2047 in a climate of hate is a scary thought

The year 2047, you bet, will look like none of what you see right now. It's a safe wager and we all know it.

By Abhishek Sengupta

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Published: Sun 30 Jun 2019, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 30 Jun 2019, 10:17 PM

It's 2047. India's at the vanguard of a tech revolution where people video-chat out of their swimming pools seamlessly through screens that pop out of thin air and carry out ATM transactions using biochips tattooed on forearms. But imagine the country, as a whole, has been systematically compartmentalised into communities separated by hate-fuelled high walls - both seen and unseen. Would you be at ease returning to that country forever then?
That's exactly what I asked myself last week during my causal midweek tête-à-tête with Netflix while watching Leila, a new 'original' based on the eponymous Indian dystopian novel set in a totalitarian regime in the near future. Only the 'country' here - that's also facing calamitous water and air shortage - is Aryavarta, an Orwellian state controlled by one 'Dr Joshi' whose modern day, real-life parallels, you know, aren't that difficult to find.
The year 2047, you bet, will look like none of what you see right now. It's a safe wager and we all know it. But at the same time a lot of what you will see 28 years from now - socio-politically, socio-economically, and far worse, climatically - is upon us already.
We have read and read and read about it so many times now that perhaps we are, in our collective subconsciousness, well aware of almost all of the world's big threats. Yet nothing really makes us stop dead in our tracks and have a think. The chain of events last week forced me into it - to stop and think for a moment.
What made it, and I didn't really intend this pun, climacteric was how my casual mid-week Netflix binge-watching coincided with the fiery speech of the first-time member of the Indian parliament going viral and a Hollywood heartthrob's chilling tweet on India's impending water crisis. They all seemed to appear in a perfect syzygy as if to serve an ominous reminder that times are a changing and changing fast for the worst we can imagine.
You don't quite have to be a misanthrope or a doomsayer to believe the world's in danger but watching the first few episodes of Leila as Mahua Moitra tore through the ruling BJP's right-wing leadership in her opening parliament speech detailing why she thought her country was under the grips of fascism made it somewhat vulgarly disconcerting to imagine the world could be ending sooner than most of us think. And the timing of Leonardo DiCaprio's tweet highlighting Chennai's water woes absolutely convinced me, it's about time we sat up and took notice of all that could possibly go wrong - in India and around the world - in the not so distant future.
In Netflix's  Leila, clean water is not just a luxury the rich buy from ATMs but a reason good enough for someone to kill. But ask those in Chennai (and Cape Town and Shimla and numerous other towns that are facing a severe water shortage) and they will tell you that fiction is now unleashing itself with full fury in their land, a crisis that needed someone like Leo to raise the red flag just last week.
But Leila is also about other equally grave concerns; of the Taj Mahal being burned down as riots rage the country, of a despot making eulogies customary greetings and of Shalini, a Hindu woman and mother of a girl of the same name, who is sent to a 'reprimand home' for 'sinning' by marrying a Muslim man. Of how she is enslaved and drugged while some are chosen for 'purity' tests that allow them to return home. Of how a new law is passed - one that lets the government take away any kid of mixed parentage in puppy cages with those protesting getting suitably punished too - some married off to dogs while some made to roll over half-eaten meals, just as they did back in the regressive "old, dark times".
Am I suggesting we are relapsing into the dark times? Hell, no but in 2047, should I be all of 64 - the age at which my mum passed away last year - I wouldn't want to live a victim of our own Frankensteins - a toxic climate with zero natural resources and a murderous environment controlled by hate-filled dogmas. I would rather want to be elsewhere. Bet you would, too!

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