When 2020 kicked in and everyone probably screamed Happy New Year to their loved ones at midnight, I sat in an Uber texting my brother. I was alone, of course with this Uber driver who was probably on the phone with his wife. I remember feeling surreal. It didn’t feel weird that I was by myself in that moment that everyone made such a big deal about. Maybe I needed to just be with myself for some time as I transited from one party to another. I needed some calm in the midst of all the chaos.
When 2020 kicked in, I sat alone at home on the first day of the year – hungover and tired – and I made a list of New Year’s resolutions. I called my brother in the afternoon and we talked about all the things we wanted to do this year. I said I wanted to go to Vietnam. I wanted to read 20 books. I wanted to write more often and learn how to make chicken biryani. Also, both of us wanted to get a scuba diving certification together. That was what 2020 was supposed to be.
Now, as I sit at home trying to figure out how to make this space function like my office, I mostly feel confused. I wake up most mornings with news of new deaths, new struggles, new restrictions and new “positive cases” of the pandemic that’s sweeping the world day by day. I wake up with memes, messages, jokes, pictures, health advice and a little bit of anxiety. I spend half of my day laughing and the other half worrying. It’s probably the weirdest time of my life ever. It’s probably the weirdest time for most of us.
When I first heard about the corona virus, it was like this bizarre thing happening in a different part of the world. It was someone else’s problem. I never imagined that within a few months it would become everyone’s problem. I never imagined all of a sudden, we’ll all be in the midst of a war-like situation. This just happened in movies and books. This just happened when most of us weren’t alive. Or maybe this just happened far away from home. No matter what home was, it wasn’t this.
When I woke up today, I read a forwarded message that my mother posted in our family group. It was about Italy, about people’s condition there. It was about the pain, the suffering, the loss the country has dealt with in the last three weeks after the disease started spreading in the country at an unprecedented rate. The message obviously had bits of misinformation and irrelevant advice that comes with most WhatsApp forwards in India. But for once I kept the annoyance aside and I felt sad, really sad for my parents. I think these times of inexplicable suffering help you realize how much you care about people, how your anxiety is not just about how your life may change but mostly about how people you love will cope with this. How it will have an impact on them, on their sustenance, on their emotions.
So many people I know have almost stopped going out. Everything is cancelled. No work, no gatherings, no dinners and lunches, no parties, no gyms, no travelling. And none of us know for how long we’ll have to live with this new reality. No going out for a coffee, no grabbing a drink, nothing.
At present, the number of cases in India is officially quite low compared to most other countries. Officially, the number of deaths in India aren’t as high as the United States or China or several European nations. I guess that’s what builds up this anxiety – just knowing something is not right.
I often oscillate between so many different feelings these days. I won’t say I’m sad or that this is taking a toll on me. But I’d just say I’m scared. I’m scared because it feels like we’re all sitting on a ticking time bomb and once it blows, things can go haywire. It’s just unsettling and scary. And it may be unstoppable, it may shake us to the core, it may leave us lonely and empty but maybe still hopeful.
Maybe life will never be the same again. Maybe this will all be over sooner than we think. Or maybe this will go on for way longer than any of us can imagine. This pandemic may affect our lives in so many unforeseen ways. And we’ll have to get through it all. Together.
Today, when I messaged my brother in the morning, all I could say was: “I guess our only 2020 resolution should have been to survive.”