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2020: Lessons learnt

Mallika Bajaj | Updated on December 30, 2020 Published on December 30, 2020

Together again: When a virus threatens us all equally, we reach out to family and friends, distant relatives, long-forgotten schoolmates, and even those we once actively disliked   -  ISTOCK.COM

The year was like no other: It gave us immeasurable grief but also taught us to hold hands

* It takes courage to cancel that ticket home; not see our loved ones when we feel happy, or low

* The year 2020 has taught us something that we never knew — or may have forgotten — that there is joy in waiting

* The thought that someone has opted to be uncomfortable to keep us safe makes us happy. And we can even imagine the smile under the mask

***

It’s been a year like no other. But as the wise ones say, this too shall pass. Meanwhile, let’s look back at 2020, and what a tiny virus taught us:

Courage

We have gone through tough times. We wake up every morning, praying that we’ve kept our jobs, and that we are another day closer to a healthier world. It takes courage to cancel that ticket home; not see our loved ones when we feel happy, or low. It takes courage to keep our family smiling knowing we’ve given up a dream, and may just have to start from scratch. All this, amidst figuring out a new meal plan, tightening the budget and working from home while juggling housework. But we have managed.

Patience

Each day leads to another, and we keep our spirits up with the thought that our patience — staying safe, keeping others safe — will bear fruit one day. Soon. The year 2020 has taught us something that we never knew — or may have forgotten: That there is joy in waiting. It rebuilds our capacity to tolerate trouble and suffering, knowing that the sun will be out again.

Hygiene

Remember those days when someone sneezed without using a hanky or turning away, or when people sat down for a meal without washing their hands? All that is a thing of the past. Even the nose picker who would shake hands immediately after seemingly digging for gold knows better now. Hand washing is an essential part of our lives now, as is cleaning surfaces. And there are even masks now that save us from inveterate burpers and belchers!

We not alone

We’re all in this together; as are our anxieties and concerns. We have reached out not just to family and friends, to distant relatives and long-forgotten schoolmates, but even those we once actively disliked. Who cares about old slights — did she really snigger when she saw my new haircut? — when a virus threatens us all equally?

Adapt, adapt, adapt

The last few months have helped us learn how to adapt. As Covid-19 unfurled and all our plans crumbled, we all began setting up plan B, and then plan C, and even plan Z. We have found new ways to communicate, commerce and co-exist virtually. We have tackled the hurdles of working from home — improved connectivity, zeroed in on new work hours, found a cosy corner the baby — or the dog — can’t walk up to. Groceries have GPS-ed their way into our homes. And while quite a few of us still wear our masks to cover merely our chins, missing the nose — and the point — most of us have learnt to live with masks. In fact, psychologically, a whole new compartment in our brains has unclogged, allowing us to breathe, with no real worries. Covid-19 has shaken us back to our senses, and made us realise that irrespective of our profession, financial background, race and gender, what truly matters is health, along with family and the well-being of our communities. The rest is just man-made chaos.

Kindness is the new currency

It sucks, no doubt, to be stuck with no light at the end of a winding tunnel. But think for a moment, and we will realise that it’s not a bad idea to slow down, do some deep thinking around our life and commitment to things we care deeply about, and resuscitate negotiated core values. Happiness takes so little — a smile, a cup of chai, the sun in our face, playlists from pre-Covid-19 days, and a glimpse of our loved ones. In our new normal, even a properly masked person exudes kindness. The thought that someone has opted to be uncomfortable to keep us safe makes us happy. And we can even imagine the smile under the mask.

Soul story

This is the time to pause, to tell us a story, to listen. Now, more than ever before, we may find ourselves thinking about the purpose that drives us, the meaning of all that we’ve been chasing all these years. We have looked inwards and realised that self-love isn’t just about taking care of your needs but being generous and reaching out to others, especially the less privileged. Covid-19 has taught us that we need to perform a few more acts of kindness, offer help, protect animals, or give comfort to someone feeling lonely or anxious. Meditate, hum, chant — whatever catches our fancy. The truth is inside us.

We have learnt to put ourselves second.

Mallika Bajaj, the founder of a digital media studio, is based in New Delhi

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Published on December 30, 2020
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