2021 of drifting, of hope… BANG!

The 12 months that brought pain, death, trauma, a dash of gold, more of aatmanirbharta and more exhaustion.

Bang! On revered hope, 2021 was rung with gusto after a gruelling, exhaustive, apprehensive 2020.

In vaccines came the cheer; developed, tested, and rolled out amidst a sigh of relief all around. We all began to flip through medical material, search the social media, swipe through opinions of our favourite doctors over the safety of vaccines, started paying attention to the medical news and vowed to get the shot as soon available. So by the time March rolled in the mood had become casual. The elderlies were starting to get vaccinated, cases had started to drop and the word was ‘India under the leadership of Narendra Modi had weathered the brutal covid storm’. Hence freedom started to splinter in, behaviour became careless and we all moved out and about to treat ourselves to that renewed air of freshness. The sweet smelling months of January and February were gripped with election fervour of West Bengal. Virus restrictions were curtailed, Amit Shah was roaring, Mamata Banerjee was growling, the media was going gaga over a bhagwa (saffron) win while the public swayed to the beats of free movements.

It seemed all was going well for we had forgotten that in 2020 we had entered with certainty into the times of uncertainty.

By the end of March I fell to COVID. After dodging the virus for one year, being always double masked and with just few months before getting that first shot of vaccine, I had my encounter with coronavirus. Holi became a colourless affair, curled and bounded within the four walls of my room. At first I had difficulty in accepting, my symptoms felt flu like, taste and smell was intact and oxygen levels remained normal. But it’s a sly disease and by seventh day the illness had reached my lungs. My doctor immediately got me on steroids, and an admission to the hospital becoming imminent. But I toughed it out, which comes shocking to me for I am not a patient patient rather a grouchy wreck. I stayed confined to my room, ready to put an A-fight to the menace and got myself surrounded with positivity. And so began the marathon sessions of all movies and tv shows jolly and cherry. Steam, inhale-exhale, criss-crossing through the fluctuating temperature and oxygen levels, drinking kada, making plans of all things to do once recovered; more steam, inhale exhale. There were times when it was dispiriting to keep the spirits high. Luckily for me the time was good, my doctor was available always, my partner supremely patient, and the warm and comforting food from mother’s kitchen with Ajeet uncle’s merry calls in every two days to remind that ‘eat 4–5 rotis more, drink a lot and DO NOT check the oximeter again and again’.

It took me 15 days to fully make a recovery.

And as I stepped out of my room into the reality, India by now had been saddled to the mayhem and deadly chaos of the delta variant of coronavirus.

Delhi during second wave, May 2021.

BANG.

Terror, anger, anxiety, horror gripped each one of us. Family, friends, peers, one by one everyone around started to fall sick. Medicines became unavailable and soon the doctors became unavailable. Tweet, phone calls, messages, DM’s, more tweet, remdivisar, fabiflu, hospital beds, deaths, anger, resentment, paranoia, a dark ghoulish nightmare trapped us all. April became heavy, laden with sorrow and horror. May became heavier, mood sombre, air grieving with the wails of trauma and pain.

Fear had annexed us again, and in a haze went by June and July.

As the 74th Independence day inched closer, bang came the newer time. Lockdowns, curfews, limits, restrictions got lifted; public started to venture out once again and vaccination became the number one priority. Olympics were finally being held and India made a first of many in it with 1 gold (in athlete), 2 silver, and 4 bronze, producing its richest ever medal haul. (finishing 48th in the overall medal tally, one of India’s finest in four decades).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation for the seventh consecutive time from the ramparts of Red Fort in the aftermath of India falling down grievously to covid and his personal terrible election loss in West Bengal. Yet he harangued in affirmation, “Coronavirus crisis is a big crisis, but is not big enough to stop us in building aatmanirbhar Bharat”. So while India moved towards more aatmanirbarta, neighbouring Afghanistan fell into the hands of Taliban (a perilous problem for 2022 and beyond).

September brought optimism as WHO Chief Scientist claimed ‘India May Be Entering the Endemic Stage Of Covid.’ A sense of ease swept around and in October India achieved a target of 100 crore Covid Vaccinations including both the first and second doses. A sigh of relief, some jubilations, providing a nuance to move on. As such Diwali came with cheer but with little celebrations. Many houses remained unlit, shrouded in gloom and despair, with the sparkle missing the glint, but a prayer that next year will be good.

Resilience came, pushed and we all moved on. In the aftermath of the second wave, in grieving and healing we started looking forward to the new year, to new beginnings. The World started to open up, offices were asked to move out from the comfort of work from home, schools and colleges started to open their doors, limits were relaxed from gym, cinema, weddings and celebrations. The farmers called off their one year protest as Prime Minister decided to repeal the laws in the bid to win some hefty elections of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Yes, politics became dominant once again. News became obsessed with all things Uttar Pradesh; Yogi- Modi, Modi-Yogi, the bltizerking duo took over the screens, the space and the mood.

There was once again a bang to the air, into the mood. Life hadn’t stopped. In the aftermath of covid, after a massive loss of hair and weakened lungs, I once again started running, slowly building my pace and kilometres. Also I attended two baby showers, one virtual and the other in person a month back. Both have had their babies and there are a few more friends who will be having theirs next year. No life shouldn’t stop.

But just as the year was about to end, came the last BANG. A new variant in Omicron that is spreading faster than the other variants. A variant that in few weeks’ time have once again compelled leaders of the world to contemplate and consider lockdowns and curfews. A variant that is predicted to touch almost all of us (many once again). A variant that has brought exhaustion to the forefront.

‘People are tired, fed up’ a friend who works at NHS in UK sends a reply to ‘Omicron has become grave in UK, how’s the mood?’

The Spanish flu stuck around for four years they say, we have crossed two with corona; vaccines were developed but a stronger variant has already emerged. Uncertainty is once again rife as we enter 2022, but so is exhaustion. How will we cope, there is no answer. Will this be a year when we all go mad or will we find and accept the new normal?

Undeniably we humans have great survival skills, life will not stop.

Journalist in Delhi. Writing about Indian politics, international affairs, societal musings. No mincing. No self censorship. “It is what it is”