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2020 vs 2016: Battle for ‘Worst Year Ever’ – The Times of India Blog

A year is a weird thing to be mad at. It’s an arbitrarily sectioned slice of time, neither tangible nor sentient, incapable of motive, will, action — a non-thing. And even knowing this, I fully mean it when I say: 2020 is an asshole.

In a divided world, we have this one consensus. 2020 sucks. 2020 is cursed, 2020 is cancelled. Viral tweets have proclaimed 2020 the Monday of years, the Voldemort of years, and the last-slice-of-bread of years. One popular joke goes: “2020 is like looking both ways before crossing the road then getting hit by a plane.” My favourite internet clown Akshar Pathak tweeted: “All I have to say to 2020 is abey saale.” Agreed.

I won’t repeat the list of blows 2020 has dealt — you already know because social media, through this year, has felt like a mass-funeral, a noisy room we enter each morning to join multitudes in multiple griefs. The losses themselves are varied, ranging from the literal deaths of loved ones and beloved celebrities, to the figurative deaths — as of democracy, normalcy, rule of law — and the temporary deaths of small pleasures like first dates and office smoke-break gossip and smiling, unmasked, at strangers. We need a culprit for these murders and, as is our habit now, we’ve proclaimed one guilty by public trial. A news anchor should be reading us 2020’s WhatsApps any day now.

We all know 2020 didn’t birth the calamities we curse it for. Good epidemiologists knew a pandemic was coming, just as good economists knew a crisis was coming, as good activists knew our capacities for cruelty, and as good journalists knew activist crackdowns were coming. But for all our knowing, maybe we couldn’t predict so many worst case scenarios blooming to life in overlap, and we need something to blame for that lost innocence. If 2020 is a mass-murderer, one of its victims is our own semi-delusion. Like the longing for childhood, we aren’t yearning for a world in which nothing was wrong, just a world we hadn’t fully grasped the wrongness of.

But also…We had. I remember, in recent actual memory but centuries past in internet-time, another Worst Year Ever. 2016 was bestowed the title by the American internet because of their spate of major celebrity deaths and mass-shootings and the small matters of Trump and Brexit, but the sentiment was contagious — despair is a pandemic! — and when 2016-bashing washed onto our Twitter shores, we had plenty to justify its adoption. Pakistanis artists were banned, unrest erupted in Kashmir, Kanhaiya Kumar was charged with sedition. The Supreme Court made the national anthem mandatory in cinemas, freedom of expression clampdowns escalated, Ravish brought mimes onto primetime in protest. Assam flooded. A bridge collapsed in Kolkata, taking lives. Jayalalitha died. And of course, with demonetisation, Modi offered a first glimpse of the chaotic “surprise” announcement strategy he’s now so fond of that we panic, grabbing thalis and loved ones, every time he issues notice of an address.

Looking back now at the news of 2016 is a bit like watching the protagonist of a horror film walk boldly towards the mysterious payal sounds. In 2016, Kangana was embroiled in a year-long scandal involving Hrithik Roshan and emails and, somehow, witchcraft — a news cycle we can now recognise with painful retrospective clarity as her radicalisation against Bollywood nepotists and news media. In 2016, Arnab set off to launch a new venture that nobody knew anything about. Well, shit. We know now.
2016’s foreshadowings are a reminder that havoc is often slow wreaking — seeds planted innocuously, parasites in bloom five years later — but the disaster, when it finally strikes, can seem sudden still. Progress rarely does. Progress is won by the incremental work of thousands of activists, lawyers, scientists, policy-makers, thought-leaders, organisers, allies, many of whom aren’t alive to see their life-work’s ultimate victories, and who know that all along but pass forward torches and batons unsung anyway. News has a preference for the sudden.

To actually know which has been the Worst Year Ever would require the patience and perspective to sit with wildly complex moral and mathematical calculations. The few people who’ve devoted themselves to that kind of math — like Steven Pinker in “Enlightenment Now” or Hans Rosling in “Factfulness” (or both of them in YouTube videos I recommend looking up) — turn to statistics like child mortality rates, girls’ enrolment in schools, percentages of families who own fridges, the kinds of numbers that inch forward too slowly to make headlines. And they generally conclude that the human condition is, overall, on the up and up.

But what I’m doing right now is a bit rude. I’m striding into a mass-funeral and telling mourners, “These problems are carry-overs of the past! Also way more people have fridges now!” Like, dude (@ me), you’re absolutely 100% right. But you may also have missed the point a little bit.

The point of “2020 sucks” is catharsis. It’s grieving. There isn’t a single person on earth whose life hasn’t been upheaved this year, and each of our upheavals is unique. We aren’t all grieving the same losses. We aren’t all in one mental or physical place. The only thing we’re together in is a section of time. To say “2020 sucks” is to say “I’m as maddened by this shit as you are,” which is to say, “You are not alone,” which, in a period of division and forced separateness, when proximity itself is a mortal threat, might be an essential utterance.

And so, two months from its close, I leave you with these offerings: 2020 is the karela of years. 2020 is an out-of-syllabus question for all the marks. 2020 is that moment you’re standing in the rain, can’t get a rickshaw, and get keechad splashed on you, but all day for 365 days straight. 2020 is the lovechild of 2016 and Coronavirus. Abey saale.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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