As this, the most uncertain, horrendous, terrifying and devastating year in my living memory, comes to a close, I wonder if there are even a handful of people across the world who would be sad to see 2020 coming to a close. Aptly enough, a December issue of Time magazine, has on its cover ‘2020’ written in bold letters with a huge X mark across the entire image. Just as the entire world was seeing some rays of hope in the form of fairly reliable and safe vaccines to protect us against the Covid-19 infection, came news of a new, and possibly more dangerous, mutant of the coronavirus, seen in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. Once again, the rigmarole of partial lockdowns, banning flights from UK, testing people who have come from there recently for not only the coronavirus, but this new form of it, has begun. Just as the new year was offering hope, the clouds have loomed on the horizon yet again.
And yet, 2020, the dismal year that it was, gave all of us the time to pause and reflect on our lives and lifestyle. It was also filled with numerous stories of hope and courage, generosity and compassion, selflessness and the willingness of so many people, to step out of their comfort zones, and stick out their necks, and risk getting infected, to help the poor and needy. The way Indians across the board responded… from the women in Surat’s residential colonies, each of whom willingly rolled out 5–6 extra chapattis every day, which were collected and then given to stranded migrant labourers, to those who opened their hearts and purses, including so many Rotarians, to feed the homeless and the stranded, restored our faith in humanity.
So what will the new year bring? Will it be better or worse than this one? Well, there is no crystal ball to tell us what the future holds for this planet. But one thing this pandemic, and the horror and immense fear of this tiny virus, has done, is make us pause in our hectic, often directionless lives, targeted at achieving new goals in our careers or new highs in our bank balances. Pause and wonder, if all that we have been doing is worth it. Just one example is enough to give an idea of the immense greed and selfishness of the homo sapiens, not only in grabbing the best for themselves and amassing wealth, but also in plundering our planet’s flora and fauna. We had to just retreat into our homes and lock ourselves away in fear, drastically reducing our carbon footprint as the world’s jet planes and automobiles were locked away in their hangars/garages, for the flowers to bloom, the green foliage to regain its splendour and the animal life to slowly emerge from where we had relegated it, to reclaim its rightful place on our planet.
Whatever 2021 brings, in terms of vaccines and protection against this or other viruses, better and more equitably distributed healthcare, ‘normalisation’ of life as we have known it and a whole host of opportunities that our world is waiting for, if this virus has taught us some lessons and helped us become better human beings, then in some supreme power’s scheme of things, it would be classified as the great leveller on so many different counts.