The New Year is a few days away. The thought should make us smile. But why are we pensive and somewhat sad?
That’s because of 2020, dear reader. The current year has been a taxing phase in which the deadly coronavirus unleashed terror that’s unprecedented in recent memory. Millions fell sick. Many lost their lives. The global economy took a hit. Helplessness in a battle against a mysterious evil could be felt everywhere.
The year had started just like any other. Few in India would have imagined the possibility of a global medical emergency in which ours would be one of the worst-affected countries.
The story of a few months later would be scripted with tragedies as subplots.
Meanwhile, a strict lockdown would be imposed in India. Followed by another. And, another.
To protect ourselves from the virus and not spread the infection if one had somehow contracted the disease, we started wearing masks and tried to maintain social distancing. At least, those who sought prevention – and wanted to be safe for others too – tried hard
Once back home from work or after buying essentials, we reached out for a new mandatory presence in our lives: the hand sanitizer. We squeezed a few drops of the cleansing liquid out of the bottle, rubbed it vigorously on our palms and went for a bath. Winter notwithstanding, we follow that routine even if work keeps us away from home until late in the evening. The option of avoiding is fraught with risks we just cannot ignore.
As Covid-19 claimed more sufferers across the world, working from home for those who could become the new reality. In the new WFH scenario, one had to be computer-savvy or learn a new set of skills to communicate and function from home.
While this was ridiculously easy for a few, many others had to struggle to ensure that the bosses were happy and output didn’t suffer.
Loss of job was the biggest tragedy for millions across the country. Many workplaces had to declare temporary closure, resulting in zero earnings for the employers and exit for the employees who often worked as daily wagers. Corporate setups suffered too. Employers sacked mercilessly to cut costs and minimise losses. The situation became increasingly grim with financial and mental health turning into issues that needed addressing on a war footing.
Jobless, struggling and often starving, those in the low-income category started returning to their hometowns and villages in search of the minimum for sheer survival. Their journeys, frequently undertaken on foot, were widely discussed. The middle-class minority, under severe pressure because of financial liabilities, pay cuts and job losses, suffered in silence in the absence of compassionate attention.
Many tried to avoid public gatherings where social distancing routinely went for a toss. Educational institutions were shut for the most part of the year, as were movie halls. Personal entertainment on OTT platforms such as Netflix became the new urban indulgence. Home delivery of food substituted visits to the restaurants as a form of outing and relaxation.
2020 has been an unimaginable horror story. It has shattered our peace of mind, led to countless tragedies and made us more uncertain about our future than ever before.
2021 will be better if we are prepared to believe that the worst is behind us. Let us reach out for it with an optimistic prayer