By Manik Sharma Dec. 29, 2021
2020 was bad for its own reasons, but 2021 really punched the living hell out of us. Death to this terrible of all years is an understatement. It should instead be sentenced to be things far worse and meaner.
The end of the year, prompts amongst all else, an automatic sense of nostalgia. Because each year gone, is a year survived lived through with its high and lows, there really can’t be a perfect year; some are underlined by stirring highs while others overwhelmingly put in their place by loss, grief, and more. To which effect, years are existential investigations into the nature of people, rather than the time they commonly share. Except, when a year so profoundly bad comes their way it tosses all geometric certainties out of the window. India is not new to tragedy. We’ve seen earthquakes, floods, wars, and more. But the months of April and May might stand out in the history of this country as a time of horrid, dehumanising helplessness. So much so, if 2021 were a person, you’d want to toss it into the ocean with a kick up its backside.
India is not new to tragedy. We’ve seen earthquakes, floods, wars, and more. But the months of April and May might stand out in the history of this country as a time of horrid, dehumanising helplessness.
Personally, I went through the wringer – contracting covid, spending a merciless week in a covid dedicated hospital and making it back home, a quarter of my original self. 2020 sucked for most of us because we found ourselves garrisoned by an invisible force, unable to predict or break our way out of make-believe boundaries. But there was still a sense of confidence that whatever this virus was, we could take it. The year even ended with reunions, short trips and postponed festivities. Normalcy returned, even masks began to hang below the chin – if you were wearing them – and news of vaccines renewed the confidence to clutch at life, with hope and aspiration, again. The cheeky little virus had other plans, for it decided to launch its surprise counteroffensive, right here in the country that likes to find joy in the bliss of ignorance. Our potholes are proof, it’s the looking-away we’ve gotten used to living with, maybe even living up to.
April broke into our lives like a cracked egg with the capacity to explode like a nuclear bomb. Except it was mercilessly quiet, a stealth operation designed to bring humanity to its knees. What hit us or what exactly happened may still require years to decode or make sense of. It wasn’t the causes, it was the symptoms, that lay bare within weeks, years’ worth of social and economic stagnation, the fact that a country that likes to dream may not necessarily have built the wherewithal to accommodate the nightmares that come with the persistence of dreaming. Cities ran out of beds, people ran out of breath, gloves ran out of doctors who’d put their hands inside them, while morgues ran out of land and wood for the last remaining journeys home. There is perhaps no greater indignity than to have your ritualistic departure be denied, no gloomier existence than the one that cannot tell if your next breath has been ‘arranged’ or not.
Cities ran out of beds, people ran out of breath, gloves ran out of doctors who’d put their hands inside them, while morgues ran out of land and wood for the last remaining journeys home.
Those two months are like collective nightmares that simply refuse to go away. People tweeting about oxygen cylinders, blood donors, even ambulances that did not reach on time. We’ve been through collective trauma before, but collective helplessness was a first, also vile, mean bureaucratic helplessness. Oxygen supplies aren’t hard to build, but turns out, we didn’t build enough to handle minor epidemics let alone a global pandemic that overwhelmed countries far richer, and less burdened. There is no point bickering about the what-ifs now, but in those days, the weight of the universe felt heavier on everyone’s shoulder who had seen a tweet, received a message or a call for help. It’s the hope that kills you, they say, but in those months it killed and did more – broke something inside all of us. It was unexpected, unprecedented, and defining for everyone who dragged themselves through it.
Years like 2021, don’t deserve to be italicised or quoted by the etiquette of literature but need to be ignored or consigned to the ignominy of anonymity. Because 2021 is a dick.
Looking back at years is a ponderous yet optimistic exercise because we as humans are programmed to extract that which can be salvaged. 2021, though, was a royally fuck-all year, a turd germinated from a bigger turd that would test our patience, character, body, and spirit. For those of us who survived, we’d still do it and take it any other way. Life is an array of moments strung together by the power of memory. But a year as royally terrible as 2021 deserves to be shoved down the behind of a memory-erasing black hole. I would relegate 2021 to being the step stool for dysenteric horses, turn it into an air filter for Delhi’s smoggiest winter day, or ask it to host Big Boss for life. Or better, give it the silent treatment. Because years like 2021, don’t deserve to be italicised or quoted by the etiquette of literature but need to be ignored or consigned to the ignominy of anonymity. Because 2021 is a dick. It began with a deceptive act of aggression, and with Omicron climaxing with the wail of a panda making love to a jaguar. All I can say to this atrocious of all years, is fuck you 2021, go worse than you made us feel.
Manik Sharma writes on Arts and Culture.
He tweets at @Manik1Sharma