The Embers of 2020
The year 2020 is dying having delivered little of value. A pandemic that held three-quarters of the year hostage is threatening to mutate into a deadlier version of itself having already claimed 1.8 million lives. Will it lead the world to the final whimper that T.S. Eliot prophesied a century back? The whimper of hollow people, stuffed people, who made too much noise for too long?
As a teacher I made quite a lot of noise for three-and-a-half decades. As a blogger too I made pretty much noise. 2020 put an end to the first noise. Classes went online and smartphones replaced students. Phones without automatic response mechanisms. So my questions in the classes went unanswered. I realised I was talking to no one. My dried voice, as Eliot would put it, died into meaningless whispers like wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass.
2020 rendered my job absurd. I spoke and deathly emptiness echoed my voice back to me. My New Year resolution is to give up teaching unless the job goes back to real classrooms. Anyway, I have reached the age when governments want us to quit. This is one of those rare occasions when rules become expediently useful.
I shall continue to make noise as a blogger though quite a few readers too abandoned me because my noise did not match theirs. When they raised saffron voices that caressed broken stones of mythical times, my voice was seeking to hitchhike on a crisp breeze that wafted from an eternal but ever-new ocean. Breezes are antinational these days, however.
Even the terror of a ghastly pandemic failed to teach the most essential lessons to many of my fellow countrymen. And I lost readers. Never mind. Another New Year resolution of mine is to carry on riding the breezes. You need to die only once. Live until then on your own terms. Not on the broken stones of buried pasts.
2020 gave me and Maggie a gift. It happened on the black Saturday of the country’s 74th Independence Day. Prime Minister Modi had delivered his characteristically bombastic speech about the country’s achievements against the pandemic – how it unified the country! – about the chest-thumping clash with China, about Atmanirbharta and other fantasies. Intermittent rains kept us cool in Kerala. The air was moist and the earth was damp. Shrill cries of a kitten came from the gloomy dampness penetrating the Prime Minister’s shrieks on the TV. I ignored the cries until Maggie pushed me out into the drizzle. I had heard the cries earlier too. They were coming for quite some time – hours, in fact. Pushed out by Maggie from home, I followed the sound of the kitten and reached the side of the public road where, under a discarded plastic roof sheet, lay not one but two little kittens crying in horror as much as with hunger and helplessness. I picked them up and carried them home. Two little skeletons. They were not more than a week old. Abandoned by someone who was rendered helpless by the pandemic, perhaps. When you can’t afford food for your family, two little kittens can be a burden.
Those little creatures became Maggie’s and my beloved Antony and Cleopatra. Now they’re about 5 months old and enjoying life to the hilt being pampered by two silly creatures of the human species who don’t speak about Atmanirbhar Bharat or national pride.
|Antony & Cleopatra|
Antony and Cleopatra made 2020 worthwhile for Maggie and me. Even as I’m typing out this on my laptop Cleopatra is in my lap trying to draw my attention by rubbing her forehead against my belly. Cleopatra and I have our own ways of discovering atmanirbharta. That’s probably the only good thing that 2020 has offered.
Maggie and I decided to end this horrible year on a beach. So we drove to the nearest convenient beach – Cherai, 70 km from our home – yesterday and let me end this post with a snap from there.
I hope 2021 will be better. At least less voices caressing broken stones and more real atmanirbharta. Wish you a Really Happy New Year.