2020 AD — In Retrospect

The Triboro Bridge was thick with traffic. In the distance the Manhattan skyline was sparkling. The spire on the Empire State building was red and green. Things seemed like they are supposed to, this time of the year.

Then to my right a driver pulled in with a mask on. He made sure I didn’t forget that things were far from the way they used to be.

The adjustment we have had to make to a virus, has forced us to take stock of who we are as a species and how we live with the planet.

Now with a vaccine, there is hope of a reset to the past as soon as possible, which is already celebrated as a distant blissful memory.

Many are looking forward to vacations in exotic places, the exhilaration of being in sports arenas and music concerts, the din of restaurants and for the less fortunate a return to a lost job. Whether we will resume those heady days, in a manner reminiscent of the past, is not very certain. Even though the end of 2020 is being seen as a first step towards that.

After 9/11 the world did not reset once Afghanistan was invaded, Iraq destroyed and Osama Bin Laden assassinated. The way we move about the planet intrinsically changed forever, and the human world fell in line with some irritation. Probably a similar fate awaits us once this virus is conquered and we get ready (or not) for the next one to come.

There are many ways one can approach the end of 2020. For many it is already being advertised as an end to a year from hell.

One’s calibration is based on one’s individual experience no doubt. For those who lost a loved one it is the darkest of times. For someone who recovered after a long fight, gratitude to those who helped along the way is in order. To those who have managed to stay clear despite the scare of the virus lurching on surfaces, in air and in the room next door, good fortune is to be thankful for. And to those who continue to be in denial, it is important to keep in mind fortune favors only those who are prepared.

No matter how you see it, the inconvenience faced by many, pales in comparison to those who went through far worse in history, even without the virus.

The generations before us that lived through wars, famine and deadlier plagues when medicine was primitive, saw and experienced dire unfathomable circumstances.

Even today there are millions of refugees who are displaced by war and conflict who have had to contend with more hardship than they would have with a virus running amuck.

So when we say “to hell with 2020” or see it as a cursed year, one has to measure one’s level of inconvenience with those who have lost everything or are on the verge of destitution, and then have some perspective.

As I count myself among the lucky, 2020 has mainly been a massive adjustment. I have had enough food on my table, a roof over my head, a family to give me comfort, a dog to pet, restricted freedom of movement and health to stay confident about the future that is to come. I am aware this could all change in a blink of an eye with or without a virus in our midst.

So I am grateful for 2020 for teaching me the true meaning of contentment and to help focus further on what is essential and valuable in the hardest of times.

As the planet spins and turns in the eternal churning of time, a year is but a speck in its trajectory. For us 2020 may feel like an eternity, but for the blue ball, it is just a blip. To see things in retrospect with perspective, is the way to move forward, as there is no instant “reset switch” for the predicament we find ourselves in.

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film SALAM can now be seen on Netflix.

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