By all parameters, 2020 was a year unlike any before it in living memory. When it started, I was in Orissa, with family – having a wonderful time. At the end of the year, all I remember from that trip is chilly Konark, beautiful Sun Temple and not being allowed to carry my camera inside – also the grumpy walk back from Temple to Hotel. We’re used to seeing our parents at least 3-4 times a year. This entire year has gone by without that happening. It feels very strange to not have seen my parents for an entire year and counting.
Countless people died this year – many of them fan favorites. A lot more due to the coronavirus. When it started showing up the first time, I thought this was a calamity on another side of the world, that will not impact us. How wrong was I! We all know someone who has passed away due to this virus. We all know someone whose life has been affected by this virus and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight yet. In India, vaccines and their effectiveness is still being debated. Who knows how long before life goes back to ‘normal’ – whatever that was. Of all the sudden famous deaths, the one that felt most depressing was SSR’s. I am not given to being a fan. Everyone has grey in their soul and following movie actors as spiritual guides and thought leaders is the most stupid thing ever. However, he seemed like someone we all have known. That kid in our neighbourhood, who was good in studies and went on to do great things in life. Or that college friend who was always known as special and has his own company now. Or that office colleague from your first job, who left corporate life and is now following his passion. His movies and his success made me happy – just because it seemed like it was happening to someone I know – however shallow that sounds. His death left a big hole in the belief that success brings happiness. As a country, we collectively fail to understand depression and its consequences. We want to find a reason for the act and can’t accept that someone can be depressed because of, not in spite of, success. We seek to assign blame because if we can’t, then what’s the alternative? To accept that the thing that has been taught to us since childhood – hard work brings success and success brings happiness – is not true?
Social media played a big role this year, in bringing families together. The virus made us all appreciate family a bit more. Cousins, aunts, uncles, whom I had not spoken to for so many years outside family gatherings were on group calls every week. For quite some time, Ludo was everyone’s favorite time pass. Ramayan and Mahabharat (not the bastardized Ekta Kapoor versions) were on TV. I was having a good time seeing my kid see and listen to the epics the way I did – eons ago. However, this year I also deleted some of my social media presence (facebook, twitter) and am in the process of quitting it altogether. Over the last 6-7 years it had become very important for me to ‘stay informed’. And after a while, and on seeing its affects on some other people, I have realized that there are more important things in life – like Cricket on a Wednesday afternoon with my son – than the latest political storm. These will keep on coming and going in an endless cycle. There is no end and no respite from them. For too long I have gotten internally angry at left and right’s stupidity and arrogance. But this is not my battle and it shouldn’t affect me any more than I let it affect me.
Now, onto a book review. “A Man called Ove” reminded me of a Rajkumar Hirani movie. You are laughing and wiping your tears at the same time. There’s a Swedish movie, based on the book, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy awards. I had stumbled onto this book while going through some recommendations on GoodReads. I picked it up only on a whim and since I hadn’t read all the reviews, the expectations were low. It’s the story of an old grumpy man who just wants to die, but can’t. The book alternates between the backstory of his life and the present, while we learn why he is the way he is. We all have known someone like this – a grumpy old man who is always complaining about how wrong things are, and where people should go, and how the younger generation just isn’t adept at anything. We tend to either ignore or scoff at them. The book goes into what happens when someone cares enough to look inside their lives and their struggles. Of all the passages, the one I highlighted, rather strangely were these two –
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space.” .. and
“He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had”
Maybe you can notice the correlation between the above two lines and understand why it’s a great book. That it’s a difficult book to put down is not true. You have to put it down at the end of every few chapters, while you awkwardly compose yourself and go call your parents or go give a hug to your family.