Helplessness: Crisis in India

🦊 #56

Hey friends,

I hope you’re doing well and staying safe. Quick reminder that I’ll be hosting a new virtual session on embracing your inner polymath this Thursday: The Polymath Advantage. You can watch a quick 2-minute trailer to learn more and RSVP here. We’ll talk about why specialization can be problematic, and how the polymath approach can help you differentiate your skills, find personal alignment, and future-proof your career. Hope to see you there!


I struggled to find the energy to write this week. I’ve been increasingly worried about the situation in India as it gets overtaken by a second wave of COVID cases. As horrifying as it is to witness the devastation from afar, it is an escalation of stress I’ve already felt given that my both of my parents and my grandmother live in India. I haven’t seen them in almost two years, and I worry about their safety, but I cannot do much to help them. It’s such a horrible feeling, the helplessness.

At one point a while back, things looked like they were improving. I started to make plans to go visit, but those plans quickly fell through. In that brief period of planning, I allowed myself to daydream about being back home with my parents. I could already hear the Koyal birds in my parents’ backyard. I could taste my mom’s cooking, and see her smile as we shared a meal together. I could hear my dad’s laughter, and his commentary on a cricket game we watched. It’s as if it really happened, in some way... I have to tell myself that it wasn’t real, and that it can’t be real for a long while. I don’t know for how long. I’m tired of not seeing them. I’m sad. I’m worried.

The situation in India is truly devastating. I won’t be able to effectively describe it here, but it’s an increasingly familiar situation of an authoritarian leader failing their citizens. It is heartening to see America and other countries starting to step up to help, but the losses are already difficult to fathom. My only hope is that this mishandling by the Indian government will inform how its citizens (and the world) view the ruling BJP party. At this stage, it’s a pretty slim hope.

India has swung deep into Hindu nationalist territory over the last decade, and yet the majority of its citizens have continued to support the Modi-led party that unapologetically drives them there. One of the most egregious examples was the redefinition of Indian citizenship, specifically designed to curtail the rights of Muslims. In addition to the loss of life due to COVID, the fabric of a secular India deteriorates day by day. Watching India’s identity shift in this way forces me to question my own identity as an Indian Muslim. (If you’re curious to follow the political climate in South Asia, I recommend subscribing to The Juggernaut.)

If you’re moved to take action to support victims of the COVID crisis in India, these links might serve useful:


I ran into a tiny ray of light shining through the dark cloud of devastation that COVID has brought: I’m learning that the mRNA vaccine technology used to develop COVID might help us develop faster vaccines in the future. When I think about this, I wonder to myself: Did so many have to die for us to get here? Could we have found another way?

I wondered the same thing when I saw this incredible forestry technique from Japan called Daisugi: Sustainable forestry: lumber without cutting down trees. Daisugi is a Japanese forestry technique where specially planted cedar trees are pruned heavily (think of it as giant bonsai) to produce ‘shoots’ that become perfectly uniform, straight and completely knot free lumber.” While it may seem like a new and innovative idea, this technique originated back in the 14th century.

The key to our survival may rely on the research of the future. Perhaps it can also be found in the lessons of the past.

Until next time,

—Salman

🌎 salman.io | 🐦 @daretorant