This new year 2021 comes around in strange circumstances. Up to now, by and large, wishing for a happy new year came tripping off the tongue. Optimism never had to excuse itself, never like this time. Thanks to the fact that 2020 has not exactly been a glorious year which encouraged optimism. One is almost tempted to put in a disclaimer that the wishes are only expressions of goodwill and not a promissory note.
Nor, indeed, has health been such a predominant note in the wishes as it is now. Till before 2020, one almost took health for granted, except when addressed to those who were already known to be in poor health. 2020 has taught that health is not a birthright, not something that you can safely assume to be in your possession. And, so, almost all wishes for the new year seem to include ‘healthy’ in addition to the customary ‘happy’ and ‘prosperous’.
2020 has been the year that pushed ‘social distancing’ and ‘masks’ into the popular lexicon as very frequently used words. (One hesitates to use the adjective ‘popular’ – I mean, yes, that is the customary thing to use for over-used words but, really, can one think of distancing and masks as ‘popular’, no matter how designer the masks are?) But, yet, I’d have thought that distancing and masks have been in vogue for quite some time now in the metaphorical sense. It’s only in the physical sense that they have recently barged in, thanks to Covid.
For quite some time, now, social distancing, I thought, was the norm. At the drop of a differing opinion, we have distanced ourselves from others, considered them the ‘other’ and not one of us. And masked them in the guise of a ‘fool’ or a ‘blind follower’ or a ‘villain’ and refused to see beyond the mask to the complete persons that they are. The Covid physical distancing and the masks seemed more a physical manifestation of the underlying reality to me. And that the underlying reality is a lot more permanent that the physical distancing and masks will be.
And, yet, this is one of the strange times when I ran counter to my norm. In the usual circumstances, I wish that my own opinions are right and am afraid that I will be proved wrong. In this, I wish my own opinions are wrong and am afraid that I will be proved right.
Yet, perhaps, I am guilty of the same thing…of putting masks on to others and failing to see beyond the mask to the person. Perhaps, what I see on social media and what I think is happening – of people dividing themselves into ‘we’ and ‘they’ and seeing each other only as masks – is because I am putting on masks on those others and refusing to see through them. That the real interactions are more complex and nuanced than what they appear like to me. My optimism would have it so and I’d be happy to be proved wrong in this.
With that optimism, I wish the speedy removal of all distancing and masks for all humanity.
And a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year 2021 to you all.