Goodbye 2020: The year that changed us all

Goodbye 2020: The year that changed us all

By the end of this week it will be good riddance 2020. Almost every person I have spoken to in the recent days has wished for this year and its tragedy to be all a thing of the past. There is perhaps not even a single person who isn’t looking forward to the New Year 2021 and hoping for it be kinder to us all.

No matter how optimistic we are, it simply isn’t easy to battle loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety for such a prolonged period. And just as the vaccine rollout touched the 500,000 mark, news broke of a new variant of the wretched Covid-19 virus! All hopes felt shattered and a sort of hollowness filled us with fear of being stuck, for an indefinite period of time. It was as though we were all going back to the beginning of this vicious cycle all over again!

Living alone is a choice we make. Being lonely isn’t. It sneaks in, quietly and without notice. There are days on end that you feel so lethargic that it feels impossible to get out of bed, to cook, to even shower. There’s nobody to talk to, nobody to share a meal with and nobody to be around. Looking through the window onto the apartment across the road, you feel like a passive onlooker, watching life go by.

Frontline support

In the same frame, you could see a couple arguing or making love; you could watch these ultra-fit pair working out; oh and there is that young man sprawled on the couch on his gadgets or watching the telly. Don’t miss that geeky person always on calls and sat tidily in front of a massive computer screen and then there is that busy household with constant commotion in the kitchen and mountains of stock of food items to go through. And then there is you!

A relationship of sorts built over a period of time with these strangers, who we hadn’t even noticed, existed? I don’t know about you, but I almost knew everyone’s daily routine and I am sure they did mine! I realised this the first time we clapped and cheered for our frontline workers earlier this year and my eyes properly met my neighbours’ – we exchanged a quiet, reassuring smile; almost as if to say, ‘it’s going to be alright’!

Life changes

We will welcome the New Year this week so I wondered how this year changed our lives? Aniruddha Kaprekar from Cheshire said: “I can run!” Not a very interesting comment as social media is filled with fitness videos of people who “can run”!

Aniruddha met with a serious motorbike accident in 1985 that led to a metal rod insertion in his leg. This prevented him from any kind of heavy exercise and running certainly was out of question. In his words: “During the lockdown period as gyms were shut and I was not happy with online gym sessions, I attempted running from a very slow start and then building on. I don’t want to become Usain Bolt or Mo Farah but running even short distance gives me great joy. So when the world was at a forced stop, I started to RUN! Oh and I learnt cooking too!”

About cooking: When the entire country seemed to be stockpiling food, I would go to my local corner shop for groceries early morning, pick up the weekly raw material, mostly the fruit, veg, milk and yes, flowers! I would notice the fruit, veg section almost full but the eggs, bread, ready meals section wiped out, especially if I made a trip towards midday. Lucky for me, I thought that I can cook. A report published by ‘RAND Europe’ recently highlighted certain trends in food consumption behaviour of Britons:

Trend 1: What people consume falls short of dietary guidelines even though there has been a decline in the consumption of sugar, salt and red and processed meats.

Trend 2: Although UK consumers continue to shop at supermarkets, there is a shift to small supermarkets as well as online grocery markets.

Trend 3: There has been a significant increase in out-of-home food enabled by the digital platforms offering easy food delivery.

Trend 4: A greater consciousness of the origin, sustainability and ethical production standards of their food.

Connecting people

Though the above trends may be slightly contrary to our understanding of the impact a lockdown may have on food consumption patterns, we also have noticed around us an increase in variety of food cooked at home. Non-cooks were forced to try cooking at home and have benefitted immensely from youtube lessons. There are followers of Tarla Dalal or Chef Sanjiv Kapoor recipes but then is Kabita’s Kitchen that’s run by Kabita Singh from UK who wasn’t very happy with the quality of Indian food available so she decided to share her own recipes online and swiftly became a popular choice for amateur cooks.

There is also the young student turned youtuber, Yaman Agarwal who runs Cooking Shooking in Hindi. Yaman started his channel at the age of 12 in 2012 but has steadily grown to be a fairly popular choice with millions of followers! Oh and if you are a vegetarian, there is Nisha Madhulika who offers comforting recipes to feel at home, away from home.

Social media and technology have worked wonders in connecting people. And for the creative kind, like the Tikk Vaavijj Talkies by Dr Urmi Raina, Anupama Handoo and Dr Shafalica Bhan Kotwal and their families, the pain of cultural disconnect and disappearing language found remedy in the recreation of ‘Zoondab’, satirical Kashmiri theatre (in Kashmir language) via Zoom! With easy subtitling, sound effects and dubbing using basic online tools, a generational gap found itself shrinking.

This weekend as the date changes, a new era begins. Let this be informed by the experiences of the year(s) gone by and make us look inward. As we spell out our New Year resolutions, let’s hope that we also offer our gratitude to the miracle of being alive and looking ahead to possibilities.
Let’s end this decade with a toast to the year 2020, the one that will be remembered as the year that changed us all!

Lakshmi Kaul is the London-based UK Head & Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and an active Indian diaspora campaigner. In this regular Talking Point column for ‘iGlobal’, she focuses on issues that deserve spotlighting within the Global Indian community, referencing her personal experiences.

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