29 Dec 2020 20:14 IST

Goodbye and good riddance, 2020!

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge ain the midnight display during New Year's Eve celebrations on January 1, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by James Gourley   -  Getty Images

Recounting the events of the year, the world we live in today is vastly different from the one we are leaving behind

As Gregorian calendars go, January 1, 2021 is the beginning of a new year. And Sydney, which welcomes it earlier than anyone else, wants to usher in hope and cheer by hosting its mesmerising harbour-centric fireworks show.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “The actual display itself, the seven minutes of fireworks at midnight, will be happening no matter what.” Kudos to a rare public official who thinks like the rest of us.

The world is sick of 2020 and eagerly awaits 2021 not just because Covid-19 rendered millions sick. We are sick for how 2020 changed our lives in ways that none of us could have imagined. Last January, I was lucky enough to take in a full day of cricket when India beat Australia at the jam-packed Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. I don’t know when I will ever get to do that again.

Time of profound changes

We are now paranoid about mingling with others. Riding in a crowded bus or train is a distant memory. We wash our hands a lot more frequently today, not always with soap and for the required 20 seconds. We avoid touching surfaces and use alcohol wipes like never before. We wear masks even if we find it hard to breathe through them. For weeks, we experienced severe shortages of essentials, even toilet paper.

We have forgotten the joys of going to work, sitting at a desk, or taking part in a meeting in a conference room. Office parties, gossip and water-cooler talk are from a bygone era. We are ever conscious of how we look and what we say on a Zoom call. Anything we say can and will be used against us in the court of public opinion, because we are never sure if someone is recording a meeting.

We are sick of arbitrary decisions by government officials who act as though they know more than us but are fishing in the dark just as badly as we are. We are tired of those who preach to the rest of us to behave one way (like not visiting families during the holidays) but who sneak out in the middle of the night to do exactly that.

We are forbidden from taking care of those who fall ill or being with them when they pass away. Millions could never say their farewells or pay respects to those who departed.

Small businesses have shut

Millions of jobs have been lost, many of them forever. The people hit hardest are those that can least afford it, including, cab drivers, waiters, cooks, dishwashers, amusement park attendants, baristas, street vendors, maids, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, stadium ushers, baggage porters, cashiers, receptionists, travel agents, and tour guides.

Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have shuttered, many forever. Millions of children have forgotten how to play with each other, learn, retain knowledge, or be tested. We have become less tolerant of our fellow human beings. We publicly shame those who don’t wear masks or follow social distancing rules. We are ever ready to exercise moral superiority over those that don’t behave like us, because only we know best.

The world’s deficit spending has increased to levels never seen before. The central banks are printing money, buying up assets, and setting interest rates to near-zero like never before.

In America, the nation erupted into months of protests after the death of George Floyd. Cities like Portland, Chicago, and Seattle looked like war zones as mobs heckled law enforcement. “Defund the Police!” became a rallying cry. As soon as the elections were over, all protests suddenly and curiously stopped — although no policy changes were enacted.

Ups and downs

For all the doom and gloom of 2020, there were rare successes. The media distrusted, mocked, and ridiculed President Trump when he promised in May that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year. Today, nearly two million people in the US have already received the vaccine.

SpaceX became the first commercial provider of rides to NASA astronauts who successfully made it to the International Space Station twice. Israel signed historic peace accords with the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan. Britain signed a Brexit agreement with the EU.

Covid-19, suddenly realising that it is losing the mindshare of the people, released a new strain first found in the UK. Dozens of countries banned flights to and from the island nation. France reported its first-ever case. In the meantime, infections of the old Covid have been increasing by record numbers worldwide. Hospital beds in many parts of the world are at capacity. Northern Ireland just announced a six-week lockdown.

“Goodbye, and good riddance 2020! Don’t you ever return in a million years!”

Something tells me that my demand will fall on deaf ears. Happy New Year.