31st December 2020
Here we are, at the end of 2020.
There was a point three quarters of the way when it seemed neither of us would swim out of the murky waters swirling us in. But we both made it out. Perhaps freer.
This week I’ve been reflecting on the year past. I read with quiet fascination as people around the world share their ruminations; deciphering the lines in-between and tones underlying.
People are sharing about how they survived a pandemic and grateful for being healthy but what I think they mean is not dying of loneliness. People are sharing about how they were shut-in during a global lockdown and not being able to travel but what I think they mean is having to sit with their own devils for months on the same couch in their living rooms. People are sharing about learning new skills, baking bread, painting vases of flowers but what I think they mean is “I didn’t let myself go mad” in the deep silence that hung over most of this year.
I think about what I have learnt this year and I’ve realised absolutely nothing.
2020 has taught me nothing new. Instead this year had transmitted me to the practice gear. Somewhat like those features on your car that you never use. Like how there’s a switch to turn on the slippery-snow-drive-mode which you never press because you actually never drive in a heavy snow fall anyway? Like that.
It’s one thing to say “practice kindness” but another to actually keep being kind to yourself when you’ve spent 9 months of the year living by yourself with hardly any human warmth. It’s one thing to always write about “keeping faith” but another to actually give yourself some hope when even the houses of Gods were locked for months. It’s one thing to say “keep persevering” in times of adversity but another to actually keep moving forward when you are unemployed with mounting debts.
When Lucky Ali burst into the charts in the 90’s, to the 16-year old me he was the change. His songs, his words, his contemporary music videos offered an alternate universe from the dhinchak Bollywood I had grown up with. A freedom.
Sometime in November this year a short video circulated the internet. Lucky Ali in a white kufi hat singing an unplugged version of “o sanam” on his guitar. I used to listen to that album especially “kitni haseen zindagi hai yeh” (what a beautiful life is this) on loop on my Walkman allll the time, man! But I think it’s only this year, some 20 years later that I actually understand his words. Something about his even more craggier voice now, the deep lines around his mouth, the wrinkling hands on his guitar gave a whole new meaning; to life, to freedom, to what the 16-year old me understood.
In some ways, my 2020 was a Lucky Ali song. This year I’ve come to actually understand what kindness, faith and perseverance takes and feels like when there is no end goal in sight. And in ways that I’ll come to tell you over the years, this year has set me free.
I can’t find any better words to end 2020 and on that note, my last letter to you this year, Anand, than one of Lucky’s songs “sadaa yahan kiska thikana hai, unki rawani me jaana hai” (who lives here forever?, we all eventually have to head towards Him.)
Anand, Happy New Year. I’m proud of us. I know the next time we meet, we’ll be meeting with some less baggage, our shoulders a little less stooped. This time, I won’t be the first one to let go when we hug. Who knows, we might even float.