The year of the unknown

It has been a year since I last posted on my blog. This time last year, I, like everyone else, was blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. For the first time in human history, the entire world experienced something together, but not in the way it intended. Even the “World Wars” didn’t reach all corners of our planet. Today, you have scientists in Antarctica suffering from the pandemic.

It wasn’t the pandemic that was shocking. Many a work of fiction is centered around diseases ravaging our race. It was the absolute lack of inter nation cooperation, inconsistent messaging, compromised International bodies, politicization of healthcare and public safety guidelines, pathetic preparedness at all levels of government, obliteration of the economy, fear mongering and the ensuing mental devastation that took me by surprise.

I thought they knew what they were doing. You know, the higher ups. The adults. The leaders. Apparently not. If the last one year taught me anything, it was that we can’t depend on anyone and it’s you and only you who is responsible for yourself. For all the criticism of PM Modi, his motto of being Atmanirbhar was absolutely spot on. Growing up in India, I was taught to never expect anything positive from the Government and last year proved the notion somewhat.

It was only my privileged background of being a middle class urban professional that I didn’t bear the full brunt of this horrific time. Imagine if I was a daily wage worker. While we all began the lockdown with a sense of amusement and Go Corona Go, it soon dawned upon us that we’re in it for the long haul. Work from home turned us all into bots that moved from bed to laptop to bed again. As every email began with “Hope you are safe”, online team meetings ruled our collective lives. Layoffs, salary cuts, uncertainty and frustration. While I was once again immensely lucky to be part of the digital economy, not many, including some in my family, were.

I changed more in the last year that I did in the five years prior to it. I had to, lest I went mad. As things went from bad to worse in my professional life, I had to dig into the deepest recesses of my being to find a path ahead. A path that I had never taken before, one I was known for being weak at. I had to be by myself and depend upon no one. A notoriously extroverted individual, I was forced to be alone and ask myself “Why are you suffering? How can you stop it? When will this end? When will you stop hopping from one mental crisis to another?”.

I concluded I was “too connected” and some of the plugs needed to be rewired in order to connect with myself first. Charity, after all, begins at home. For the first time in my life, I was thinking of myself first and everyone else next. I rediscovered what made me click professionally, rearranged some of my personal relationships and even managed to stop liking the girl who had no interest in me as a romantic partner! (You won’t understand this if your childhood wasn’t a masterclass in bludgeoning someone’s self esteem.)

Once that chapter was closed, I got my Iyengar Bakery affected body back to normal with great difficulty. I swear I will go to war for those Rawa cakes. As my cafe outings were replaced by hours of video games, my willingness to create content was sapped completely. I don’t know what happened. Maybe my internal chaos needed the energy that can be satiated only by meeting a bunch of people in favourable environments!

As the restrictions lifted, some semblance of a “normal” life started creeping in. While we all looked like Mortal Kombat characters, it was a relief to be around people. Just anyone would do! I embarked on my first ever solo trip and saw first hand, the economic impact of the ill advised extended lockdowns. But I also discovered I no longer needed to chat continuously to be at ease. The voices in my head were kinder.

I know people who lost their loved ones due to COVID and my trials are absolutely nothing compared to them. But a trial it was. We all fought our personal and professional battles the past year, and we are stronger for it. And we should be proud of it. While life is all about struggle, we must never forget we have someone we can always depend upon. Irrespective of how lucky we are with friends and family around us, only you can help yourself. Every battle, every celebration, is a conversation you are having with yourself.

Ironically the year of the unknown taught me who I really was. And I stuck by myself. I hope you do so too. For life, it is a single player game. Just have some rawa cakes once in a while!

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