2020 – thanks for the lessons

So, what then to make of this year that just passed?

Surely, the most bizarre of years in just about everyone’s life. Or at least for most of us. We faced unprecedented bad news, with no end in sight, were tested to the maximum by….being forced to stay indoors, not frequent our favourite shops and malls, work from home and have to clean our vegetables and fruits extra before eating them. Many people were more unfortunate in that they lost their jobs and they could not sustain their businesses in this closed-door environment.

But nearly forty thousand people died in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Yemen. Was their year not worse than ours? Was Covid really the worst thing that happened to them? Debatable.

Perhaps the potential rape victims can heave a sigh of relief – India reported 88 cases of rape a day (reported, mind you!). Surely with the pandemic, fewer people on the streets, we can expect these numbers to go down once collated. This would be a totally welcome and totally unexpected side-effect of this virus.

While many people have said that the year showed the resilience of humans, this attitude too begs some closer scrutiny. What about the 1.82 million who succumbed to Covid? Are we saying that they died because they were not resilient enough? Normally we find out how resilient we are by sports or contest. But even there, the loser goes home, and life goes on. This is a brutal test and an insensitive point of view.

And then you have the scores of people bemoaning their ‘luck’ and how they know people who didn’t ‘deserve’ this situation. We all need to get our heads around the fact that ‘luck’ and ‘fate’ are just words we found to gloss over things we cannot explain or do not want to face as a random act. The virus any misfortune can strike at anyone, randomly, without warning and prejudice. You can walk out of a hospital after life-saving surgery and die in a car crash. We are conditioned and compelled to see patterns where there are none, to somehow cling on to some meaning in our meaningless lives. The one thing that most people are most scared off and least equipped to handle turns out to be the one thing guaranteed to us all – death. Talk about denial. Ostriches have nothing on us for head burying in the sand.

The one thing we can all take away from this year is this – 2020 showed us we are not as special we all like to think we are. We alone are not singled out for some magical ride in this life. We are all happy to accept kudos when something good happens to us (even lottery ticket winners praise their nous in buying the ticket that day, rather than put it down to just an accident of fate). But its when things turn black, when we have misfortune that we want to put it down to some divine malfeasance. The truth is not as bleak as I make it out to be. Neither is it some rainbow party that we envision. 2020 should teach us equanimity. Good things can and will happen. So will bad. Deal with it.

A parting thought on the randomness of life:

Let’s think of Tarzan(real name) in UP, a fourteen-year-old boy who was shot in the head, chest and abdomen on Dec 31st. To get through this year unscathed and then to lose one’s life over – wait for it – an argument about where to sit in a classroom.

It’s that random.

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