The last year has been a rollercoaster for people around the globe. One might even come close to calling it a fever dream of sorts, with some months bringing us respite and optimism about a possible covid-free future, while others had us wrapped up in blankets, back to hosting virtual Christmas parties. Three mega covid-waves later, we once again dip our toes into the outside world warily attempting to be the creatures we were in the pre-pandemic era. One can’t help but wonder if the third time will be the charm. Questions about what the new(est) normal has in store for humanity looms on the horizon, as time in today’s world seems to be marked by an endless loop of living between pandemics and finding periods of normalcy, however abnormal that may be. Reflected in our cover art, the 18th issue of Open axis reflects on the year that has been, and where the loop might take us in the coming months.
To begin with, Reya Daya tracks global covid developments and vaccination trends, dwelling on the power of human adaptability and the need to learn to live alongside a virus that shows no signs of burgeoning. Sharing his thoughts on the pandemic and government messaging surrounding covid, immunologist Dr. Satyajit Rath gets into conversation with Open Axis on correct policy-making and mixed messaging in times of a disease outbreak.
On the upcoming Indian assembly elections, Biplob Kumar Das writes on the promises made to the farmers by parties contesting in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, particularly in the backdrop of a successful farmers movement. Further, Ranjini Ghosh from the Trivedi Center for Political Data analyzes the growth of social media usage in election campaigns and the implications of social media on microtargeting voters.
Rutuparna Deshpande critically examines the homeschooling infrastructure in India and explores the consequences that homeschooling mechanisms (or lack thereof) might bring for India’s students with pandemic-induced nationwide school shutdowns.
Reflecting on the happenings surrounding the 76th Republic Day and a resplendent parade in the capital, Ujjwala Shankar breaks down the consequences of extinguishing the eternal Amar Jawan Jyoti. Meanwhile, Adit Shankar examines India’s relationship with its constitution, a document perceived by many to be increasingly under threat. When a script for a movie surrounding a gay ex-army officer was rejected by the Defence Ministry, a nationwide uproar emerged on social media platforms. Shree Bhattacharyya reflects on this controversial rejection while exploring the complexities of gender and sexuality in the Indian Army.
Bharatnatyam dancer, performer, and instructor Justin Mcarthy writes on the legacy left behind by the late Kathak legend Birju Maharaj. In global news, Shauryavardhan Sharma dives deep into the future of India-China relations and factors that may shape the direction of future ties.
Finally, Founding Editor of The Wire and popular economic and political writer, M.K. Venu shares his thoughts on the latest Union Budget and the government’s big push to public investment in infrastructure. To wrap up the issue, we present a collection of some of our favorite memes on the budget.
Through the diverse topics presented in this issue, which make up a small but significant part of today’s new normal, we hope our readers find some incentive to step out into the world again and embrace all the changes the new world brings to us.
–Jaidev Pant, Lakshya Sharma, Maahira Jain