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Stepping into 2021 cautiously

Update: 2021-01-02 00:00 IST
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While bidding adieu to 2020, I have heard many people curse the bygone year. Some said it was the worst year in the history of human civilisation. Some said it had ruined the economy. There were people who felt that it had put brakes to the speed with which the country was moving forward which was to become a superpower by 2020.

They argue that undoubtedly it was a year of job losses which was at its peak and several sectors witnessed a doom. Natural disasters followed in different parts of the globe. The country witnessed floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and a bloody border confrontation all in the past eight months and hence it was the worst year in the history of human civilisation. But is it really so?

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Agreed that disaster struck early in 2020. February saw some communal rioting in Delhi, even as United States President Donald Trump, on a much-publicised trip to India, was just a few kilometres away from the national capital. A month later, the country woke up to Covid-19 virus and went in for a lockdown by end of March. Subsequently, economies around the world collapsed.

But there is no point brooding over the bygone year as the clouds are now slowly moving away. It may take one more year for the situation to become absolutely normal and life would start picking up steam and speed again once vaccination begins.

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If we look at the positive aspect, we would realise that we are lucky as compared to the people who lived on the earth six or seven hundred years ago. During that period, the globe was affected by bubonic plague. It took lot of time for the plague to recede. Thanks to the modern science and research we could reach a stage where vaccination for the dreaded virus could be found within one year.

If we look back a little over hundred years ago, 75,000 Indians lost life in World War 1 and about 90,000 lost lives in World War 2. The year 1943 was the worst year for Bengal. The Bengal famine in the Bengal province of British India during World War II resulted in an estimated 2.1–3 million, out of a population of 60.3 million, die of starvation, malaria, and other diseases aggravated by malnutrition, population displacement, unsanitary conditions and lack of health care.

About less than five decades back after getting Independence, India saw war with China and two wars with Pakistan. Whether it is war or pandemic, misery strikes, and many lose their loved ones.

Such challenging situations help in making life significant. As Sadhguru says this is an opportunity for us to rise, step backwards a little bit and realise that the shelf life of every human being is limited. We should not behave as if we are immortals. While focussing on increase in GDP and increase in ones financial situation is important, it should not make one to work in terms of increasing income endlessly.

During past few decades, this trend had emerged and along with that the tendency to increase spending and converting house into a warehouse was seen. People had forgotten about ecology and went on causing acute damage to nature. The situation arising out of spread of Corona had taught people to be more responsible and count every rupee.

The pandemic also worked as a reminder though painful that we should make significant changes in ourselves. It has told us that now it was time we become human. Sadhguru in his speech on the eve of New Year said it was time the mankind learns to move from untruth to truth. He said if one was conscious, he would make best of it or else he would languish.

In a year dominated by Covid realities all around us, one absolute truth that emerged was that people realised their priorities in life. Taking care of their health and spending happy time with their loved ones became more important things. Work from home gave them access to those missed precious moments that could have been stored in their memory books earlier if they weren't busy in their own world. It made them realise that in a race there is always something called a final line and if one ignores that one would be in trouble.

While recalling the bitter memories of 2020, one should learn to be positive in outlook and see the good things that happened around us. While the common man got back to family, it made the governments realise that they had miserably failed in creating necessary medical infrastructure to meet any challenge and that there was urgent need to focus more on creating better health infrastructure and gear up for future challenges that they may have to face. It has also taught the people that they should not disturb the natural environment.

While looking forward for a less troublesome 2021, people should understand that this is the right time to ensure that we should not disturb forests and animals. Scientists and some of top professionals in the field of medicine feel that people should not forget their bitter experiences and utilise it to take corrective measures to see that the disasters are minimised in future.

The governments and all the law makers should also realise that there was need to look back and stop mindless exploitation of nature whether it be forests or mines. While welcoming a brighter and better 2021, even incorrigible optimists like me are still not sure whether people have really learnt lessons or the wisdom would be short lived. It is not time to still calculate everything in terms of money and indulge in mad race to earn more money and try to recover the losses of 2020.

The pandemic has taught people to have controlled celebrations and that should continue many opine. Certainly, people should realise the importance of controlled celebrations and stop indulging in display of vulgar wealth. The government should also study about what more should be done to improve health infrastructure instead of waiting for another disaster to strike us.

Why this caution is being spoken about by mystics as well as others is because with the fear of Covid-19 receding, people seem to be getting into a mood where they feel that it is gone. It has not gone say the medical experts. Yes, vaccine has arrived but it would take at least one year before the entire population in India is covered.

Moreover, vaccine does not mean that nothing would strike again in future. Medical experts' appeal to all on the New Year Day is: Please don't lower your guard. The virus has not disappeared. It exists but will not affect you as long as you continue to use clean masks, maintain social distancing, sanitise hands frequently and most important is stop tampering with natural habitat.

They warn us that there could be new mutations if we continue with the old habits of playing with Nature. At the same time, greater emphasis should also be laid on studies in virology across the globe and more so in India.

Continuing with the discipline people had learnt during pandemic is not a big thing provided the politicians also realise that their personal and political shelf life is short and no one can be in power for ever and hence they should take lead in displaying some discipline in life and create a better society.

Its time they reduce sycophancy and behave like human beings. Only then 2021 will prove to be a year of change or else all the wishes we exchanged would amount to robotic actions and would be like performing some ritual without understanding why it is being performed. Let's hope that it would be an year of Asatoma Sadgamaya (Moving from untruth to truth).

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