While it is easy to blame the year for all the negative events that have happened so far, 2020 was not just about all things bad. From more focus on health and hygiene to a happier environment, at least for a while, greater respect for healthcare workers and those who risked their lives to keep us safe, to more family time, there are many moments of positivity and goodwill that the year has brought us.
As we get used to the new normal that life amidst COVID-19 has become, let’s take a look at all the good things that we can remember the year that went by for – some temporary, others more permanent.
The mighty Dhauladhars in Himachal Pradesh are now visible from Jalandhar as the air gets cleaner due to lockdown. Never thought this was possible!
First pic is from a DSLR and second from a mobile phone camera.
Pics courtesy colleague @Anjuagnihotri1 pic.twitter.com/IFGst3jP8k
— Man Aman Singh Chhina (@manaman_chhina) April 3, 2020
Nature breathes again: With zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 reiterating the connection between health and the destruction of the environment, this year has placed renewed focus on the need for conserving the environment. The initial months of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown which saw human beings retreating into their homes, also saw nature reclaim its space, with reduced human interference.
The internet was flooded with real instances of animals venturing out into deserted streets, and of clearer, bluer skies and cleaner water. Further, with the massive reduction in ambient sound, experts also revealed that birdsong was more audible than ever.
Though temporary, as industrial activity halted during the lockdown, the Yamuna River recorded its cleanest levels while the self-purification capacity of the river increased as well. The two months of lockdown was able to do something that 30 years of the Yamuna Action Plan could not achieve.
The skies also became much cleaner and 90 cities across India witnessed a sharp drop in pollution levels, albeit temporarily. For the first time in 30 years, the Dhalaudhar Mountain Range of Himachal Pradesh was visible from Jalandhar, Punjab. This was attributed to the significant drop in pollution levels, as industries shut down and cars went off the road.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) August 7, 2020
Humanity above all: Amidst the misery and distress caused by the pandemic and the economic and social fallout of the subsequent lockdown, rose stories of real-life heroes who went beyond their call of duty, often putting their own lives at risk to help those in need.
From healthcare professionals who worked without any breaks, taking the place of family members of patients, often leaving their own families behind, to police officials who risked their lives while maintaining law and order, providing food for the homeless and ensuring senior citizens or kids did not miss out on their birthdays with restrictions to movements to NGOs and individuals - both regular people and celebrities - who stepped up to deliver ration, food and other essentials during the lockdown, 2020 saw humanity break social boundaries.
With the uncertainty of the lockdown and school closures, teachers, especially those in Government schools, moved on from being knowledge providers to taking on the additional role of counsellors in order to lend support to students who may be suffering due to the pandemic. Many teachers supported children and families who lost their livelihoods and access to good nutrition. For a large number of teachers, this meant dipping into their savings as many have not been paid salaries for months.
Social media also stepped up to help those in distress. A heart-wrenching video of a vegetable vendor in Mumbai who broke down after his shop flooded, immediately after he had reopened after four months, prompted netizens to contribute and a total of Rs 2 lakhs was raised.
Greater focus on sanitation: India has always had a problem with hygiene and sanitation. However, the pandemic has brought about a noticeable behavioural change with a greater focus on the need to maintain sanitation and hygiene - both personal and in public areas.
At a personal level, COVID-19 taught us the importance of washing our hands with soap on a regular basis, keeping our homes and surroundings clean and sanitised and avoiding littering.
At the same time, public spaces such as schools, shops offices, hospitals, airports, bus and railway stations, are also getting sanitised and cleaned on a regular basis, to avoid the spread of infection.
Healthy, sustainable eating: With the realisation that the virus is here to stay, at least for a while, nutrition has become the buzz word. As per a report titled Top Five Global Trends That Will Shape the Food Industry in 2021, by the US-based Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, while 31 per cent of people are buying more items with health benefits, 50 per cent are opting for food and beverages that contain nourishing and immunity developing properties.
There is a greater focus on going local and sustainable and buying products that cause the least damage to the environment. The pandemic has led to a noticeable shift towards vegetarianism and more people are also opting for fresh produce, rather than packaged goods, a move that is ultimately beneficial for both the health and the environment.
During the initial days of the pandemic, with supply chains hit, malls shut down and supermarket trips reduced, most people relied on their local kiranas to buy their vegetables and food products. This was accentuated by the growing need for people to understand the source of their food, especially with worries about the virus. This has led to an increasing preference for direct-from-farm products. Local produce is fresher, healthier with less time spent in transit as opposed to exotic food which may have covered many air miles to reach the plate.
People are also stocking their cabinets with healthy spices and herbs. With the Ayush ministry recommending Ayurveda and dietary changes to improve immunity, Indians have stocked their pantries with spices and herbs such as turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, honey and tulsi.
— Rupali Mitra (@RupaliMitra9) May 30, 2020
Greater parent involvement in children’s education: As classrooms merge with homes and with the limitations of online mode of teaching, parents are taking an active role in educating their children. In many households, while juggling between work from home and household duties, parents are taking turns to sit with their children, especially the younger ones who need handholding during online classes.
Various anganwadis across the country are also encouraging such bonding between parents and their children. The Government of Chhattisgarh, with technical support from the UNICEF, has launched the Sajag programme which ensures that children continue with their education during the pandemic, regardless of whether they have access to technology or not. The programme empowers anganwadis and volunteers to support parents with their children’s education at home.
The Odisha government also introduced a home-based curriculum for anganwadi children, called Ghare Ghare Arunima, which reaches out to parents to engage with children in a host of activity-based learning programmes. The programme calendar, which has a set theme every month, and materials are disseminated by Anganwadi workers.
Apart from introducing activity-based learning and bringing in a special focus on staying safe during the pandemic, parents are also encouraged to involve children in simple household chores such as folding clothes or watering plants. Particular emphasis has been placed on the participation of fathers in the activities, to increase the bonding between them and their children. This, as per reports, has helped reduce aggression and has led to responsible parenting.