I think I can begin this post by stating that 2020 was not the year that everyone, and I mean everyone, planned, hoped or dreamed for. It was a year that started innocently and quietly enough for most, and then escalated quickly into something that no one was prepared for, and I mean no one. In the blink of an eye or rather overnight, the Lockdown changed everything. Suddenly 2020 was not just another year. For me or for anyone else.
The first few days of the Lockdown felt like an unexpected and welcome holiday. But that changed as the realities of the Lockdown set in as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I don’t even think I can articulate fully the claustrophobia, the despair or the daily challenges of forced isolation.
But what I can do is to highlight one or two events of each month of the year that was 2020 and share them with you here. Everyone had a year like no other and this is mine.
January: I started the year by cooking Undhiyo, a dish that my mother used to make, entirely from memory for my close friends and colleagues at work. A mix of beans, purple yam, sweet potato, brinjal, raw banana, methi and more, flavoured with coconut, fresh coriander, spices… all coming together to create a very unique dish. On its own, each ingredient is nice but together these diverse ingredients create a very special dish with flavours that complement each other. Much like the good and bad that life throws at us.
February: I did something for the first time — I participated in a run for the first time ever with some fabulous work colleagues-friends and completed a 5km at the Tridhatu Navi Mumbai Marathon. I may have walked more than I ran, but that is a small technicality for the heady feeling crossing the finish line is something else altogether. 🤓
March: This is the time that my busy “season” at work begins and most of the month went in preparation for the work and tasks to be completed. And then the Lockdown came into effect and the world as I knew it changed forever.
April: This month was about learning to cope with the changed reality around me and music was my stress buster. This was the month that I pulled out all my music CDs and listened to them through all my waking hours.
May: Started an art-based series on Instagram called #ArtByTheLetter or #AksharArt, which continued till October. As the name suggests, this was a series on Indian Art using the varnmala of the Hindi alphabet or the Devanagari script as the base. For example, अ is for Agni, ब is for Bhuta sculptures, and so on.
June, July and August: I went to bed on Sunday, 21st June, tired but happy after a weekend spent cleaning my house. When I woke up up the morning of the 22nd, it was with the feeling that something was wrong with right side of my face. As the day progressed, my face swelled up and by evening it was confirmed that I had facial palsy. The symptoms took a full two days to manifest and this was the beginning of a dark period of pain like I had never experienced before, vision and hearing loss, and intense and painful physiotherapy.
I wish I could forget these three months, but I know that is not possible. Beyond the self-pity and bouts of feeling sorry for myself, the nerve pain, the trauma of loss of vision, I discovered the world of audio books, kind friends who managed send cheer, food and essentials across to me despite the lockdown.
September: I resumed full-time work with regular hours in the last week of this month. By that I mean actually, physically going to my workplace and not working from home. The first week at work was all about getting back to a work routine and catching up with what had happened in the last 6 months with my workmates. Some colleagues had retired, some had quit, some had lost loved ones.
After a few days at work, it felt that everything was back to normal. Well almost everything. One of the things that got me through the lockdown was the thought of returning to my workplace. Though I was happy to be back at work, I felt like a stranger and my much loved office room and the view from my window felt unfamiliar.
October & November: These two months were all about work and more work and catching up with deadlines. Once inside the office, it was easy to sometimes feel that the lockdown never happened !
And this was also the time that I sneaked off from work one morning and went to visit my favourite bookshops in Mumbai — Kitab Khana and Wayword & Wise.
December: I decided to make a short trip to Pune to visit my oldest brother and family as well as friends on 20th December. I was very excited for this would be my first trip out of Mumbai in a year. Sadly, luck didn’t share my excitement for the cab I was travelling in was in a nasty pile up on the Mumbai Pune Expressway and I suffered injuries. Currently, I’m wearing a neck collar and under observation. 😦
Most of 2020 was like living a life in a dystopian world with claustrophobia, despair, and loneliness of being shut in being the dominant emotions. I have still not recovered from the facial palsy; progress is slow, but sure. I hope that by mid-2021 I would have recovered fully.
When I will look back at this period in the time to come, there are 3 things that will always remain with me.
- The overwhelming feeling of being alone without any form of human contact and wondering if this is what solitary confinement was all about. Being in touch with friends and family over phone and messages during this period helped a lot, but did not entirely dispel the feeling of being alone. I think I felt it the most on my birthday, which was during the lockdown, when the day went by without a single hug or handshake. Never will I take a simple human contact for granted ever again.
- Surrounding myself with music during all my waking hours as the means to cope. Staying away from social media and the constant barrage of invites to webinars, FB and IG live sessions also helped.
- Never forgetting the privilege of being safe and protected during this period. Whenever I got into a feeling-sorry-for-myself mode, remembering and acknowledging my privilege got me out of it real quick.
If the last 6 months of the lockdown felt like a dystopian world, the pre-lockdown period feels like another lifetime, a masked alternative reality – one that I’m not sure about and still trying to come to terms with. The lockdown has ended, the vaccine will come but things as we know it will never be the same again.
Goodbye 2020 !!!!
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6 thoughts on “The Year that was 2020”
Thanks for another great post. What a year indeed! 2021 needs to be different. I hope you continue to feel improvement – and that travel can start up again later in 2021. I always enjoy your posts. best wishes
I wish you a very happy new year 2021 – a full recovery, lots of physical time with your loved ones, and more music and books for you to enjoy. I hope this new year shuts the door on the bad and opens a window to all good things. I am glad to hear you are doing much better.
Take care Sudhagee !! Inspiring to know that you are making a comeback from your illness. More power to you!!
I am so glad to hear that you have recovered…I am huge fan of your blogs…I used to read all of your blogs which are so interesting and entertaining…Keep writing…Keep entertaining..Keep inspiring !!
Love from PAKISTAN
First I must wish you well in your recovery from your recent illness,secondly I must thank you from the bottom of my Heart for one of your older articles regarding the Oldest Roman Catholic Cemetery in Agra.My Uncle always told me that my Family had a private cemetery in Agra,and when I stumbled on your blog on the Ellis Tomb,and the pictures of the graves around the Tomb, I could not believe it.Francis Ellis was my great great Grandfather, John Ellis ,my great Grandfather.My ancestors were in India with the East India Company,from the early seventeen hundreds,in fact my 6X great grandfather’s younger brother William Ellis was very briefly the Governor of Patna, before he and 22 other europeans were massacred at The great Patna massacre,carried out by a mercenary army led by Walter Reinhart, on the orders of his Mogul master.
My Nephew and his family visited the site in January 2020, and took many lovely photos of the Tomb and all of the surrounding graves,and fortunately managed to get back to the UK before the Lockdown.I now have a record of all the family graves,thanks to your website.I noticed from the photos that beside Frances Ellis’s grave there is an unused unmarked one, which I guess was meant for William Ellis,because according to Family history his body was never found.My family left India very reluctantly in the 1950’s,when I was 11 years old, as seven generations of the Ellis family were born and bred in India,and it was very sad to leave.
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