2020: A year from the Hell

What is a year, without colourful wedding ceremonies, packed sports stadiums and concert venues? How do we reconcile with a year that slashes our incomes and livelihoods?

2020: A year from the Hell
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V Venkateswara Rao

"What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for? ⁣

A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw — that it finally forces us to grow,

A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber.⁣

A year we finally accept the need for change.⁣ Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.

A year we finally band together, instead of⁣ pushing each other further apart.⁣⁣

2020 isn’t canceled, but rather ⁣the most important year of them all.”⁣

This inspiring poem, which went viral on social media, was penned by 23-year-old Leslie Dwight. The aspiring writer said she was 13 years old when she learned that her father, who passed away when she was just a newborn, had actually died by suicide. This tragic revelation taught her the importance of staying resilient during trying times. Not everyone is a fan of the post - its message to understand the importance of these dark times in the grand scheme of things - however. One person commented, "Girl, people are dying."

But why do we even say things like “2020 is canceled” and “New year, new me”? "Giving up on 2020, looking toward 2021". It’s like when Hamlet declares that “time is out of joint,” after the truth about his father's death was revealed to him.

How do we measure a year? With seasons, milestones, rituals and events. So, when a year is stripped of all of those moments, people feel lost and put hope in the future to manage expectations, psychologists and social scientists say. What is a year, without colourful wedding ceremonies, packed sports stadiums and concert venues? How do we reconcile with a year that slashes our incomes and livelihoods? How do we come to terms with a year that confines us to the four walls of our homes, putting all our plans on the back burner? There are no clear answers, but there is hope pinned on 2021.

I am not in the habit of staying up until midnight on December 31 to welcome the New Year. But I will stay awake till 12 midnight this December 31, just to be sure 2020, the year from hell, leaves.

In 1998, former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and YS Rajan, a government scientist, co-authored a book called “India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium”. The book had a simple message: “A developed India, by 2020 or even earlier is not a dream. It need not even be a mere aspiration in the minds of many Indians. It is a mission we can we can all take up­ and accomplish.”  Since then, we all Indians have been eagerly waiting to see a "Superpower India" by 2020.

Not only that Dr Kalam's superpower India 2020 prediction was widely off the mark, in fact 2020 turned out to be a hell of a year for India, due to the virus and virus-control policy measures. Now, international organisations like IMF (International Monetary Fund) are showing the mirror that India is in fact losing out even to its South Asian neighbours like Bangladesh which is able to offer its people a better standard of living, by achieving a higher nominal per capital GDP than India in 2020.

In 2020, with the Coronavirus pandemic hitting India harder than Bangladesh, India’s nominal per capita GDP is set to decline from $2100 in 2019 to $1880 in 2020. During the same period, however, nominal per capita GDP of Bangladesh is projected to rise from $1820 in 2019 to $1890 in 2020, marginally higher than that of India. If IMF's forecast for 2020 hits the mark, that will leave India just ahead of Pakistan and Nepal in the regional GDP sweepstakes. It means other countries in South Asia - Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and of course Bangladesh - will be ahead of India in terms of per capita GDP. India's GDP contraction of 10.3% is going to be third sharpest fall in the world after Spain and Italy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Economic Outlook (WEO) report said. It will also be the starkest decline among developing nations and emerging economies, it added.

In per capita GDP terms, India was significantly above Bangladesh till a few years ago, but the gap has been substantially closing-down owing to Bangladesh's rapidly rising exports. Besides, during the intervening period, while India's savings and investments remained lukewarm, the corresponding numbers for Bangladesh saw a sizeable surge. India’s per capita GDP, up until five years ago, was around 40 per cent higher than Bangladesh’s. According to the WEO database, India’s economic contraction in 2020 will be its worst since the 1990-91 economic crisis when the country's per capita GDP had contracted 17.5 per cent in 1991.

Ever since we stepped into 2020, the year has thrown up nothing but challenges and tragedies one after the other, spreading gloom and sadness everywhere. Everyone may agree that 2020 has been filled with stress and chaos. The year started on a distressing note when Delhi riots jolted the nation's conscience. Then there was the chaos of migrant labourers walking hundreds of kilometers to reach their villages during a national lockdown declared at a few hours' notice. There is the stress of staying indoors for months together. The fear of contacting the virus has cast its shadow on one and all. The pain of losing one's job or one's livelihood has no remedy.

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass – it’s about learning to dance in the rain" - this is one of the advices offered by the readers of The Guardian to tide over the crisis. For happiness, three things are required. Something to do. Someone to love who loves you back. Something to look forward to. Right now, in 2020, many people have nothing to do, nothing to look forward to and no love lost. 2021 may hold out the hope.

(V Venkateswara Rao is a retired corporate professional and a freelance writer)

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