person to person — and last we counted, one in 25 had been caught by it. But for once, we weren’t hurtling down a lockdown like one year back. Though the figures keep climbing, and over one lakh people have been infected daily — the only plus point is that the infection remains mild.
And so far, the government has stood firm, repelling calls for more stringent measures — though many have been advising a far more cautious path. The government health advisors would rather play safe than be sorry in February (when the expected consequences of not putting any restrictions on us right now are supposed to manifest). But it is the market forces which are refusing to be tamed. This is the time of the year when the maximum amount of money is made by restaurants and shops — and so economically, this would be the worst time to close down anything. So we go through the daily routine of masking-up, socially distancing and sanitising hands once more — and hoping that we do not bump into a Covid carrier.
And so while the last day of the year was balmy and mild, fireworks scattered across the night sky as midnight struck. Last year’s silent gloom was forgotten when the New Year rolled in —as the sky bloomed with colourful streaks. Finally, the last of the Covid memories were kicked away as Londoners with boosters began dreaming of a better year!
But while Britain is not very popular with some of our neighbours — especially France where we are no longer welcome because of Omicron — surprisingly it is India which is the flavour of the New Year in the UK. Suddenly, after years of high visa entry fees, and tight immigration rules, a red carpet is being planned for Indians. Possibly this will happen as a gift towards the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence (and Partition). Liz Truss, the foreign minister, who is tipped to be Prime Minister if Boris ever quits, had obviously set the ball rolling on her recent visit to India. Now another minister, Anne Marie Trevelyan, is following it up. For many this outreach to India was bound to happen as Europe has distanced itself. Where is UK going to get the workers it needs so desperately, when Brexit has made most Europeans flee?
Aren’t you impressed by how much the world has changed in 100 years? From a colony that was once suppressed brutally, India is now on the top of the league to be wooed and welcomed as a valued partner. The credit, of course, goes mostly to the hard working Indo-British community here, which is viewed as educated and law abiding. The Cabinet also has three ministers of Indian origin — though unsurprisingly enough they want to distance themselves from this visa largesse. Even Priti Patel, the home minister would apparently not like to be too close to this gambit — as immigration is an issue which can boomerang anytime.
Anyway, it is interesting to see three women at the heart of this issue. Now we have to see how the Indian government will react. Undoubtedly, the fact that the erstwhile rulers are laying out a red carpet provides a pleasant touch, much valued in this very crucial year. Good news for Mr Modi before the upcoming state elections! And good news for all Punjabis for sure who will now start queuing up as soon as the reformed visa regime is announced!
Gosh! To think that, soon, anyone can write a play about Winnie-the-Pooh, or even try a film! As the copyright on this much-loved character is lifted this week in the US — and will expire in a few years in the UK, too — one is certain there will be many attempts to re-work the bear. A.A. Milne created Pooh based on his son’s teddy bear — and it became a household name. When Disney took it over — it morphed into an 80 billion dollar industry! Just a little behind Mickey Mouse! Even though A.A. Milne never any of this saw amazing fortune, we can’t say Pooh to that, can we?
Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.