The beginning sounds familiar. On March 31 last year, a returnee from outside Assam tested positive for Covid-19 in Silchar.

The pandemic’s stealthy arrival with the first recorded case would snowball into a medical emergency that has not only engulfed the Northeast and India on the whole but penetrated most parts of the world.

With more than 216,000 cases in Assam alone, the Northeast has failed to escape its impact. So what if the news isn’t as bad as that of Mumbai or Delhi? It is not a reason for complacence and relief either.

Meanwhile, 2021 has made its inevitable entry. Participants on social media have been posting messages with most of them reading like prayers.

Everybody wants Covid-19 to disappear regardless of whether or not one is wearing a mask or facing up to the challenge of maintaining social distancing or using hand sanitisers as frequently as possible. There is fatigue in the air. And, some hope as well.

COVID19 positive COVID19 death
COVID19 image credit – Odishatv
COVID19 image credit – Odishatv

2021, for them, is not just any other year. It has followed 2020, a year in which nature’s hostility spread sickness and deaths worldwide. The pandemic is far from over, although the imminent availability of vaccines to counter it is reassuring. That India has been able to bend the curve and the recovery rate is on the rise are comforting facts too.

That said, it will take a long time before we make a return to the old normal. The Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) have been hurt. Thousands have lost their jobs, impacting the household income of countless families.

CMIE data reveals that the third quarter of fiscal 2020-21 will end with the employment of 395 million, 25 million less than the 405 million employed in the December 2019 quarter. 2021 has begun, in short, with the Indian economy is struggling as predicted and the end of the tunnel far away.

The New Year is the reluctant inheritor of setbacks. Millions worldwide are praying that it will do the job of an efficient repairman if not wipe out the last trace of misery with a miracle.

Sharing pessimistic thoughts may not be the best way to remind the reader that a new phase in our lives, albeit a symbolic one ushered by the calendar, has begun. But then, none can deny that we must try to combat and survive that occasional period in life when pessimism and realism share similar meanings.

2021 will be that year when the world will continue to be engaged in a grave struggle. It will recover, but slowly, and the coming days in the coming 12 months may not be enough.

Jobs will elude many who have lost them. The economy will recover, but a magic wand won’t rebuild a shattered mansion overnight. The virus will find new – although fewer victims – as healthcare professionals armed with vaccines take gradual control of the situation.

The society will be apprehensive and diffident for a long time regardless of how quickly the threat of contracting the potentially fatal disease minimises manifold.

As most of us unwind with our loved ones on an ‘off duty’ day, let us not expect 2021 to be a healer capable of curing all ailments because of a mysterious medicine at his disposal. The uncontrollable virus has played havoc for months and it won’t go away anytime soon.

That is the truth we must live with when we go to our workplaces, step out to buy essentials, or watch a film in the sparsely populated neighbourhood theatre.

Biswadeep Ghosh

Biswadeep Ghosh is an author and freelance journalist. He has been a part of the India media for three decades. Among his books is MSD: The Man The Leader, the bestselling biography of cricketer MS Dhoni....