Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 18, January 16-31, 2021
It’s been two weeks now. Lots of time to think, reflect, here in the Past Times Pen.
The new one, who took over, is hoping fervently that it has been given a completely different script.
No one wants to be like me – ever.
Yet no one is going to forget me either.
The thing is, we have no control over what is allotted to us, you know. Look, we all want to be linked to glory, okay? Filled with shiny, happy memories, landmark events and those will-forever-be-celebrated dates for all things bright and beautiful.
But, in the Great Beyond, it is Time, and those in the Head-of-all-Head-Offices (HHO), who make all the decisions.
I tried to protest, ask for a better deal, but Time, backed by the mighty and powerful at the HHO, wouldn’t budge. Now there’s someone who is just impossible to argue with. Keeps ticking away in that implacable manner, leaving no room for any negotiation. And there was no one else I could appeal to.
So, I crept in, saw the lights, heard the firecrackers, the cheering, everyone wishing one another…even those who were so filled to the brim with party spirit, they had only a hazy idea why or what everyone was celebrating.
I watched all of it, brows crinkled in pity and terror.
I knew what was coming, you see.
What had already begun, actually.
I lugged this heavy sack of days and nights, of hours, minutes and seconds, around for my allotted months, as dislike of me grew and grew.
Illness, Death, Social Distancing – Lockdown, Loss and Loneliness. These are the words that will forever be linked with me.
And zoom calls.
Good HHO, what an explosion of talking faces on grids happened the world over. On every device possible. Even Luddites and techno-phobes took a deep breath and plunged in. With suitcases getting dustier, how else would you see your grandchildren grow? There was also a total re-vamping of the term ‘getting dressed’, as the Half-and-Half Look took the world by storm. Presentable, if not actually dressed up, upper half in sharp contrast to the below-gaze section, where pyjamas, track suits, shorts ruled – anything loose, comfy and old, yanked out from that mostly ignored bottom shelf in cupboards. Humanity swiftly found a way of staying in touch, and many discovered, not just long-lost friends, but also, to their astonishment, brand new friends among family members who had otherwise drifted about in those shadowy outer circles. For those who had the luxury of choice, there were flashes of re-thinking, transformation… as devices became bridges over all these troubled waters.
With all the WFH, came all that cooking. And cleaning. And endless washing at sinks that seemed to fill up magically with dirty dishes at such amazing speed. And with that, bloomed a new respect for all homemakers and all those who take on the spirit-crushing tedium of our daily chores.
And very strange – people who usually saw clicking ‘Cook’ on a rice cooker as exhaustingly dull, suddenly discovered their inner gourmet chef. Others found, rather to their own shock, that they had been artists, writers, poets and musicians all along, but just hadn’t realised it, in the mad dance of everyday routine and multiple distractions. Many stumbled across treasures they had assumed lost forever in cupboards that were finally cleared. Of course, amidst all this positivity, there were those (as always) who grumbled, their main objections directed towards the daily invasion of determinedly cheerful, sappy forwards, asking everyone to count their blessings. Promises made to ‘self’ were kept…well, most times – like exercise, diet, personal CV-improving classes. Big fat books that had spent a long time drooping reproachfully finally began breathing, now that they were being read. Others binge-watched their eyes into a pretty shade of red that went well with the ashy dark circles under them.
I must hand it to you guys. Amidst everything, you never gave up hope. I can see what HHO sees in you people. That’s why they didn’t stop the supply of babies. A clear sign HHO still has optimistic expectations of this planet.
But I – I will always be ‘That One’ – the one you want to forget.
I began on a Wednesday in the Gregorian calendar; initially so proud I was going to be the first of this decade. Well, that turned sour all too soon, right?
Listen, despite everything, so many of you have made it. But remember to remember all the lessons you have learned.
You really don’t want to see anyone like me ever again.
Remember my name.