The Future looked Positive but turned out Negative!

Many years ago, people expected that 2020 will be a year of growth and success. So we were all living comfortably as we awaited this future. Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate captivated the world’s attention, we were making memes on how to fix things with instant noodles, etc., until the time a strange, unheard virus shattered everything we used to perceive as normal. The lethal virus, COVID-19, has become a household name now. #COVID has been the most often used expression in history.

We, humans, have a proclivity to manipulate life so that we can chart our own path towards achieving our goals. But life, contrarily, has other intentions and does not always go as planned. For example, who would have expected that a pandemic would occur, stranding us all inside our homes?

The yearlong lockdown compelled mankind to reconsider its decisions made over the last few decades. Things we took for granted were quickly ripped away from us, such as the way we used to head off to college, the way we used to dress up for celebrations, the quick drive we used to take to the nearest grocery store, or the way we waited in theatres to see movies. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically as a result of digitalization, from socializing with peers to “let’s do a zoom call.”

2020 had been a one-of-a-kind experience for everybody. It had forced people to change their working patterns from the workplace to the home, forcing them to devote more time to care for their loved ones. Others found it frustrating due to the large amount of free time, where they were curled up at home with little to do but watch Netflix, and scroll Instagram. Although some enjoyed this isolation, others were experiencing difficulties. In those times, daily wage workers and unorganized sectors were struggling to survive and earn a living.

The “New Normal”

The way we lived in 2020 is now a part of our everyday lives. However, boredom has led people to pursue their passions, which they once had little time for. Many people have shown their culinary abilities, while some have admitted their enjoyment of reading books, while even others have used this time to take new courses online.

Last year, the malls, restaurants, movie theatres, saloons, shops, schools, colleges, and religious places, were shut. The world had come to a standstill. But that made us realize that we can still lead our lives, we do not need to go out for vacation, or order food from outside, or necessarily sit in the office for long hours. This period has made us realize our existence, the importance of family relations, and spending quality time. 

Now slowly and steadily, things are opening up, and the countries are trying to get back to being “normal”, or whatever the hell it is. Since we are now operating from home, businesses have reduced office rooms, expenses, and travel budgets for themselves and their workers. Furthermore, for a large city like Mumbai, the traffic was atrocious. People now save a lot of time by not getting caught in traffic. This time is better spent on other things. It seems that this trend of WFH is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future.

What’s in Store Ahead?

People all over the world are profoundly shaken and affected. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on many facets of the world’s economy, finances, families, jobs, and physical and mental health. Nonetheless, we humans remain hopeful that the planet will return to pre-pandemic times. We want to feel secure in our lives and be in command of them. But this has drained us emotionally, and we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of “what if it never happens?” This has caused us to conjure up hypothetical possibilities about what will happen next, but no one knows for certain. We’re all in the same boat. 

Everyone is clueless right now. We cannot predict what disease will come next, where will be the next bush fires, or will life change for the better? Will we ever shake hands and hug our friends like before?

What will the ‘post-coronavirus civilization’ bring for us?

Over the early years, there was a pervasive belief that the world would eventually improve. However, in the name of progress, man has destroyed nature, resulting in the annihilation of mankind. For example, humans caused a lot of emissions by using cars, ships, and establishing new industries. Much of this has, in the long term, affected our lives. We’ve got Asthma, Diphtheria, and other illnesses. Nature, however, is recovering as a result of the pandemic. The Ganges Water, which was formerly polluted, is now comparatively clean. 

Before Covid-19, we lived as if we were the ultimate identity on this planet, taking advantage of the man-made facilities to the next level. We didn’t realize that there is a high risk of the emergence of life-threatening illnesses capable of eradicating our simple mortal being. Following the Covid-19 episode, we now must be careful that more lethal diseases could occur in the future. The fact that Covid-19 leaves no stone unturned to persuade us that further events are possible, humans do not seem to have been impressed. Are we waiting for a more lethal version to jolt us out of our stupor?

The year 2020 will live on in the minds of people for the rest of their lives. It will be remembered as the incident that threw our lives into disarray. It resulted in tumultuous changes. It was an excruciatingly difficult year for some, while for others it was a year with a complete lull in their calendar.

Despite the abundance of year-end declarations telling us to put 2020 behind and never look back, the comfortable T-shirts and Pyjamas, quarantine TikToks, and countless Zoom-themed memes all brought a little levity to what had become a rather challenging year. I recall that the year 2021 began with fresh dreams, resolutions, and prayers. People were hoping for life to return to normal.

But are we making some realistic decisions for 2021 based on last years’ experience? Or are we simply waiting for the vaccine to allow us to resume doing whatever we were doing before the virus paralyzed us?

Since the future is unknown, it is up to us to make decisions that will pave the way for new opportunities. Some paths may lead us to harmony and peace, similar to how the sun rises every day in the hope of igniting a new desire and hope. Our happenings from the past and the present can affect our future.

Personally, I believe that the covid vaccine will become readily available in the market soon, most people will wear masks even a year from now, and that lifts will have self-cleaning buttons. We may or may not have virtual yoga lessons or squats with a bag full of books, but we will certainly meet the demands of pandemic era exercise.

Although there’s one thing that we have discovered now- we learn the best when we are affected as individuals, when our freedom and our satisfaction are at stake.

To all the people out there, stay home, stay safe, save lives. Remember, you are not stuck at home, you are safe at home! Please use double masks, sanitize yourself, and get your vaccine as soon as possible! We will fight this together!

Lifeline to Lifeless…

To many people, it may appear to be a mode of transportation, but only a true Mumbaikar knows what it’s like to travel in a Local train. Yes, it is the lifeline of Mumbai- a model based on diversity and plenty of human emotions.

A Local Train approaching the station

The city once known as Bombay, now Mumbai, is known by many names like, ‘the city of dreams’ or ‘the city that never sleeps.’ It is described as a city brimming with passion and opportunities, its willingness to walk that extra mile, and its fast-paced way of life – it is said that Mumbai never stops!

This pace of life can be found nowhere else in the country, a pace that is often suffocating for some and a blessing for others. This pace is amplified by the local trains of Mumbai. These trains are evidence of the city’s strength, which may explain why the announcement to suspend railway service as a control measure against Covid-19 on March 23, 2020 was regarded as a watershed moment.

Yesterdays’ lifeline has become Today’s nostalgia!

I recall the first time I had to use local. I had avoided it for a long time, yet in 11th grade, I had no choice but to use local because my college was far away and there was no point in wasting money on an auto-rickshaw. My father accompanied me to the station for the first time, and he instructed me to board the train as soon as it arrived. I assumed (having never travelled from the local during the rush hours) it would be simple: the train would stop, people would disembark, and people from here would then get in. But, of course, what was I thinking? LOL!

I couldn’t get inside the first train with all that bhaag-daaud and dhakka-mukki. That was the time my bubble of misconception broke. The fact that I thought people waited for the train to stop and everything was in order, was just a joke! My father was laughing as he looked at me. He said I had to push people and find a way in because there was no other way. Mumbai mein rehna hai toh local mein chadhna toh seekhna hi padega! (If you want to stay in Mumbai, you need to learn to travel by local trains).

I was a little annoyed by people’s impatience to get inside the train, battling for that little leg space, hanging on their dear life, and saying “aage badho.” Why can’t they just wait for people to get out properly and then get in? Train rookne se pehle chadhna zaroori hai kya? But by the second time, I was determined to catch the next train, by hook or by crook! So as soon as the train came I shamelessly elbowed the people to get inside. I wanted to turn around and wave goodbye to Dad, but by the time I did, the train had already moved away from the platform, having been stopped for two minutes! I was curious if my father was still laughing.

Well, that was my first experience, and after that I completely fell in love with the connectivity of local trains in Mumbai. Now that it’s stopped, I recount some amazing things about Mumbai locals –

1- It’s Aamchi Mumbai : When these words are spoken, the true spirits of local trains are reflected in them. Locals have become a symbol of Mumbai, so it’s no surprise that regular visitors refer to them as their first home.

2- It’s a ‘fare’ deal (see what I did there) : because it’s cheap, fast, easy, and you can go wherever you want, thanks to the connection between the three major railway lines – Western, Central, and Harbour. Remember the times when Nokia came out with the tagline ‘connecting people’? Well, I don’t know about the phone but with its colossal network of criss-cross metal rails and overhead electric lines, the local helps 7.5 million commuters to travel daily. It surely serves as a great connecting network!

3- The helpful crowd : As a commuter, all you have to do is purchase a ticket, the rest is handled by the crowd. When the local train arrives, you are automatically lifted and pushed into a compartment by the human escalators that line the platform.

4- Sharing is Caring : after all the “arey yaar, andar bhado, bahot jagah hai” you do manage to get a little space to stand, even though you continue to fight with those strangers for ‘thodi se jagah’ because you don’t have much choice.

5- “Ye Virar Fast hai.” Enough said! (Mumbaikars, you know this one)

6- The mild panic attack : we experience on hearing the words “Next stop Dadar”, and brace ourselves for the same.

7- Shopping and Entertainment : From all kinds of munchies to accessories, kitchen tools, cosmetics and clothing, everything is available. And to make up for the lack of music, there is Bhajan Keertan. Really!

8- Window seat : with a blissful nap over a shoulder, or standing at the doorway to enjoy the cool breeze, based on first come first served lol…Missing much?

9- A mix of people : When you travel by local train, you meet people from all walks of life. A nosy neighbour peering into your phone, a crying toddler with her mother, an uncle staring at you for no apparent reason, that one woman fighting for space with everyone, and finally, the ‘bhajiwaali aunties.’

10- Yaatrigan Kripya Dhyaan dijiye” (travellers, please pay attention) : There’s always hope for the next train to come soon if you’ve missed the first one!

All of this has taught me to be more patient in life and to cope with new experiences. Once you learn how to travel in the local train, you will soon become a member of that community because such is the vibe. You will realize that these train journeys teach you a lot because the people in them share a common goal: they want to arrive at their destination safely, and on time!

Hopefully, everything will return to normal soon, and then we will talk about how ‘the city that never stops’, stopped in its tracks (literally).