“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring Happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
(Alfred Lord Tennyson -In Memorium)
At the end of December we pause to reflect on the favourite moments of the year that is passing by while trying to block the bad memories from consciousness. Unfortunately emotional memories are more vivid than the boring ones and that is why traumatic memories are hard to forget. Imagine you could delete bad memories. May be nature doesn’t want it that way. No wonder Moses wanted the Israelites to remember their bad days so that they will be thankful to their God. So, the year 2020 cannot just be deleted.
I was at it, recapping my memories, from the days of hard bound diaries, not to be seen or read by anyone but for a possible “re-living” on a later day. There you wouldn’t mind putting down the unpleasant memories as well since the privacy settings are “Only for me”. But ever since the social media took over I was putting it up in public gaze with possible reservations.( https://underthesun.me/2018/12/30/the-year-that-was/)
But what is there to recollect about 2020? Perhaps an year that we would like to completely forget. It ended as it began “not with a bang but a whimper”. In January the clouds of the pandemic were far away in Wuhan or in Italy but it hardly took two nervous months to reach India and by March end the nation went on a complete lockdown. Since then we haven’t come out of it though officially the lockdown is lifted. And we are not sure what is in store for us. It is not that everything is going to change from the first of January 2021 though we hope for it. New Year is just a date in the calendar and time is a continuum.
For us this was almost a zero year, just 365 days of eating and sleeping. We were bound indoors and our dear ones could not reach us. The first and most severe blow for us was the ban on travel– all kinds of travel which we loved most. Though both of us had travelled individually for official purposes, there you are mostly bound to your hotel rooms and seminar halls or at best a half day city tour at the mercy of the organisers. We were waiting for retirement to take on the world at our pace and we were saving for that – a Mediterranean cruise, a glimpse of Africa and an experience of South America –the Andean Peaks, the Amazonian Rain Forests, the Incan ruins and the colonial towns….. We had a big bucket list of places to visit, we had a ten year visa to both US and UK that are sparingly used and we had standing invitations from quite a few exotic corners. Now all those look far off possibilities with advancing years and forced love for your own bedroom and dining hall.
Motivational speakers and men of substance say that one should always see the glass half full. Reduced carbon emissions, a new lease to nature, digital revolution, improved public hygiene, clearer waterways, less noise and many other positive impacts can be pointed out. But do they outweigh the negatives? I think it depends on your age profile, source of income and above all mindset. Senior citizens and the immuno-compromised live in constant fear and the stories of Covid victims who had hardly any exposure make the scenario grimmer.
Many industries like tourism, hotel, airlines, real estate, construction etc. have lost heavily and the economy in general has gone south. Beauticians, barbers, hotel workers, domestic maids and many other daily wage earners have lost their sustenance. But the relatively well off are sleeping better re-structuring their life styles, practicing meditation and improving life skills. For them there is joy of an empty schedule. Government says ”stay at home” and “hallelujah we were waiting for this all through our lives”.
There is no denying the fact that there are many positive things that happened in the year – the concept of schooling has totally changed, children are allowed to get bored and the 9 to 5 mindset with weekend to relax are all things of the past and above all our own Shylaja teacher has made herself to be the cover star of Vogue.
May be when future generations look back at 2020 the perspective will be totally different. Though now we may mutter in despair, future might owe a debt of thanks to this pandemic. Troubled eras have always inspired positive human progress. And 2020 will be no different. The vaccines have been developed with astonishing speed and there could be many positive fall outs of the dramatic research in the area of messenger RNA. Many new business models and smarter ways to remain in job are definitely visible impacts of the Covid hit economy. And on top of it all we learnt to be modest.
At a personal level the year had a mixed bag for us. There were moments of anxiety but timely help proved the oft quoted saying “this too shall pass..” If I am to name one positive fall out this pandemic it would be that it made me appreciate books anew. I had read and re-read books ranging from “Kerala Charithram” of Sreedhara Menon and “The Plague” of Albert Camus to “Meesha” of S.Harish and “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama with so many titles in between. I am waiting for one of those yet to be published books about the great exodus of the thousands of labourers trudging homes from cities in the wake of the lockdown – driven out from places which they mistook as their homes embarking on a long journey on foot under the blazing sun.
For all the horrors of the year, hope is still present. In times of disaster Prophets doom appear from nowhere and predict about worse things still to happen. So better then, to be positive and optimistic.