Evaluating 2020: How the year was for India and me

Looking back at the past year

New Year celebration in Sydney

Finally, it’s 2021!

With the hellish year that was 2020 behind us, everyone is hoping for a better year without Covid restrictions. My social media is full of people rejoicing that 2020 is finally over and counting the good and bad things of the last year. I know I’m a few days late to the party but allow me to jump on the bandwagon and look back at the past year.

Personally, I feel this year has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. It taught me how important spending time with people you feel comfortable with is. When I was back in college, I was surrounded by people I chose to be with. When I moved back home, suddenly I was with people I love but I am not too comfortable opening myself to. I am out to my family. But even then it felt like I have to hide parts of me from them to gain their approval. Thankfully, technology made it easier as I could keep in touch with most of my friends through social media.

Sadly, a lot of people in India didn’t have this luxury.

The 2017-’18 National Sample Survey report on education shows that only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility. Out of this, only a little over 15% rural households have access to internet services. The number is very low when you consider about 66% of India’s population lives in rural areas. Moreover, among the users, gender gap is highly evident. As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India report (2019), while 67% of men had access to the internet, the figure was only at 33% for women. This disparity is even more prominent in rural India, where the figures are 72% and 28% for men and women, respectively.

Online classes, in a way, worked well for me as I could limit my human interactions. It helped me from getting overstimulated. I barely got burnt out because of human interaction in this lockdown. But while I could attend my classes from the comfort of my home, most educational institutes saw students dropping out because of online classes. The reasons include lack of proper environment and economic distress due to job layoffs among others. According to the United Nation’s policy brief on the pandemic’s impact on education, 24 million children worldwide may not return to school because of the economic fallout of Covid-19. Disabled students are at high risk of dropping out, because of the lack of proper resources for inclusive education. November saw the death of Aishwarya Reddy, a student of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College. She committed suicide after her family struggled to buy her a laptop to attend online classes in the lockdown period.

We lost my maternal father (no not to Covid) early on in the year. Coming back home was a blessing in disguise as I could be there for my devastated mother. I feel having a full house again helped her to deal with the loss better. When I could use this period to spend quality time with my family, for a lot of people, staying home was something akin to a nightmare. In this lockdown, India saw a huge spike in domestic violence rates unprecedented in recent years. This is exceptionally scary because 86% of Indian women who experience domestic violence do not seek help. Child abuse cases were on the rise too as more and more vulnerable children had to stay under high-risk situations. LGBTQ people had to leave their safety net behind when they went to stay with their family.

2020 was not an easy year for me as my family struggled with the loss of a loved one. Family members fell sick but we couldn’t visit them because of Covid-19 restrictions. The situation of India also added to the despair with the farmers’ protest going on against the newly passed farm laws and radical Hindu nationalism troubling my country.

The silver lining in the clouds —

But not all things were bad. I had one of my favourite Christmases this year. 2020 India saw some good things too as same-sex couples went to the court to seek legal registration of same-sex marriages.

As we start on with the new year, we already received some good news. Kerala government has announced scholarship and marriage grants for transgender people. A Dalit woman from Kerala who worked as a part-time sweeper in the panchayat office has been elected as the block panchayat president. Hopefully, this year will bring more good news like these as we try to educate ourselves more on issues that don’t directly affect us and make space for the minority communities.

Time will tell us.

But for now, here’s to hoping for a great year!

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

— Alfred Lord Tennyson(In Memoriam)

Artemis Shishir(they/he) is a nonbinary transmasculine Indian university student. They live with their family in Kolkata when not attending college in Hyderabad. Artemis is a storyteller and fiction writer pursuing a degree in English.

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Artemis Shishir

Artemis Shishir

Writer. Storyteller. Indian. Queer. (he/they). Reach me at artemisshishirwrites@gmail.com.