Human beings want to forget bad times but sometimes it is not much necessary to forget because of reality. Every disaster leaves some lessons for human beings. 2020 was such a year that can be analysed from different angles and through different eyes. From the very beginning of 2020, the whole world was attacked by an almost invisible virus. As first found in 2019 it was named Covid-19 but 2020 is historic not simply for the pandemic. There are some other reasons also.
This almost invisible virus has broken the waist of the wealthy and powerful country, the United States. Certainly, incompetence and indifference of political leaders were the main reasons. There is a doubt that economic losses caused by the pandemic will be long-lasting and recovery requires international coordination, not the individual effort of a particular country.However, Covid-19 has given some positive lessons. The first one must be the lockdown, a term with which the world was not at all familiar, though it took different shapes in different countries. Should restaurants look like hospitals? Shall we see waiters with a mask on face and gloves on hands? To avoid contamination situation should be so whereas Bengalees go to restaurants not just for food but for passing some pleasant moments with friends, family and relatives also. If panic exists there, if a restaurant takes the shape of a hospital, then it will not be a place of pleasure.
In many ways, the last year has changed our lifestyle as far as neatness is concerned. Many people, particularly food lovers who go to restaurants are more health-conscious now. Washing and sanitising hands before and after eating has become almost a habit of many people. In office and other places, the picture is almost alike.
The year 2020 remains ever memorable for some positive and far-reaching events. Not instability but uncertainty will be the hard reality. Vaccination began in Europe and America towards the end of 2020 but we have to wait for more to know the effect of it.
In 2020, disaster was in every sector viz. health, education, economy, export, sports, tourism, entertainment etc. After the death of any person, no one dared to come forward for their funeral. Even in many places, no doctor was available to issue a death certificate. Members of law enforcing agencies and some volunteers were the last option for their interment. A report of the Daily Anandabazar of Kolkata informs that the tendency to prepare will has increased during the pandemic. Elderly people are eager to complete their will because of the uncertainty of existence.
The education sector was badly affected by uncertainty. Institutions were (and still) closed for 284 days throughout 2020. The online class was the only alternative. Teachers taught and students attended. Video of theoretical and practical knowledge was shown. Students glanced if necessary but due to lack of infrastructural opportunity all students could not be connected and the benefit of the online class remained questionable. Many students got the opportunity to study abroad but they lost their chance. Tokyo Olympic 2020 has been cancelled and nobody knows when it will be held.
Once it was thought that pandemic, epidemic, disaster etc. are threats to the poor only but everybody from Donald Trump to clerk Haripada was in the same boat during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. There was no difference between 31st December 2020 and 1st January 2021. We were conscious of the impermanence of life but not of its extreme uncertainty. 2020 has pointed it out clearly.Let us peep into the dictionary. Words like pandemic, lockdown, social distancing, quarantine, isolation, unlock, virtual meeting, containment zone, work from home, virtual conference, zoom meeting, safe home, stay home stay safe, hand washing, sanitiser, face mask, hand gloves and many such words have been added to our life. Never before were these words and habits so deeply intricate with our daily life. Probably these words will not leave us even in 2021. There will be no scope to forget the influence of these words on our social life.
In general, Bengalees lacked civic sense. They were habituated with coughing and sneezing in public places without covering their nose or face. They had no sense of guilt to spit anywhere but 2020 has partly changed those age-old familiar habits. Even the slightest coughing or sneezing is observed by many conspicuous eyes. However, the pandemic has taught that at least nose and face should be covered when coughing or sneezing. Spitting everywhere is a crime. Face mask and hand sanitiser must be used but how much we have learnt? Bengalees care nothing. Markets are still overcrowded. Thousands of people are moving without using face masks. Can virtual and physical meetings provide the same impact and result?
Throughout 2020, the health sector was at the top of discussion due to unbridled corruption, irregularity at every step, plunder, nepotism, test forgery, fake report, ICU crisis, miserable condition and mismanagement in government and private hospitals, harassment of patients, death of 122 physicians and 18 nurses, arrest of Dr. Sabrina Chowdhury, a cardiac surgeon of National Institute of Heart Diseases, Shahed episode, mask scandal etc.
A visible change occurred. We have seen police taking patients to hospitals and arranging funeral when relatives were absent due to apprehension of contamination. Pandemic has changed public perception of police to some extent and has shown a humanitarian side of the police. Even after misdeeds of some unruly (please read –miscreant) police officers including their indulgent superiors have stained that bright face.
Millions of people have lost their jobs and had to return from their workplace whereas a group of persons continued working from homes. We have learnt a new word – home office. Another group was in the middle i.e. when necessary they were called to their workplaces. Leaving the known world of work, millions of people had to choose other professions. Question of matching with skill or honour turned meaningless because survival is the only count. People working in government offices did not face any trouble but in private and unorganised sectors situation was deplorable.
Naturally, everybody will want to forget such a terrible year but it is not practically and psychologically possible. Hard times also teach many things. William Shakespeare wrote–“Time and hour run through the roughest day” but nobody still knows when this run will end.
The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes