It’s become a bit of a cliche to describe 2020 as an annus horribilis. But, boy, was it horrible!

The world was still high on the exhilaration a new year brings when the deadly coronavirus suddenly snuck up on us. And turned our lives upside down in the blink of an eye (sorry for the mixed metaphors but that’s really what it did).

As the world went into lockdown mode because of the pandemic, governments, health care workers and policymakers found themselves struggling to stem the spread of the virus. 

Over 1.6 million people have lost their lives already and nearly 70 million more have been sickened by the disease so far. Moreover, millions have lost their jobs with businesses going under due to the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic.

But many of us still got through 2020. And how. We took on all the challenges and setbacks it threw at us—and managed to beat the year from hell. 

So what helped us beat 2020? Resilience, obviously. And gratitude and empathy in equal measure. But, perhaps more than anything else, hope. 

Staying Resilient Amid Uncertainty

Resilience was the buzzword of the year. As the killer virus ran rampant and we were forced to self-isolate, we learned to adjust to the new normal

Perhaps the biggest sign of resilience was the way millions of people worldwide began working from home overnight when they couldn’t go to a physical office anymore. They learned to communicate and collaborate online so that work continued as seamlessly as possible. 

The one thought that kept people going through the uncertainty was that we’re all in this together. Communities came together to help each other as people realized the only way out was through. 

Thank You For The Music

Music was a big healer. Remember how people from China to Italy and Canada gathered together to sing and clap from their balconies and across apartment buildings in a show of resilience?

Who can forget that video of Italians singing Puccini’s aria Nessum Dorma or Indians in high-rises singing bhajans and inspiring songs such as Hum Honge Kamyab? Of course, nothing brought people together like Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli’s live-streamed concert in an empty Milan cathedral on Easter. Some three million people tuned in to listen to the Italian tenor’s concert which included classics such as Ave Maria and a version of Amazing Grace

Gratitude For The Everyday Heroes


Gratitude also helped the world beat 2020. People the world over felt grateful for the millions of ordinary men and women who put their lives at risk every day to keep the world safe from a frightening disease. 

As countries grappled with the catastrophic fallout of the pandemic, people expressed their gratitude for the real heroes of the crisis: the frontline healthcare professionals, sanitation workers, engineers, and technicians who worked tirelessly to ensure people had basic services such as healthcare, electricity and water during the lockdown. 

A New Kind Of Hero: Harappa Habit Heroes


You also had everyday people who lent a hand when everybody else seemed to be giving up. They stepped out of their comfort zone and went the extra mile to raise funds for migrant workers, feed the poor, provide a roof for the homeless and medicines for the needy. 

Harappa celebrated these Habit Heroes for their inspiring stories of community engagement during these difficult times. There was Abhishek, an engineer in Bangalore who took parts out of home computing machines to repair an X-ray machine at a COVID-19 treatment center. And the woman auto driver in Mumbai who drove the needy for free during the lockdown. 

Then, there was the Pune-based scientist who developed India’s first COVID-19 testing kit in six weeks while pregnant. And delivered her daughter a day after she delivered the kit. 

And you had the civil services aspirant in Karnataka who became an information warrior simply by using a Telegram group to help locals sift through COVID-related news. And the pet-lover in Coimbatore who mobilized 40 people to feed street dogs during the lockdown. 

It was the empathy of such real-life heroes that kept people going. And the empathy of political leaders like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who put herself in the shoes of people during the pandemic and helped them ride out the storm. 

The Hope For A Better Future

But, above all, it was hope that kept people going in 2020. Remember Biren Lakra, a construction worker who walked over 1,800 km from Mumbai to his village in Jharkhand’s Chaibasa district after COVID-19 stalled all work in the city in March? He initially had enough savings to live on but then started running low on both food and money. 

Unwilling to starve to death in an alien land, he started walking home on May 2. The journey took him 11 days—of dehydration, killing heat, and countless blisters on his feet. “I knew the journey would be difficult. But I also knew if I could just get home, everything would be all right,” said Biren.

And that’s the essence of hope—that belief that something good is waiting just around the corner. It’s that hope that saw us through 2020. 

And with a vaccine on the horizon, it’s hope that will see us into 2021. 

Sugita Katyal is an Associate Director with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A former journalist and history major, she loves watching crime shows.

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