It was a dry and cold evening, perhaps to signify the departure of the dull nightmare that was 2020. Covind sat in his room, alone, dimly lit by the fancy bulb he’d ordered off Amazon after endless arguments with his parents who weren’t keen on spending 750 rupees on fancy lighting. His father reckoned that he would be better off buying a few books with the same money. Covind knew that, of course, but he couldn’t just give in. After what seemed like an hour, he had them come to terms with his stubbornness. That aside, the bulb looked quite bright on the TV commercial he’d seen, but not even half as bright in reality, just like how 2020 had been.
Numerous astrologers, whom his parents promptly believed, had predicted a year of prosperity, happiness and growth, yet it turned out to be completely the opposite. His dad constantly reminded him of the money he’d wasted. Covind realized that he had to rest the dormant idea of getting a new mobile from his dad for a few months at least. Maybe if he’d asked for it for his 19th birthday, he could have had some success, which in itself was hard to come by. Ruing his fate, he watched the bulb commercial again to discover that he’d missed the font-size 1 sentence at the bottom of the screen which scrolled past in a swish. Cursing his eyesight, he peered into his mobile, 2 inches from his eyes, and paused the video several times to make out the sentence:
‘Brightness may differ in the actual product. External lighting effects have been used in this commercial.’
What? External lighting? Wasn’t that exactly what they were advertising? Outwitted. How fitting was that word for 2020? The entire human race had been outwitted by the menace that was coronavirus. There was no one to blame too, not even fellow humans (as is usually the case). Or was there someone he could blame? He wasn’t an American and so, he wasn’t sure.
Everything spelt gloom as if someone had pre-programmed the entire year with a high degree of attention to detail. New Year’s Eve had always been a day of celebration- a night to remem’beer’ – as Covind could not recollect the last time he was alone on NYE. Strands of memories wafted by and he couldn’t help but fall into the inviting trap. He was now sitting alongside his best friends, staring at a big dinner table with a generous spread of his favourite dishes from various cuisines. 31st December 2019, he remembered. It was his best friend’s birthday too. Everyone made sure they stuffed in as much as they could. And he could never forget the specially crafted cake. After the sumptuous meal, they moved over to one of his friend’s place and spent time chatting until well past midnight – gazing at the colourful NYE sky, decorated lavishly with fancy fireworks, after which they decided to watch a movie. His friends exploited his fear by screening a horror movie, just for a few laughs, but it was all in good spirit. Overall, it was fun like never before and he only returned home the next afternoon. Rewind back to 2018’s NYE, he’d gone to the beach with his friends. Notably, all of them had pedalled their way for over an hour to the beach and enjoyed sky-gazing chatting along the way. During 2017, he’d been on a family vacation. NYE had always been synonymous to fun. In fact, lots of fun.
Back in reality, Covind couldn’t get over the extent to which the coronavirus had disrupted life. Even 24 hours ago, he was as excited as he had ever been in the entire year, for he had earned a hard-fought permission to enjoy New Year’s Eve along with his friends. ‘Enjoy’ had indeed become a luxury he hadn’t been able to afford in recent times. The number of cases of the virus in his city had been quite a roller coaster with multiple peaks and valleys but of late, it had decreased to an extent that his parents didn’t deem venturing out (with masks and gloves!) to be a major risk. His friend, the birthday boy, had agreed to host 5 of them. They’d planned on dinner and a few board games to last the entire night. Of course, a horror movie had been proposed but he shut it down. He didn’t want to end 2020 or begin the new year in fear of a jumpscare. After all, the hopes of life returning to normalcy had hit an all time high and he wanted to maintain high spirits. The signs were very encouraging with the vaccines being rolled out.
Covind, trying to be optimistic, told himself, ‘It can’t possibly get any worse, we have already hit rock bottom. There could only be one way out.’ In a bid to start the year on a positive note, he couldn’t think of anything better than endless gossip with his best friends to go with a few board games and a delicious dinner. Ahem, by delicious, he meant anything that didn’t contain more-than-permissible amounts of lead, given that his friend was the chef. He shouldn’t expect anything more from the half-engineer-turned-chef. But who was to know what everyone else had been up to during the seemingly everlasting lockdown(s) n.0? Maybe his friend had taken cooking classes from his mom, who was a wonderful chef. Anyways, the excitement was sky high and as was the case in such situations, the clock ticked as slow as ever. He couldn’t wait any longer.
But of course, he should have known that the virus was always a few steps ahead of the human race. When he woke up on NYE, full of energy and refreshed, his mom greeted him with news that there had been new cases in both their neighbouring apartments and they’d been declared a part of a containment zone. Crash. His aspirations fell down with a big thud. The last nail in the coffin. COVID 1, Covind 0.
Whatever he thought of made him go ‘wish this year were also good’ and he was tired of these useless wishes and what-ifs and whys. Just when he was about to call it a day, he received a notification on his mobile. Anticipating a flurry of new year wishes, he picked it up eagerly. There were no messages, but it was Google’s ‘Rediscover This Day’ notification. Nice. Exactly what he wanted to avoid. He threw his mobile aside hoping it wouldn’t break. ‘Happy New Year’, he whispered to himself, falling face-first on his bed.