Caroline Joseph | Bangalore, India
Everybody has stories they wish to pass onto their children, if not their own then maybe their kin or companions. Those albums we store, those trinkets we collect? All part of a careful yet veiled plan to pass on our legacy. But who would have ever guessed our biggest story would be a pandemic that shook the world so hard, the imprints shall be seen on our faces for years to come.
Most of us will never ‘look back and smile’ but one day we will put it behind us. Only a matter of time right, before we can document it all and this will all just be words to read. Every single person has been through their own journey in the past year. My story? I am one of the privileged few who can say though I have had my ups and downs this year, it has not yet turned my life upside down.
Enter Act 1, The pandemic starts, but elsewhere. It’s all over the news. I think we can agree 2020 was a tumultuous year for the world even before the sudden outbreak, but this was definitely the final straw. We read about it, heard about it but life remained the same. It hadn't touched my country (India) yet. It hadn't touched my city (Bangalore) yet. We were safe, for now. Perhaps we knew it was only a matter of time but we, I held onto that naive hope that it would go away without touching us.
But then Act 2 happened. Inevitably. We however did not expect the impact of the cannon firing. A lockdown was inevitable, uprooting life as we know it. And so we went underground in March 2020. Looking back I don't think there was a single peer who wasn't relieved by the extended break. Selfish teens with selfish reasons maybe, but sometimes the busy life can just get to you. It's funny that I use the word teen, but the truth remains I went into this lockdown at nineteen years old, and now at twenty one I feel like I've lost two years of my life.
Act 3, getting used to the new situation, this new “isolated but not alone” living situation, the novelty of which kept us going. A much-needed break, for the generation who live online according to their parents (not untrue). We had never asked for it but we did keep ourselves busy. Whether it was a distraction or intrigue, new trends, challenges, games, watch parties, recipes, games, shows, movies, books, video calls, you name it, kept me in a good mood. The number of ‘collaborative’ softwares I have learnt about in the past year will match no amount of intake of knowledge in my life ever.
Then enter Act 4, I can say personally this was probably the worst period of the past year I've had to endure. Just as the situation outside imploded, so did the situation at home. Both my parents fell sick in succession, ironically unrelated to the pandemic. Though neither life-threatening and have fully recovered since, the stress I felt during this time was at its absolute peak. Juggling college work (compensation for the cancelled May finals) and my newfound duties at home did take their toll, but the worst came to pass eventually. For which I am ever so thankful.
Act 5, could be described as peaceful to me. The inner anti-social ambivert in me constantly conflicted with my boredom to come to an absolute conclusion about what my thoughts on the extended lockdown were. On one hand, I was happy at home, I didn't have to meet anyone to stay in contact. Honing life skills, pursuing newfound hobbies such as sketching and baking and even working a bit to my career, this period was definitely my most productive as of yet. But a little boredom had begun to creep in. Honestly, I had hoped for it to be over by now, but alas.
Not a shocker that Act 6 coinciding with the new term of college was a bit more on the “meh” side. Again the novelty of it got us through ‘online classes’ in the first days, it definitely pumped me into a good mood to learn new things. But days went by so did the excitement, classes seemed to drag and yet time slipped by so fast. It was suddenly October? Memes gave me validation that I wasn't the only one who hadn't noticed that six months had gone by. I had gone back to my potato slump.
Act 7, I like to call existential crisis mode. With the onslaught of college in full fervour and my will to do anything real about it ebbing, I started questioning everything.
A global pandemic definitely made me stop to think what all the hustle and bustle was for. Getting into the peak “gonna make or break my career” moments of my life (and not doing such a great job at it), I fell into deep thought about what truly mattered at the end of the day.
The only need at the moment or at any given moment in life was to be happy right? Live in the present while keeping an eye out for the future.
The end of the year, Act 8, had to be THE END of it all right? At least that's where I was at. 2020 was almost over, and so was my patience. It didn't matter what the future held, I was going to make sure 2021 went well. I was ready to, in this case, literally step out and meet the world.
My mind had been through many moods, but Act 9 was the most hopeful. For some reason “New year brings new hope” had never struck a chord with me until 2021. The new vaccine had made sure that was true for everyone. We were beating it! Life started getting back to normal. It was just one small thing at a time and yet each thing made such an impact personally.
Act 10 was where we were thriving, life was normal again! Sure there were masks and a few restrictions, but we could wait that out. We had already waited this long. Somehow this period was even better, with the new knowledge we gained in the past year and the life we left back in 2019 was finally merging, and I was absolutely loving it.
But of course, tragedy strikes at the best moments and thus enter Act 11, the second wave hits. Maybe we became too slack? Maybe we became careless. It was March all over again, quite literally and figuratively. I for one was in denial that it could happen all over again. It didn't matter the stats, if we push on with this fake ‘normal’ we could somehow believe it was true. But just as I prepared for my 21st year Covid decides to begin its second year of terror.
As Act 12 starts and ends who knows when, I get a strange sense of deja vu. But with a more sinister feel to it. We are right back at square one. And yet the situation is so much worse, as a country this is the worst we have hit. The deficit supply of oxygen cylinders and even hospital beds paints a grim light on what's to come ahead.
Some say it was the slow acceptance, some say it's due to poor management. Whatever the reason, we are still the ones who bear the burden.
Again, as a lucky soul who has avoided the grim reality, I don't know if I’m allowed to even complain. But that fact was my only source of calm. The news channels long forgotten as one can only take in a certain amount of doubt no matter how great their mental state is. Hopeful news of our fellow citizens procuring the requirements for those in need is all I can bear to listen to. Wholesome is the only tag I look for while sharing resources and helping my family and friends to stay in good spirits.
Never once did the past year see a constant pattern of emotions. My mood varied throughout. One year has taught me so much, in terms of life skills, hobbies, technology and even self-care. The past year has forced me to slow down and stop to breathe once in a while.
And thus, even with this never-ending sense of uncertainty, I know it will end. Someday. Humanity will have its relief, we just have to fight to get there. Each one's experience is vastly different, each one's past year must have had different standout moments. But we will all stand together hoping, praying for a better day. Someday this will just be a history lesson, a story, someday it will be a play with all its acts already drafted.