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GRATITUDE 2020- The Year that was….


As the curtains draw on yet another year, I look back and contemplate on what it offered me and how this year helped me evolve as an individual. In the larger canvas of life, this year will surely be remembered for many more reasons and would be etched in history for generations to come. Some day, our grandchildren and future generations would ask us to tell them the story of 2020, as we saw it.  It has been obviously a turning point in the history of humanity as nothing as unprecedented as this has been seen in recent times. The conditioning of the human mind of what is construed to be considered as a normal way of life was changed overnight and the world soon realized how differently we would have to start living and accepting newer normal of life. This leads to the question of how societies have evolved ever since the beginning of civilization and how mankind has been forced to change its ways of life based on the external circumstances that we are exposed to. It also makes us question how much of these external factors are based on natural phenomenons and how much could have been created. This would of course remain a debatable issue. As we make advances in science and technology, today mankind has the ability to make changes even in our natural environments. Power and politics have started assuming dimensions that have started dominating the human mind in various ways. Polarization of the natural wealths of the world are now assuming unacceptable proportions. Democracy as it was known, is beginning to change and the narrative is being rewritten in ways that it would want the world to remember. What would eventually remain is a few individual unheard stories that would also get buried in due course.

The pandemic changed our dress code at work

But irrespective of what has been happening all around us, I have made my own quiet observations and remained largely focused on how I can continue to evolve as an individual and make a difference to those around me. My advantage of being in the medical profession in the midst of the world’s largest pandemic, made me see things from a much wider perspective. I could tilt the lense and observe things from various angles.  I could see the scurry of the scientific community in trying to brace themselves for what was coming. Clinical trials and research and the rat race for newer drugs and a vaccine was happening at a neck breaking speed. With fear gripping the society at large, people were frantically hoping for a miracle to turn things around. At the same time I was observing individual journeys of patients, my colleagues, my family and my fellow beings as people were trying to make sense of the situation. I realized the importance of my role as an individual and more importantly as a member of the scientific community to deal with the situation in an unbiased way. While the world literally came to a grinding halt, I found myself fully immersed with the task at hand. I felt the heavy responsibility on my shoulders specially as I was also dealing with a very sensitive area of health care. I had a huge commitment towards my cancer patients who looked up to me to give them the most optimum care despite the challenging circumstances of the pandemic. I needed all the energy forces within me to work in harmony so that I could continue my work without faltering.  I realized that this boundless energy within me came from all the positive vibes that I had started at the beginning of the year 2020.

The year 2020 had literally started with a bang for me. We were just back from a rejuvenating family trip from Langkawet in Meghalaya in the year ending of December 2019. It was an absolutely amazing and refreshing trip spent amidst the lap of nature with the family and we were all ready to welcome the new year 2020. In the very first week of January 2020, I made a trip to Chennai for an important personal work. The month of January had a lot more in store for me, as me and my four school buddies, took a week long trip to Kerala. As we traversed the length and breadth of God’s Own Country, travelling to Kovalam, Komarakkam, Munnar and Kochi, we were in sync with Nature as we school friends connected at a level that was bred with pure childhood innocence. A third trip awaited me towards the end of January 2020, as I was visiting Imphal, Manipur, as an External Examiner. Although this was a work trip, I balanced it out with some well deserved outings with the young energetic doctors who went all out to show me the best side of Imphal.

About Friendships…at Komarakkam

February 2020 was another busy month at my workplace as we geared up for the celebrations of the 3rd Anniversary celebrations of our Cancer Institute. News about the possibility of a global pandemic originating from Wuhan was fast gaining momentum. We were not very sure of how events would turn out. In March 2020, I had another opportunity to travel to Kolkata for a conference and I also took an extra day to spend at Eco Park with a dear friend of mine.

A day devoted to friendship….at Eco Park, Kolkata

Just a week after my return, the nation underwent a complete lockdown and the rest is history. Being a frontline health worker, I seized the opportunity to deliver my best in these trying circumstances. We had to update our knowledge at a very rapid pace in order to instill our own Institutional protocols, keeping in mind the best interest of our patients. There was very limited information on the internet about how to manage a dual situation of Cancer and Covid. Do we treat the Cancer as before and put the patient at an increased risk of Covid and hence effect survival outcomes, or do we withhold cancer treatment temporarily to reduce the risk of Covid infection, but at the cost of giving the cancer a chance to grow. It was a Catch 22 situation. We were learning while on the job. We had to design our own guidelines based on best practices. There was little evidence based data. Between all this, in the month of May, our family had a personal loss, as my father-in-law, a towering influential figure in our lives, left for his heavenly abode. This left a huge void in our family as we gradually came to terms of not having him amidst us any more. But we learnt to move on counting on his blessings from above .

Meanwhile, though work was challenging, I found the immense joy in the stillness and tranquility of my ever bustling city. As I would drive to work I realized that the planet and Mother Nature was breathing again. Pollution was at its lowest, skies were blue and the urban jungle became a paradise. At the same time my heart went out to all those who were losing their daily livlihoods in this pandemic. It was a mixed feeling as the months rolled by. We lost many patients and health care workers to Covid as well as various other ailments too, as the health care system was literally obliged to  focus on Covid leaving aside most other medical conditions. In a country which was already deficient on health care work force and infrastructure, this situation proved to be even more critical. While Western societies were simply not prepared to deal with the increasing loads of an infectious disease burden, in developing countries the brunt was felt by the lower socio economic strata who were anyway always struggling for their daily bread and a myriad of other health issues. Senior citizens found themselves isolated and restricted from a normal life. Children were locked in the confines of their home glued to their mobile phones in the name of learning, and were deprived of social and interactive skills which are so crucial and important in their formative years. But, the lockdown also brought about some excellent opportunities for self discovery. People were gifted with the most precious commodity of “time”. And along with it came out hidden talents and lost hobbies. From cooking to gardening to painting and music, life was reverberating with positivity in many homes. A the same time, many mothers found it hard to juggle house hold chores with the family largely at home. It was an opportunity for each family member to pitch in and contribute to the household chores. But in largely patriarchal societies, this again was a challenge to change stereotypical mindsets.

Mother Nature is breathing
Exploring Nature around my city
Visiting the Divine Mother, Kamakhya Temple as it opened her doors for the first time after lockdown….on the first day of Navratri

To have a balanced and unbiased perspective of the situation was important for me. Eventually, the pandemic waxed and waned and life was largely beginning to be back on track with new social norms of social distancing and sanitization. But it was noticeable that a large population didn’t seem to believe in these norms and life continued as before. For people from the lower socio economic strata, the Covid disease was not a threat to their existence, but the loss of their livlihoods in the name of Covid certainly was. It was exactly the opposite for the upper classes.

As the year came towards the end, I was greeted with a long awaited good news of my promotion as a Professor, which I graciously embraced. We finally wrapped the year with a family trip to the beautiful lone hill station of my state, Haflong,  in the district of Dima Hasao. After a long hiatus , and a challenging year, this cheerful change was much needed and truly refreshing.


I can only bow my head in Gratitude to the Year 2020. I have learnt to tilt the lense and look at life from a much wider perspective.

A few lessons learnt on the way-

My needs are minimal.

I have started enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

True friendships are priceless.

Our journey on this planet is temporary. To be consciously aware of our own mortality, makes us value the limited time we have.

Let us make an effort to leave a better planet for our future generations.

Times are neither good nor bad. It is what we make out of it. If we are blissful we will make the best out of it.

Published by neelakshimahanta

I believe in celebrating life as it comes and living in the moment. Times are neither good nor bad. It is what we make out of it. If we are blissful, we will make the best out of it.

4 thoughts on “GRATITUDE 2020- The Year that was….

  1. Thank you for remembering our good times spent in this crisis period or we can say in our learning experience.
    You have depicted every bit so well .
    Keep posting
    Memoirs …..😊


  2. Lovely read! You have put it across very well 😊 Yes it was one hell of a year, but we learnt so much!! And we actually evolved through the Pandemic as we juggled different roles……

    Liked by 1 person

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