I am sitting in my study – a cup of Ceylon tea in my hands and the new calendar before me. My diary from last year still has pages left and it makes me think that traces of 2020 are yet with us in this New Year.

It was catastrophic year for so many; especially daily wagers and migrant labourers. The virus made our worst nightmares true, bringing everything to a standstill. But in a strange and twisted way, it also made the impossible happen. Even as we humans lay stricken with fear and sickness, the earth healed. We were missing from the streets, but no one really missed us. Life went about its business as usual, like we never ever existed. What a crushing blow to all our grand notions of human superiority and purpose!

Simply by doing nothing we had solved so many problems. Pollution dissipated and clear skies gave us a striking view of the Himalayas from as far as Jalandhur. Their biggest adversary gone, animal life began to descend on to streets with frequent spotting of leopards, nilgai and deer.

At least for three decades, we had been running short of time. There was never enough time for family, no time to cook, eat, laze around, or even get bored. In 2020, we were given all that time. A more god-fearing species would have seen it as the grand design of a supreme power, but aren’t we wiser?

We have stepped into 2021 knowing that there is no going back to ‘normal’. Things are different now and the changes are here to stay.While disruption is always rough, it does bring about a churning and ushers in long awaited changes. (READ: The pandemic year: Some changes are here to stay) Even in the mass of death and pain there was a glimmer of hope. Heroes like Chef Vikas Khanna #onemillionmeals and Actor Sonu Sood #migrantlivesmatter kept the idea of humanity alive. Of course the doctors and healthcare workers were the real warriors against corona. And all through the thick and thin, our uniformed soldiers continued to protect the borders undeterred by the virus or vicious neighbours.

All in all, 2020 was also a year that taught us a lot – the hard way. We adapted and adjusted to new work realities. It’s never been so clear to me of how important things like empathy, compassion, motivation and attitude are, especially when it comes to forging ahead in difficult times. For me this has been a year of doing things I couldn’t find time for. Let me list some of these for you:

Tea always reminds me of childhood train journeys and kulhad chai. During my travels over the years I have been picking up a variety of tea leaves and tea ware. In 2020, I could actually savour the flavours and types in my collection. The mornings and evenings became sacrosanct – my wife Kusum and I would try a different flavour in a specific tea ware and then examine it like true blue connoisseurs.

Books are a version of the world. While the 2020 version is yet to be written, I did manage to clear up some of my To-Be-Read list. ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy is a work full of wisdom of life, love and friendship. I read the Kindle version which also has an amazing cover and retains its unique handwritten format. Then came the classic ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding for which I used the Audiobooks format. A completely different book from this was ‘Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World’ by Mark Miodownik. This book explains the amazing science behind everyday things. A very relevant book for the year was ‘Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies’ by James Surowiecki. It outlines how the power of groups can be used to find unknown answers. I am now reading the much discussed ‘A promised Land’ by Barack Obama.

Music heals like nothing else. In a year of so many challenges, music was a saviour. Every medical exigency or emotional turmoil leaves you feeling vulnerable and fragile. Among the things that help you heal are spirituality and music. In 2014, I stumbled on the US legal drama ‘Suits’. I was in awe of the character of Harvey Specter, who among other things loved the blues and had a vinyl collection. It set me on a journey to understand music and I have since found Jazz / Blues. The discovery of little known musicians or soundtracks has been an inward journey of sorts for me. My Favourite Playlist for the Year features some of my favourite tracks. I hope you too will enjoy it too.

Binge watch is something I have written about earlier (You can read about my favourite series here). This was the phase when I enjoyed watching thrillers and rediscovered old shows such as Mentalist, White Collar, Person of Interest. In fact binge watching did become a family activity of sorts with weekends turning into mega binge watch sessions.

In 2021 you might get to read more from me on each of these. This is why even as we step into the New Year, it is important to not forget about the old one. The New Year comes with good news and hope, of vaccine, cure and growth. There is opportunity still to turn the bitter seeds of 2020 into sweet fruits of 2021.