It is with mixed feelings that I write this at 00.00 hours between 2020 and 2021.

Was 2020 a divine epiphany to test the fibre and endurance of homo sapiens who admirably faced and continue to face the scourge of the microbe or a litany of supplication to the divine for deliverance from the spread and strike of the fatal germ. Sayonara will be a fitting word in the hope that a mutant of the microbe does not strain the resolve of the people in 2021, as we hear the recent news pouring in from UK causing renewed concerns. But, whatever may be in store for us in the new year, nothing can beat the ‘never-say-die’ human spirit.

To rewind a bit, I had literally welcomed 2020 from the top of the world – by summitting the 12,000 feet snowy, but sylvan Dayara Bugyal (means lush meadows) in the Uttarkashi district in Uttarakhand. The trek from the plains to the peaks, was an immersive experience of bounteous nature at its best and the resilience and fortitude of the people who live it out in the tough climes of the heights. Whoever thought that the climb down from the lofty peaks to the lowly plains will in a matter of few months expose all of us and the world to the pathogen of the millennium.

A microbe invisible to the naked eye came knocking and laid to waste lives and livelihood and transformed for ever the way of living and working, as we have all seen since March when panic, pandemonium and pandemic coalesced to close down countries and economies. The quest for a cure lead to a search for discovery of a vaccine, which has as yet been elusive except for claims from the likes of Pfizer and Serum Institute and several others. Some governments like the US and Spain have been brash and blasé resulting in lakhs of casualties while others like India have been more proactive albeit unthought and kneejerk leading to spikes after early stem, as testing increased.

Daily wage earners were the worst affected with lakhs forced to exit from urban earnings and migrate back to rural poverty. If not for the munificence of the people and government measures, albeit belated, lakhs would have perished. Industries like hospitality, entertainment and travel collapsed to moribund anaemia. Infrastructure industries came to a grinding halt with the labour force missing. Work from home became the norm for every working person, delightful initially but distraught finally to see a 9 to 5 job becoming a near 24 hours digital work any time. Zoom conferences deluged all social platforms and after the initial enthusiasm of ‘feel good’ and ‘feeling important’, most were zombied out. Women in general, and working women in particular, were stretched to their limits catering to the dashavataram of roles that they play in our society. Working men realised the challenges of managing office work and house work, bringing about a behavioural and  mindset change in their attitudes towards their wives and partners.

The social animals in humans became digital robots given the compulsions of social distancing, masks and sanitizers. Hugs became bugs, kiss went amiss, real meetings became virtual greetings and laughs went smirks. Urban runs and walks went indoors, but roads saw millions of old and the young walking 100s of kms back to their villages, eating outdoors went indoor orders, weddings and functions went virtual with all the fun of eats and greets and treats absent. Festivals and celebrations were homely affairs, seas and lakes and ponds were spared the immersion of the gods, garba dances stilled, crackers went silent. Traffic went off roads and pollution went underground. Tellingly, nature acknowledged the reduction of pollution and painted the sky and the horizon with myriad hues bright and cheerful.

The healthcare system was overstrained but was so well handled by the selfless doctors and healthcare workers. Many lives have been tragically and prematurely lost to the inveterate microbe. Many went for covid treatment, but several never returned. Cremations were done without consoling shoulders. General wellbeing of people plunged, so did the GDP.  The government on its part announced several alleviatory measures like moratorium on loans, substantial welfare and relief measures, putting cash into the hands of the deprived, extended statutory timelines, healthcare measures, injecting liquidity into the economy, etc.

However, the biggest silver lining or rather the gold lining has been families have been forced to be together, spend time with each other, tend to each other and become more accepting of each other. Nothing to beat happy families during unhappy times.

Given the choice between the devil and the deep sea, in spite of no clear cure and control, economies have been reopened with the expectation that herd immunity would have developed and that you and me will be careful and cautious on the back of constant messaging. Essentially, we all have been left to hope for the best while bracing for the worst.

As we end 2020, have we all learnt 20-20?

I don’t know if I have come out better than what I was in the beginning of 2020, but most definitely am thankful and happy to see the sunrise today and share some of my simple but significant learning with the readers.

  • Every day counts for we know not if we will be gifted tomorrow. Be grateful and enjoy the ‘now’.
  • There is plenty of time; time is infinite, but our life is not – it is for us to use it wisely or waste it foolishly. I had some delightful and wondrous learnings about our ancient Indian philosophical thoughts over two-months during the lockdown. Our culture is a veritable treasure trove of exceptional thinkers and thoughts.
  • We can either despair about the situation or repair our position. Choose the latter – build your immunity – of your body and mind. We will automatically be better prepared to face any situation. I have several friends well over 60 – almost 90% of them were worried about attracting the microbe. The other 10% got into active immunity building – in terms of breathing exercises, physical exercises and eating right. This gave them the confidence to handle the scary and morbid times.
  • Never assume that we are in complete control, we never are!
  • Family matters, so do true friends – we all enter and exit alone, but family and friends make our journey worthwhile.
  • Seek out senior citizens that you know and proffer help – make them feel secure and wanted.
  • If you are fortunate to have surplus of anything, just share it and lighten yourself.
  • Be responsible and never let your guard down – wearing masks and avoiding crowds is a must, why run the risk of exposure. Shed the bravado that it can only happen to others.
  • Reach out to your neighbours, if any in their family have got the virus – they do need our help and support in more ways than one – for tomorrow it could be our turn.
  • Empathise with doctors and healthcare workers who are relentlessly helping people recover at the risk of their own lives.
  • WhatsApp is a great university of shares and views – every Ram, Rahim and Ramsay will share or hold forth and force a point of view about covid and cure and everything under the sun – but most of it will be junk or unverified – sift out the chaff for your own good and mental wellbeing.
  • Being closeted with family is good and great, but if your neck is going to be spondylitised by WhatsApp all the time, you will only crane the relationships. Be smart and throw out the smartphones.
  • The only way to get rid of the fear of the unknown and have some equipoise is to meditate – catch your ‘me’ time and experience ‘inner solitude’. Great way to declutter your mind and myths. Withdrawal from the world on and often is not escapism, but catharsism.
  • Respond wisely, react prudently – for what will remain with people is your deeds and words at crucial moments.
  • Whatever your socio-economic classification, never ignore your finances. Be moneywise.

The 2020 journey has been tumultuous as well as transformational for all of us. It has made us realise our vulnerabilities and at the same time made us empathetic and more humane towards other humans. Comity came to the fore, human values surged. What more can a society ask for?  For me, where there is hope, there will be belief in action. If our grit saw us through in 2020, our heart will see us through in 2021.

Sayonara 2020, Yokoso 2021!

With gratitude and arrangement with Senior Today