By Smriti Nambudiri, UG 22
Image Credits: The Wire
Since 2016, people tend to name every year that follows ‘the worst year ever’. But, I think we can all agree when I say 2020, in all seriousness, is the worst year to have ever existed, a year where both too much, and nothing at all, happened. So much so, the concept of time itself stopped making sense after March. For better or worse, 2020 will be a year for the history books, or a dramatic television show.
When the year started with news of the raging Australian bushfires, fires that had scorched large parts of the country as the world watched on, many proclaimed that to be the defining feature of 2020 right out the gate. But with the remaining of 2020’s first season bringing World War 3 threats, Trump’s impeachment trial, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry leaving the Royal Family, and the height of the CAA/NRC protests in India, the tone the rest of the year was going to carry was very much written out. Not to mention, in the background, the slow development of a mystery illness taking over Wuhan, China— the disease that would be known as the coronavirus, one that would drastically change the year.
If anyone had to pick a positive highlight from ‘2020: The TV Show’, for many it would be the moment ‘Parasite’ won the Oscar for Best Picture, breaking glass ceilings and creating history as it did so. Some may even argue it was the world’s last breath of respite before the beginning of the end to come in March. Even the Spring semester in Ashoka began as it normally did, with plans and promises for the coming weeks, Thursday night parties, open Mics, and an already growing number of assignments. Life, as we knew it, was normal.
Everyone had ushered in the New Year in their own ways, with parties, with drunken resolutions whispered into empty glasses, alone on balconies, hoping the year would turn out a certain way for them. But none of us could have anticipated the way life itself would completely flip on its head a week into March: all starting with the announcement of an 8-week lockdown and quarantine period. The same coronavirus from Wuhan had now managed to make its way here, there and everywhere else.
When the email from our Vice-Chancellor came in, calling for the university to go online after the mid-semester break until mid April, it almost felt surreal, like something unimaginable. “In view of Advisories received from UGC, the health department of the government, and international regulatory bodies, Ashoka University has decided to postpone resumption of undergraduate classes after the mid-semester break by two weeks,” the email read, only the start of what would follow. ‘It’s just a few weeks at home, and before we know it, university and campus life would go back to normal’, I, as many others, thought when I read it for the first time. However, as I’m writing this in the last few days of December, the idea of a 2-month lockdown to ride out a small virus seems like a joke. But at the time, that’s all it was, just an unexpected twist to what was shaping up to be quite an eventful year. As the weeks dragged on, however, the number of cases skyrocketed and the days started to melt together, everyone came to realise that this was our new reality, one with silent streets, 10+ hours on laptops shifting from one Zoom class to the next, and a lot more Dunzo users than before.
And so began the next nine months of lockdown, with its distinctive phases of human existence. The ‘celebrity Imagine cover’ phase, the Dalgona coffee phase, the ‘clapping-on-the-balcony’ phase that no one really understood, that one phase where you really, really tried to take up knitting and crocheting, and of course, the Netflix phase, the one phase that was the closest to a normal day. Who needs a pandemic to watch all of Gossip Girl at 3 am, after all. April came and went, and we as Ashoka students felt the remainder of the Spring semester pass by in an online blur, only to learn to our dismay that the next academic semester was going to be more of the same, online classes far from the Sonipat campus. And amidst all of it, 2020 didn’t stop throwing it’s best into the world: murder hornets, the possibility of parallel universes, the explosion in Beirut, and a full-circle moment with the California wildfires, it’s easy to forget that it was this year that the Pentagon confirmed the existence of UFOs. It was easy to forget what day of the week it was.
Many crazy things came out of the year, but some incidents are too crucial and significant to ignore. One can’t ignore when George Floyd was murdered by police, the last straw in a fight for justice that has been going on for years, sparking outrage like never seen before all over the world. One can’t ignore the injustice in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, when a Dalit girl was raped and murdered. The police cremated her without her family’s permission. This incident shed light on the frequent nature of caste-based violence. One can’t ignore the plight of migrant workers in India impacted by COVID-19, and the difficulties faced as they simply tried to make their way back to their native places. One can’t ignore the circumstances surrounding the Beirut explosion, with Lebanon’s economic crisis and its effects on its citizens. One can’t ignore the protests against SARS in Nigeria, the violence against protestors brutal and all too familiar. All this was a sobering reminder that as crazy and outrageous as the year felt, it was also one that needed changing, an era that demanded we to pay attention. Not just to the present problems, but their systemic nature, in ourselves and in politics, and the different lenses of caste, gender, class, etc. in these problems and its effects.
Anyway, the year is drawing close to its end. Americans elected Trump out of the presidency, false rumors of Putin stepping down continue to persist, and old TV shows popular in 2012 are making a return, all while different Indian states go into renewed curfews and lockdowns. With a lack of surprise but still some quiet disappointment, we learnt that, at least for the first half of the Spring 2021 semester, the online class format would continue. But, I think I speak for us all when I say we can finally take a breath of relief, as the vaccine starts circulation, and hopeful promises start to grow. Because the year where every month felt like a game of Cards Against Humanity, is finally coming to a close...
Breaking News: A new mutated strain of the coronavirus, COVID-20, is spreading rapidly across the UK.