It’s the beginning of a new decade, I had been told.
We were 69 days into 2020 when images of the Australian bushfires were all that I saw on my television screen. We were 79 days into 2020 when my board exams were cancelled because Covid-19 had been declared a global pandemic. We were 146 days into 2020 when a few seconds after he said he couldn’t breathe, George Floyd had died because former police officer Derek Chauvin had kept his knee on his neck for eight minutes and fifteen seconds.
That was the beginning of this new decade.
The year 2020 made me see what, until now, I had only read in newspapers. I saw humanity in all its forms. I saw it when I went to the grocery store to buy milk, only to find that it had all been sold out and a man not much older than my father gave me two of his packets.
I saw chaos at its best and I saw fear in the eyes of all those I dared to meet. I understood the meaning of privilege as I sat and clung onto mine. I understood it, when I saw a girl my age carried her entire life on her shoulders and walked back home, wherever that was for her.
With the lockdown that was supposed to last only three weeks, and holidays that were to end in two months, I was acquainted with an emotion I hadn’t had the privilege of meeting with earlier — uncertainty. It came like a storm and has been my companion for over a year now. What’s worse is that it refuses to leave.
I know I am not in a position to tell the government of my country what to do in this situation because perhaps they are aware of certain facts that I am not. Also, because they probably won’t listen to what I have to say. But based on what I have witnessed over these past few months, I sure have a list of things that I know they should not be doing.
Right at the top of this list, in block letters, would be the elections held in West Bengal. This would be followed by, in perhaps the same font size, Kumbh Mela. I know it comes once in twelve years but if we pay attention to the background noise of this virus right now, maybe it won’t stick around to ruin it for you the next time the Kumbh Mela comes around.
Other diseases plaguing the world
As harsh as this may sound, Covid-19 is not the only disease plaguing us right now. This may be the only one we’ve paid attention to, but there are more. There are more, subjectively contagious ones that we choose to ignore because we do not have the genetic “defect” that some other unfortunate ones do.
Perhaps they hadn’t registered, but you must have heard of these diseases — racism and injustice. About 330 days after George Floyd was murdered, Derek Chauvin was held accountable for his brutal and absolutely uncalled for action. But the universe has its way of unfolding and so does the police of the world’s greatest nation, as they call it. One hour before Chauvin was arrested, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot dead by the police in Ohio.
Just before he died, Floyd had said he couldn’t breathe. Neither can the other 42 million African-Americans living in the US. I can’t help but wonder, when they’ll be able to.
I’m terrified to pick up the paper and to watch the news because they have nothing good to tell me. For a while now, all I’ve been hearing are sirens. Ambulances on this side of the world and police on the other.
Maybe, life is smiling at the irony because neither symbolises security anymore. As for me, with the world perishing under the weight of a virus, it feels wrong to lament the loss of sitting in a classroom. But the fact of the matter remains that in sitting behind a screen for over a year now, the light at the end of the tunnel that we’re so often told about, is getting dimer.
However, despite it all, I know it’s there and I swear by the two packets of milk that I had been given by a stranger that this dark and dingy tunnel has an end and that we’ll make it till there.
I know it’s tough and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. I know we’re tired and it’s hard to find rays of hope in such dark corners. But I also know that we’ll have to keep looking for them, because survival has never been easy and because honestly, I’d much rather we be tired than extinct.
Taarini Saharan is a student of Welham Girls’ School, Dehradun