Does the beginning of 2021 fill us with hope for the future?
To say that there was something different in the run-up to the new year this time could well be the understatement of the decade. A bit like when at the beginning of last year someone probably said," It's only flu"!
Most of us are used to waking up on the first day of January groggy-eyed and a little disoriented due to excesses of the previous evening. The clouds slowly clear away and life grinds back to normalcy amidst the fervour of new resolutions. The bitter cold of January is usually mitigated by the warmth of the festive season as people wrap themselves up in memories of the passing year, both sweet and sad. There is something in the lingering Christmassy air that wants you to forgive enemies and embrace friends. If there were unfinished dreams, you tell yourself that surely you will take that extra step towards their realisation; broken promises will mend somehow with new relationships; incomplete tasks will be pursued; old habits will finally die; the pain of losing loved ones will slowly become gentle reminders of their blessed lives and generally hope is the main emotion that stirs in every one of us as we say adieu to the passing year and welcome the new year. The end of a 12-month cycle is nature's balm on our wounds that wills us to believe in the new cycle of seasons around the corner.
But 2020 left us sitting dazed on the floor recalling for many the iconic image of a knocked down Sonny Liston sprawled on the mat with a victorious Mohammed Ali towering over him ready to deliver a few more punches. Like Liston, one could barely see the future beyond the larger than life boots of a heavyweight bully who had beaten the stuffing out of you and was threatening to land a few more blows even after the referee had called time and summoned the pallbearers. With one stroke, Covid had messed up the colours and shrunk the canvas on which we play our lives out. Midway into January, the hangover of someone else's excesses refuses to go away.
Misery often opens opportunistic windows for the unscrupulously enterprising. So even as we avoided contact with fellow humans, new immunity-boosting products promising deeper protection and even cures were thrust into our masked faces without any scientific or proven basis. Your everyday cup of tea suddenly acquired magical portents in different avatars that could put 'Getafix the Druid' out of business in his little Gaul Village. Almost every product from the humble water to even wall paint was now advertised with having ingredients that boosted your immunity and challenged your common sense! Amidst all this barrage of immunity boosters, the small patch of cloth that guaranteed real immunity for as little as Rs 20 was almost forgotten. 2020 gave one little time to ponder over weaknesses and even lesser time to address them. As we moved from one lockdown to another, changing masks and storing food like wartime rations, survival and putting as much distance as humanly possible between self and the new dreaded 'C' word was on everyone's mind. We poured over every bit of advice on WhatsApp and tried all devices from banging utensils to subjecting our bodies to a heady mixture of Ayurveda, allopathy, homoeopathy and homemade and baba-made pills. The humble 'kaadha' became the new drink in town and we drained every bitter drop as if our lives depended on it! I found my salvation in a dose of homeo pills taken religiously over periods of four days each month. That was till I was informed by the venerable doctor's receptionist that the pills would be unavailable for some time as the good doctor had unfortunately tested positive for Covid! It had been that kind of a year.
So what's different in January 2021? For one, I did not make any resolutions. Earlier, I would give myself unrealistic goals which helped me begin each new year with an air of totally unwarranted optimism that I have turned a new leaf or at least was on the way of doing so—somewhat like a PowerPoint presentation oozing OOMF (output and outcome monitoring framework) making you believe that life is a neatly packaged project where if you follow the guidelines, it will add not just 'oomf' but also 'oomph' to your life! I did start the year with a newfound passion though, golf. I saw this as the beginning of my preparation for a peaceful retired life a few years down the line but was soon disabused of this fond hope. With my golf iron contacting the turf more often than the ball almost as if it was determined to maintain social distancing from it, I am destined to create more craters than records on the course. Like most golfers, if I may be pardoned for claiming to be one, my sleep is now disturbed by nightmares of double bogeys and sniggering caddies!
As 2021 completes its first month, does it leave us hopeful for the future? Just when major pharmas were announcing the end of trial periods and the introduction of Covid vaccines into the market towards the end of 2020, the news of a new strain in the UK hit us. The resultant panic in Europe and much of the world elsewhere evoked a depressing feeling of déjà vu. Imagine how Neil Armstrong would have felt if somebody had tripped him just as he was about to take his giant leap for mankind on the moon. The prospect of staying sprawled on the floor with a defiant Covid towering over us a la Ali seemed all too real!
But two events far away from home in January 2021 have left me hopeful yet that amidst and despite adversity, salvation is not far away. First, an Afro-American woman named Kamala raised by an immigrant South Asian single mother became the Vice President of what is still arguably the most powerful nation on earth. Secondly, even Trump had to finally leave, proving that no virus can be permanent!
Views expressed are personal