2020: My Icing on the Cake

The 2019 Autumn of Lies was too bad for Kashmir. And we didn’t expect 2020 to be any nicer. But who had imagined a tiny, weird virus to put the whole world in a box like the one we found ourselves in October 2019? Who had imagined a global curfew?

Frankly, for most Kashmiris the Covid19 lockdown was absolutely no novelty. It was simply a life from one lockdown to another. Crudely put, a cakewalk. The only change was the tag of the lockdown. Does that matter, anyway?

Let us admit, human beings are weird in that they feel better in seeing others in the same despicable boat as theirs. So, when the world’s streets turned desolate, supermarket shelves got empty, work-from-home became a norm, the ‘deja vu’ in the vale wasn’t a deja vu at all. But then it turned too nasty. The world turned almost upside down.

2020 turned into a year of mass suffering. It was a year of disease, loss of work, poverty, death, confusion. And reflection. In the social realm, the virus showed us our places. In the economic sphere, we got to learn how silly and fragile our idea of economic progress and finance was. In the family domain, we got to cherish what we didn’t otherwise value. In the realm of philosophy, we were made to realise how inconsequential we actually were. In the reflection rooms of great minds, people got to do some serious rethinking about the course of human progress.

In a way, 2020 was a great leveller too. In some ways, it blurred the line between the haves and the haves not.

2020 brought in a wholesome supermarket of misfortunes to Kashmir. It was a year of mysterious silence. A year of immense loss and dispossession too. Paradoxically, it was an un-momentous year of sorts. A time almost frozen to its nothingness.

As 2020 presented itself like a slide into more hopelessness, there was a silver lining too. Despite a streak of social fissiparousness, people joined hands to support each other. Faced with a poor public healthcare system; doctors, para-medics, philanthropists, community organisations and the general public did many miracles to bring ease and smiles in the lives of distressed people. Quite a lot of lives were saved. The families who had turned poor, got succor. All this happened mostly in silence.

As one was almost certain that curtains would fall over 2020 with the same silence it began with, there was a din one didn’t expect.

As a thin layer of Narnia snow fell over Srinagar, the sleepy residents had woken up to a hullabaloo. Sleeping in the warmth of Hyderabad Deccan, damn, someone called me saying a leopard had ventured into the city, and closer home.

As the Himalayan beauty was leaping from one courtyard to another, Srinagar had suddenly come alive with euphoria and noise. Out of the blue, there was a setting of people who had put themselves to the task of trapping the beast.

The videos that came out of Srinagar were fantastic. Crowds of freshly-energised men were running after the leopard and his shadows. Women screamed and shouted from the safe 3rd floor parches of their homes. Srinagar had turned into a veritable circus. It was a sight wherein people had flouted the boundaries of their imagination. The silence had been broken. People were giggling. Men had suddenly got their bravery back, and were hunting the beast.

As someone was said to have grasped the leopard under his tweed pheran just as it was about to cross the By-Pass Road, I didn’t heave a sigh of relief. What if the leopard had crossed the road, climbed a million red brick walls to reach the larger City? A leopard in the deeper city would have meant abundant merry, more laughters and more smiles.

Watching all this from the warmth of the city of Nawabs, all I was yearning for was some sense of human triumph over the adversity of 2020. How much I wished the leopard was safely taken back to his woods only after some more drama! The leopard in the city was my icing on the cake. I have had my share of laughter too.

Now, how about 2021? Well, cynics, quoting complex history and what not, tell you 2021 is going to be even more bad. I reckon, based on what all I have seen of humanity throughout my travels on this planet, that it won’t be so.

For now, human ingenuity and hope for the better seem to have begun to prevail over the cruel Covid19. The idea of an effective vaccine, which looked like a mirage a few months back, is becoming a reality.

Likewise, I deeply feel, human reason shall prevail over the prophecies of other doom and gloom. And I am not inclined to doubt the human spirit for overcoming evil. The spirit of collaboration, innovation and doing the larger good.

Happy 2021 to everyone!

(Arjimand Hussain Talib is Founder of Ziraat Times)