One Heartbeat Away…

Himanshu Gupta
6 min readJan 9, 2022

I was in class 8th when my parents made me develop a habit of reading the newspaper everyday. I was around 14 that time. It was one of the determined efforts from my parents to make me improve my grasp on the a very reputed language at that time: English.

In the early 2010s, it was quite a notion among middle class Indian Parents that once a student demonstrates excellence in the English language, then only the sky is the limit for his/her success. A part of that was fuelled by the recent success of new MBA graduates during that time who earned a lot more than people who were 10+ year older than them and worked in reputed government jobs and had children in early teenage.

It was the recent boom of private companies in India who paid on a different structure and started to challenge the repute around government jobs. A 25 year old MBA graduate easily earned 2x times than a 45 year old person with 20 years of experience of working in the government. These 40–50 aged people had their children who were in the early teenage years. These parents then put their efforts in training these children for the changing trend.

So yeah, learning English seemed to be the key to infinite success and money at that time and my parents made sincere efforts in making sure their child try to put his work there. The most common suggestion at that time was to read the newspaper daily.

The Indian Newspaper

With continuous nudging from my parents to do it, I started reading the newspaper. Initially, I only liked reading the sports column but slowly, I got in the habit of reading the complete front page and then reading through headlines and digging down into the ones I found interesting. And this habit stayed with me for the next 10 years. I am 24 now and more than 95% of the days over the last 10 years, I have devoted more than 20–30 minutes every day just reading the newspaper. The other 5% of days, when I am on trips, some exam is coming up or I am very sick, I still manage to grasp some news over the internet.

When you read the same type of thing or keep following the same events over the years, you start to spot patterns. You try to predict what will happen next based on those patterns. But predictions end up being wrong more than 50% of the time as this is the real world, not the one which we imagine in our head. The world which is full of surprises. Things which have never happened before will keep happening. Things which will surprise the hell out of you will keep happening. Things which will make you sadder than ever or the things which will give you immense joy will keep happening. But we still try to make the best possible predictions and we love doing that. Nothing gives more happiness and confidence than the moment in which your prediction turns out to be right.

So yeah, coming back again, I have been following quite a lot of events in the past years and it’s kind of an involuntary reaction to spot patterns, draw conclusions or form opinions on them. But the past 2 years have been one of their own kind.

Everything that has happened in the past 2 years has been full of surprises and almost all of them have been bad, thanks to the novel virus! Never has the world witnessed such a thing and at such a scale. Never has the years of progress in science, technology and economics was put down to the knees by a microorganism. Never has the world shown this much unity in fighting out the smallest of creatures.

And the events haven’t been just around the virus. It has been about border tensions, new military coups, terrorism and political fights. To be honest, massive political fights. All of them happening in between the virus crisis.

Now, yeah, coming back again and resisting to trying to build more storyline (I know I have a bad habit of being verbose, but yeah), let me cut to the main point. I want to list down a few observations from the past few months and draw one conclusion. Or maybe just form an opinion. And then tell you what the expression “One Heartbeat away” has to do with all of this.

Observation 1:

The world developed the vaccine to fight the virus in record times. It was because of billions of dollars put into development, the scientists who worked day and night to research the virus and hundreds of thousands of volunteers who risked their life, so that the world can get out of the pandemic. Since, it is quite known that vaccines are the way we have earlier won over nasty things like smallpox, polio etc, it was assumed that once the vaccines are here, the time for virus will be over.

But But But, there is a group of people who just refuse to the get the vaccine (popularly known as anti-vaxxers). People who are educated, well off and their countries have ample supplies of vaccine. They are well literate to know that by not getting vaccinated they are not just risking their own lives but of others as well. Note that these “others” are no “other” than their family, their friends and their neighbours. The exact people they hold dear to their heart.

But they refuse to get the vaccine. Why? Because somehow it violates their “Freedom”. Somehow they feel it’s their personal choice in a democratic world and just to justify their freedom, they won’t get vaccinated. I can comment a lot on this and expression opinions but I want to limit this here as it is an “observation”.

Observation 2:

India, the world’s biggest democracy, a country where more than 70% of the people are involved in agriculture, witnessed massive protest from farmers.

The protests went for over a year and witnessed violence in between. A year long large scale protest by the people invested in the most popular profession of the country must have meant something and must have existed for a strong reason.

The farmers demanded withdrawal of the govt’s recently passed laws to liberate the agriculture market and involve private sector. Something, the experts termed as long pending and the need of the hour for the agriculture which was in a dire state since years.

In India:

  1. Agriculture is income-tax free. If a person is involved in agriculture, there is no income tax he/she has to pay, no matter what the income is. A law that is more than often used to convert black money to white.
  2. Every year, govt burns out loads of tax payers money just to waive off the loans given to farmers.
  3. Govt spending is huge to provide MSP, a minimum support price to the cultivators.
  4. To support farmer incomes, govt gives direct cash transfers to hundreds of thousands of farmers annually. Again burning loads of taxpayers money.
  5. Agriculture in India is done using old methods causing damages to crops, air pollution during stubble burning and continuously depleting water tables.

Hence, there were suggestions since decades to involve the private sector in agriculture to bring in innovation and investment and avoid govt’s waste of resources for these populist schemes.

But farmers were against this because they still wanted the govt security here, no matter what the future costs. More than that, they have been demanding a legal guarantee for the the MSP which will cost the govt more than half their annual budget. A demand which has been termed “bizarre” by all the experts in economics and policy. But due to the large scale protests, they got the laws repealed and are consistently demanding the MSP guarantee. A group of these farmers have been recently seen to even cause a “security lapse” for the Prime Minister’s detail which is a rarest of the rare incidents. But again, I won’t comment further here.

So?

The above two observations (and some several other small incidents) make me remind the words said by Frank Underwood in his so unforgettable voice and style:

These are the lines spoken by him when he becomes the Vice President of the United States of America (Here’s the trailer link). The last 4 words: “Democracy is so overrated”.

The point here is that Democracy might be the best solution we have right now and all democratic countries may boast of it. I myself feel lucky to born in a democratic country. I have always felt proud of my country and the work she has done for the citizens. But overall, the concept of democracy is overrated. Definitely overrated.

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Himanshu Gupta

Software Engineer @ Google. Explore, Experience, Learn and Live!