Public Square

2020 – The Year of Calamities

None of us woke up on the first day of 2020 thinking or knowing – that this is how we would spend the rest of the year. But here we are hit by pandemic, locust swarm attacks, Amphan flood (Bangladesh-India), volcanic eruptions in Philippines, Flash Floods in Indonesia, bushfires in Australia and wildfires in Uttarakhand and US. Not that calamities do not happen any other year but the world pandemic COVID-19 made us take a closer look at each one of them. As you read, there have been a total of 76.1M COVID cases across the world (45M having recovered) and 10M in India (with 9.55M cases recovered) and now reaching the tail end of the year – all we are expecting is 2021 to be nothing like 2020. We all wish, it isn’t!
But it is not usual to witness a pandemic. A pandemic of such nature and scale happens once in 100 years. So I am not sure if we should call ourselves lucky that we lived to witness one or unlucky that we had to witness one. A few things are best left for time to tell. But there is one thing for sure that I can say, 2020 was a year of unlearning the old and learning so much new. It threw us out of our usual order causing the world to topple and international policy makers panic of extreme extent. It made us ask the questions that were pertinent to humanity at large but we often procrastinated or decided to ignore.
Let’s take a quick recap of the year. The malls were shut, and so were the cinema halls; entertainment parks and zones were thrown empty; travel by any means was put to halt; public transport was truncated; the roads lay empty and hotel buffets remained unattended. The entire country and the world was put under lockdown. The only thing that was left open were grocery shops, medical shops, hospitals and defence activities. There was a noticeable inactivity across the globe but we all still survived and thrived. The first thing that this pandemic did was to make us realise the difference between the essential and nonessential. And going by the course of it – food, health and sovereignty turned out to be of utmost importance. Unfortunately we never looked at it that way.
From 5 baje thali bajao to 9 baje diye jalao; while the skeptics can call it a charade of the highest order – to me it was a reflection of power and the sense of collective conscience that is not easy to bring in a country of 1.3billion people. They say, the real test of spirit is done during the testing times. And once and again, we have proved that while we might have our own petty differences but when it comes to our nation, we are solid as one. And a similar kind of solidarity was shown in many other countries of the world. It came as a hint – like a healing touch in such polarised times – that we humans have not drifted that much apart as we would love to think. This sense of solidarity not only added strength to face the pandemic but it also filled our hearts with empathy and much needed kindness towards each other.
The pandemic also came as a reminder to all of us – the humans – about not being kind enough to nature. And it showed up. As humans were locked up inside the fours walls of their house, nature sprung at its best. Just a few months into lockdown and economic inactivity – and we could spot a clear Ganga, animals which were not spotted for decades in the zoos, ecological parks and forests, we had turtles coming to the beach after the noise levels went low, we had peaks and mountains being visible clearly – much to the surprise of people who had no clue that these were visible from their rooftops. The pollution levels dropped, so did the decibel levels in metros. Clearly there is something wrong we do to the nature that it took for us to get inside so that it could show up at its best.
Once in 100 years, after it has sent enough distress signals, nature takes reins in its own hands to pull strings to human activity and reset what has been disturbed for long. It tries to strike a balance in the ecosystem only for humans to take it forward from there. It depends how seriously we take the signals of the universe.
COVID-19 has brought to notice many things that seemed usual before but seem questionable now. The desire to travel, the desire to spend, generation of (all kinds of) waste, industrial activity, ever-increasing pollution, glaring ecological imbalance and our skewed consumption patterns. And similarly it has brought perspective to – the need for hygiene, healthcare facilities and infrastructure, and a life that is minimalist in its approach and finds a balance with the ecosystem.
2020 has been like a test match between us and COVID-19. The only way to get over with is to interpret, realise and learn with each googly it throws upon us. 2020 came like a bump in our fast paced lives and slowed each bit of it. The last 100 years of scientific excellence and accomplishments, personal and professional development and the journey of our evolution was rendered useless and all we could do is get ourselves locked up inside. Surely hinting at something that went wrong in our approach.
2020 came as a reminder for us to slow down, take a pause and appreciate what surrounds us and what blessings we are bestowed with. It taught us (and probably still trying to tell us) to be thankful for what we have – be it natural resources, a healthy body, food to eat, home to sleep and the love of the family and friends. Unfortunately we had forsaken them all for our personal goals. I am sure all of you would have had your own lessons out of 2020 but to me 2020 has been a direct attack on our individualistic mindset and approach towards life and a way to course-correct us towards a lifestyle that is more community based, collective in approach and finds harmony with nature. A lifestyle that is healthier and a life that is more holistic.
It will be unfair to sum up 2020 without remembering all the people we have lost to COVID-19. I pray for strength for their family and loved ones. Because I strongly believe that for each life we have lost to COVID-19, we have borrowed a lifeline from heavens.
Remember, tomorrow when all of this is over – we will be overwhelmed with tears rolling down eyes not because we survived the COVID-19 but because we found back our families, the lost time, our own selves and we witnessed nature at its best. We witnessed the death very closely and we now know what really matters to us. Let’s hold on to all of this, when we are back to “the normal”.

 

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Karanvir Gupta

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