Today marks a new beginning — with a heavy baggage from 2020. Covid-19 does not read a calendar. If anything, only our actions will help end the pandemic, not the fact that 2021 has arrived. Vaccines, masks and avoiding crowds will eventually rein in coronavirus, and it will be a long-drawn process. Still, January 1 is as good an occasion as any to reflect on the year gone by — by all counts, a hugely difficult one — and look forward to what lies ahead. The altered reality is here to stay, for now. Not much is going to change when it comes to the redefined work culture, the notion of leisure and pleasure, the restrictions on movement, the self-restraint on shaking hands or hugging loved ones.
If the start of 2020 did not offer the slightest glimpse of the catastrophe that would envelop the world within no time, a year later — having endured a collective nightmarish experience that still lurks — that same world is more aware than ever of its fallibility and vulnerability. 2021 can be different on one elementary level though: hope. The hope that the vaccine will victoriously work its way through the flu, that the voice of dissent is heard for the message it seeks to convey and not dismissed as disruptive noise, that love disarms the state-sponsored inspectors, that religion inspires harmony and not discord, that the majority-minority balloon is deflated. And the fervent hope that the world around us will be less intolerant and more circumspect. The wishlist is long and ambitious, but then, hope is what sustains life.
Hope though can only go so far; the West Bengal election is round the corner and ugliness will soon be the order of the day. 2020 turned out to be a cumbersome, painful, tiring — yet inspiring, be it the frontline workers, the vaccine researchers, or the farmers at Delhi’s borders — journey. Its end signifies crossing a milestone that tested humanity’s collective resolve. Each new day offers a chance to do better, finding the invincible summer in the depth of winter.