Yet, individually, how we record this year in our memories will differ. Of course, a lot will depend on the hands we were dealt with. Humanity experienced 2020 in layers of personal, professional, emotional and financial tragedies. And each one of us experienced our own shades of stress and anxieties and loss. But there is another reason why our memories will differ. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman offers some clues in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow where he talks about each one of us having two selves — the experiencing self and the remembering self. The former is voiceless and focused on the moment. But the latter is a storyteller who keeps scores and purposefully designs memories — editing some while embellishing others. And often we humans lean on our remembering self as we dip into our memories and think about our past. As the year draws to a close, ET Magazine reached out to a cross-section of people — politicians and bureaucrats, diplomats and CEOs, activists and artists, writers, sportspersons and actors — to ask what their diary entry for 2020 would read like. Their Diary 2020 is of both loss and resilience.
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das says, “Yes, we have lost lives and loved ones. But we have not lost hope; nor have we lost the conviction that we will overcome these tough times and emerge stronger.” UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath remembers 2020 as a year that called for many tough, tireless and selfless efforts. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant recalls it as a year that caused disruptions as a challenge and led to disruption as a response through structural reforms. For many it was a time for reset and rediscovery. Badminton player PV Sindhu found time to work on her technique and strokes before the Tokyo Olympics. JP Morgan’s Kalpana Morparia says 2020 brought humanity closer even without meeting physically. Grace Banu, founder of Trans Rights Now Collective, says this year has been especially tough as they had to put in “more effort to just ensure our livelihood and our rights”. “But I always have hope,” she says. “I never lose hope because in my hand I hold Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution.” If 2020 couldn’t destroy one thing, this is it — hope.
Shaktikanta Das, Governor, RBI
Yes, we have lost lives and loved ones. But we have not lost hope: Shaktikanta Das, Governor, Reserve Bank of India
Our main objective in 2020 was to keep the financial system and financial markets sound, liquid and smoothly functioning. This ensured the smooth flow of money to all stakeholders, especially those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable. Today, it seems like we have not just survived this difficult year, but have also landed the financial sector on safer shores. Yes, we have lost lives and loved ones. But we have not lost hope; nor have we lost the conviction that we will overcome these tough times and emerge stronger. The horizon has lit up with a spate of positive news around vaccines and the steady rise in recoveries. India’s time has come to break free of the fetters of Covid-19 and reconfigure its destiny. I have always dared to be an optimist — believing firmly in the ability of humankind to overcome the pandemic.
Kenichi Ayukawa, MD & CEO, Maruti Suzuki India
We could achieve the highest ever sales in October: Kenichi Ayukawa, MD & CEO, Maruti Suzuki India
This his has been a very tough and challenging year for the Indian auto industry.
Everyone faced an unknown enemy in the form of Covid-19 and had to quickly realign to the new normal. In such a situation, our top priority continues to be the safety and wellness of our people in the entire value chain. We instituted our own safety protocols, going beyond compliance levels, which were shared with our business partners. With the full backing of the government, we, along with our business partners, got into the manufacturing of medical essentials like ventilators, PPE kits and masks, an area hitherto completely new to us. I am proud of my team and our partners who responded to this national health emergency with agility.
I highly appreciate the efforts of the government to prioritise the safety of citizens and support industry to restart operations. We are tackling supply side challenges to increase production and sales and managing on a day-to-day basis. For revival of demand, government has taken some measures, like keeping interest rates very low and making loan repayments softer. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of each stakeholder and support from the government, we could achieve the highest ever sales in October 2020.
It is difficult to predict the demand situation next year. However, we can now pick up some positive news like assurance on vaccine and recovery of GDP. In addition, production-linked incentive will surely accelerate manufacturing sectors, including auto. With these silver linings, I look at 2021 with some optimism.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog
In 2020 disruptions were a challenge, & led to disruption as a response: Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog
2020 will go down in the annals as a uniquely challenging year. The pandemic caught the year firmly in its grasp, and several repercussions are there for all of us to witness. It has been a year that has tested our mettle, our ability to adapt and above, all else, our ability to respond. I will look back on this year as one where we resolved to do our best and where we had the opportunity to proactively use technology and policy to prepare a roadmap for recovery. It will be the year that caused disruptions as a challenge, and led to disruption as a response, through structural reforms across sectors that included agriculture, mining, coal, labour and most recently the production-linked incentive scheme (PLI) for 10 sectors. I personally led an empowered committee, interacting with several civil society organisations towards easing restrictions and enabling the pandemic response.
We have also grown by leaps and bounds in digital and ecommerce segments, and have created major opportunities for sunrise sectors.
We as a nation took the initiative in a year where Covid-19 indiscriminately halted life as we know it in the far reaches of the world. Personally, we have all faced challenges, choosing prudence, safety and protocols to ensure that those who matter most to us are protected. We have been impacted, but will emerge from 2020 much better prepared and vastly stronger, as we enter a new normal.
Ajit Mohan, MD and VP, Facebook India
While the world locked down, the Internet remained open: Ajit Mohan, MD and VP, Facebook India
This year has been a revelation on many fronts. While the world grappled with the pandemic, the human losses and the economic distress, this year also stood out for the indomitable spirit of humans to overcome adversity and shine through hardships. It showed us that people could come together and forge meaningful partnerships and do big things together, do good things together, without being physically close to each other.
In the last few months, people have been leveraging social media platforms like ours more than ever, to connect with friends and family and to remain connected to authoritative information from health authorities on the coronavirus.
2020 also accelerated a clear shift to a more digital way of living, one that has been in the works for a long time. While much of the world locked down in response to the pandemic, the internet remained open, enabling businesses to reach their customers, sell and even grow. Small businesses, in particular, are realising that the internet is a great democratising force, with platforms like ours allowing larger businesses resources and horizon to way previously The next generation Indian companies right now.
Even as the limitless, the task of rewriting the new rules of the Internet remains, rules that will allows us to learn from the last 20 years while building a global framework that will unleash innovation the next 20 years.
Kalpana Morparia, chairman (South & Southeast Asia), JP Morgan
2020 brought humanity closer even without meeting physically: Kalpana Morparia, chairman (South & Southeast Asia), JP Morgan
There are several adjectives that could fill an entire dictionary that generations to come would use to describe this unique year. I believe no word in the dictionary can capture the enormity of this year on our planet. I am sure all of humanity wishes it never occurred, as it disrupted lives and livelihoods across the globe with exceptional fury. The year will be remembered as the great leveller as the virus infected people, irrespective of their ethnicity, location, gender, economic conditions, et al. In decades to come, we should try and forget the horrific impact of the pandemic, although this seems like an impossible aspiration.
Instead, we should remember this year for its unintended but very fortuitous consequences of three distinct trends. One, a dramatic acceleration in the speed of digitisation and technology. Two, virtualisation of the world as humanity warmly embraced the virtual world and grew closer to each other much more than in the prepandemic world even as political leaders across the free and the not-so-free world indulged in massive trade wars and economic nationalism. The pandemic ushered in a tsunami of virtual people-to-people connect for work, leisure and social engagements. Three, the world learnt to treasure the simple joys and values of our pre-pandemic, mundane, day-to-day lives.
I want to remember this year as one that bought humanity closer even without meeting physically, and made face masks the fashion accessory of the millennium.
Kunal Shah, founder, CRED
Constraints of 2020 have made us take control of our financial well-being”: Kunal Shah, founder, CRED
Crisis brings clarity, and 2020 has been nothing short of a crystal ball. Like all moments of clarity, it has stung. However, I believe it has accelerated the future.
For one, hushed conversations about money have emerged in Financial stress often results in stress, and I suppose have nothing to lose, it becomes easier to have tough conversations. constraints of 2020 have likely to push financial difficulties under the carpet, and have made control of financial well-hands. Whether it is investing more, taking interest in acquiring assets, or exploring wealth-creation opportunities, I will remember this year for its acceleration of interest in financial literacy. This starts with greater awareness of assets and debts, acceptance that our choices can help shape our financial health, and ownership the wealth-creation journey.
I hope individual agency on financial matters continues into the future. Taking credit is a vote of confidence in one’s own future income, and a nation that is not shy about borrowing is one to bet on. available this year; to be more accessible starts with education. I that CRED has had a helping people become cash and credit positions, smarter financial decisions we have the opportunity more, and more people it’s an investment in the country’s economic future.
Crisis also fast-tracks life, compounding the impact decisions for better or for worse. With the clarity that the year has given, I hope our future choices make the power of compounding work for us professionally, personally and financially.
André Aranha Corrê a do Lago, Brazilian ambassador to India
We had to bring home Brazilians stranded in India: André Aranha Corrê a do Lago, Brazilian ambassador to India
2020 started with the Brazilian president as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day. A large ministerial and business delegation joined him on a four-day visit, a landmark in Brazil-India relations. The leaders adopted 15 agreements and chaired government and business meetings. They also inked a Plan of Action to unlock the potential of the strategic partnership between our two countries.
The onset of Covid-19 made us quickly shift gears. The urgency to respond to the pandemic overtook all other priorities. Initially we had to put all our efforts to bring home Brazilians stranded throughout India. This was a success in good part due to the excellent collaboration with the MEA, DGCA, police departments and authorities in 16 states. A second challenge followed and we once again had to count on our Indian partners to ensure the timely export of medicines to my country. This gesture will not be forgotten. I must reiterate my admiration for the MEA’s exceptional professionalism during this entire period. Diplomatic relations — like all other activity — had to be reinvented in 2020. With the support of my team, I believe, we have succeeded in performing the many functions of an embassy, including consular services. Brazilian and Indian authorities responded creatively to the challenge and quickly adapted the calendar of the Plan of Action to online meetings, facilitating interactions on key areas such as innovation, trade and finance. All this shows that Brazilian interests in India — and Indian interests in Brazil — are resilient to any shock.
(As told to Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury)
PV Sindhu, badminton player
I was sad the Games got postponed but I’ll have time to practise: PV Sindhu, badminton player
2020 has been completely different. Until March it was one thing and after March it was another when the whole world came to a standstill. This has never happened before: everybody was at home doing nothing. I was just sitting at home not playing badminton, spending a lot of time with family. I have learnt a lot of things like painting and cooking. I have also spent a lot of time with my nephew. Those are definitely wonderful memories from this year.
I am sure the year was tough for a lot of players, especially as the Olympics got postponed — I was a little sad that it got postponed because we had been preparing months away. But then I was mind, another year, and I will some time to practise and work my technique and on my strokes.
I felt this was the right time learn things technique-wise and to be physically and mentally fit. That kept me motivated.
I am so excited to be back on court and I am sure fans and people out there would want to come out and watch our matches. Unfortunately, sometimes the crowds aren’t allowed at the moment. But the vaccine is going to come soon and I am sure everything will get back to normal. I am looking forward to the tournaments.
(As told to Shelley Singh)
What I’ll remember most about 2020 is how touch became taboo: Tishani Doshi, writer
What I will remember most about 2020 is how touch became taboo. The hug as the most basic unit of human compassion was taken out of circulation and, as a result, it took away our ability to deal with the scale of loss that the coronavirus brought. So, this extreme physical isolation, layered with the divisive politics that we are seeing playing out in so many countries, has led to us becoming these individual alien bubbles of paranoia.
What came to the surface were systemic inequalities, and I think we will see that again when these new vaccines become available. Who will get them first, how will they be distributed and who will benefit? If we take away anything from this year, surely it must be the idea of the community over the individual, how to reimagine, rather than reinforce, everything already failing. Also, artists matter. workers matter. Teachers matter. Street-cleaners matter. So much about how our society held together and how we explain ourselves to each other is done by the work of whose labour has been taken for granted, and it needs to be valued more.
For my part, I wrote fiercely through the early part of the lockdown and finished a book of poems. I did not become a better cook and I did not learn Italian as I had hoped, but I did find solace in other people’s dogs. I’m looking forward to being reunited with mine, and to being back home in India after 11 months away.
Vincenzo de Luca, Italian ambassador to India
Covid-19 didn’t stop us. We worked to boost bilateral ties: Vincenzo de Luca, Italian ambassador to India
This has indeed been a very challenging year for all of us. It is my first year in India and I regret not having had the possibility to travel and explore this beautiful country as much as I had wished to.
Despite the challenges, Covid-19 didn’t stop us. We worked extensively to boost bilateral relations between Italy and India, even during the most difficult months of the lockdown, making the most of our innovative platforms to strengthen our economic and political dialogue. In fact, we took advantage of the situation by organising many meetings to bring our economic communities closer together. We participated in numerous digital events, convinced that crises can easily be transformed into opportunities. The opportunity that was given to us was to make easier and smoother connections, transforming our embassy into a digital platform where Italy and India could work even closer together. We achieved many milestones with our Indian partners in 2020 and paved the way for a stronger, deeper and broader bilateral cooperation. The bilateral summit in November reflected the strength of our partnership and, thanks to the Joint Declaration and Action Plan adopted on that occasion, we have specific areas on which to focus for the future of our economic and political bilateral cooperation.
(As told to Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury)
Grace Banu (Left), founder-director, Trans Rights Now Collective
We had to fight for our livelihood & rights: Grace Banu, founder-director, Trans Rights Now Collective
Being an activist, I fight every day of every year for our rights. But this year we also had to fight nature. We had to put in more effort to just ensure our livelihood and our rights. It was this year that the government implemented the Trans Act or the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Rules, 2020. During Covid times, they formed the national council. We have filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the Trans Act and in the Madras HC for reservation. The government prefers to give us welfare schemes, not our rights.
There were various natural disasters but our community got very little funds for our livelihood from state governments and the Centre. To help each other, some individual activists, collective members and NGOs stepped up. One of my successes was the opening of the Sandeep Nagar residential milk cooperative society (for trans persons), which helps them stand on their own feet and be entrepreneurs.
Throughout the year, our community had to face violence and incidents of sexual assault. Sadly, civil society expressed their solidarity for us through silence. We shared our love with civil society but they did not come forward for us. But I always have hope. I never lose hope because in my hand I hold Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution. That’s what we will fight with.
(As told to Indulekha Aravind)
This year forced us to stop, breathe, think and listen to ourselves: Bhumi Pednekar, actor
This has been an unpredictable year for the entire planet. The Covid-19 pandemic has been an eye-opener for us. It forced us to stop, breathe, think and listen to ourselves. Given the pace at which we were racing ahead, with 21st century tech-driven, super-paced lives, I think it’s a good thing. But it has also been a terrible year for those who suffered from the virus, and it has been especially limiting for senior citizens and children. Imagine not having a park or school to go to.
For me, the year has come full circle. My passion for acting is as old as me. I have always wanted to carve out screen characters that people can relate to, and those that people can’t forget. With Durgamati, my first solo film, I managed to upend the cliche of a female-led film. Any movie is led by a story and plays out in the lives of characters. Durgamati is that dramatic, larger-than-life character for me. Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare is another story that has brought me recognition as well as a soul connect with many in the audience. Both films were incredible experiences.
In a year when the entire movie-going experience was frozen in its tracks and OTT took over, I am grateful that my films could reach audience. This is a whole new way of consuming entertainment; let us see where it takes us in the future.
This year I have been doing more research — reading up on issues that threaten our planet. Sustainability and positive action to slow down climate change have been my focal point as a climate warrior. I have resolved to step up advocacy and awareness building on climate change.
This year taught all of us that to live well we don’t need a lot. Time has come for all of us to choose how much we need to buy, store, consume and flaunt. This year has been a mixed bag of thoughts and experiences. I hope the next one brings better news for all of us and that we use the learnings of 2020 to build a more tolerant and integrated society.
This was a year of transformations at an evolutionary scale: Jitish Kallat, artist
The inaugural 10 weeks of the new decade threw several unexpected curveballs at us as a species, announcing explicitly that 2020 is going to be a year like no other. With a tiny microscopic entity invading our lives and sending us all indoors, it feels as if the planet is calling us out for all our past actions. I returned back from the US mid-March, following the opening of my solo exhibition at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. This while a health emergency was being announced in the United States and India was about to enforce flight bans.
When I look back at 2020, I see it as a year of immense transformations at an evolutionary scale. Change is best observed from a static location so I feel being in one place, unlike my normal travel routines, has allowed for a reflective and creative time in the studio.
Never before have I spent every single day writing: KR Meera, writer
Ever since March 30, I have been at home. Never before have I spent so much time at home. Never before have I spent all 30 days a month writing. I overcame the stress I felt by writing. There is a physiological need now to sit down and write everyday. I wrote all 56 chapters of my novel Ghathakan (The Assassin) and two other short novels Qabar and Kalachi. Qabar has already sold 8,000 copies and is on its new edition during this pandemic.
There was, of course, tension. In fact the day Janata Curfew was announced, my daughter was supposed to return home from university. They had to drive all night to reach home before the curfew began. I had been travelling a lot before the lockdown. So being shut down was stressful. It manifested as restless legs syndrome. It affected my sleep. Occasionally I felt down. Then Covid-19 came home when my father-in-law was hospitalised with the disease and my husband became his bystander. That was nerve-wracking.
Sometimes I dream of going out, of flying to a distant place, but in reality I have become very reluctant to even step outside — it feels socially irresponsible.
Recently I attended an offline meeting, where I saw about 20 people together after a long time — I enjoyed seeing them. You just realise the importance of reaching out.
(As told to Charmy Harikrishnan)
Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh
2020 called for many tough, tireless and selfless efforts: Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh
Tough times call for tough measures. With the pandemic shaking the entire world, 2020 called for many tireless and selfless efforts.
Working indefatigably for Covid-19 management under a continuously evolving strategy, over 70,000 health workers reached out to high-risk contacts of Covid-positive cases. As per ICMR, out of 14.5 crore Covid-19 tests in India, UP has conducted over 2 crore tests. The state’s Covid-19 case positivity rate for December has been less than 1.5%. We recently created a new record of conducting more than 1 lakh tests per million, the most by any state. In the words of the PM himself, “The vast preparations made by Uttar Pradesh chief minister saved at least 85,000 lives, something unthinkable before 2017.”
Our deft management of Covid crisis has not put a brake on economic development. We are working tirelessly to propel UP towards becoming a $1 trillion economy. UP is transforming — from being a laggard state to one with a new model of development. We have revived faith in law and order. 28 foreign companies invested Rs 9,357 crore in UP amid the pandemic. Today, UP is the first choice of big entrepreneurs for investment and ranks second in Ease of Doing Business.
The influx of about 40 lakh migrants and their rehabilitation were among the hardest tasks in this unprecedented year. Our decision to hire 1,660 trains to bring the migrants was yet another master stroke. About 6.75 crore food packets were distributed during the lockdown. Every migrant sent home was given a sustenance allowance of Rs 1,000 each along with a 30-day ration kit. About 53 lakh construction labourers, street vendors, carriage pullers and daily wagers in rural areas were also given Rs 1,000 each. We also persuaded employers to pay wages during the lockdown.
While, globally, farmers suffered during the lockdown, we procured their produce directly from their homes, and we ensured that shops selling seeds and other farming items remained open. When all the industries were facing closure, the sugar mills of the state continued crushing operations. Supply of sugarcane continued uninterrupted during the lockdown. Though the sugar sale remained negligible, we paid Rs 5,953 crore to farmers during the period.
The government started distributing free food grains from April, irrespective of the place from where the ration card was issued. We paid two months’ pension in advance to 86.7 lakh beneficiaries. Also, over 17,64 lakh MNREGS labourers were given jobs and Rs 4,508.25 crore honorarium was paid to them by creating 22.9 crore person-days. Incidentally, UP tops on this count as well. The skill mapping of about 40 lakh labourers was done so that they get jobs according to their skill set. We came up with a new Startup Policy to motivate youth towards self-employment. We launched Mission Rozgar to generate over 50 lakh jobs for youths. We also launched Mission Shakti to ensure women’s safety and empowerment.
The mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas was implemented in letter and in spirit. It brought about changes in the madrasa system, bringing Muslim students into the mainstream.
(As told to Prerna Katiyar)