2020 was a year that went by looking at the phone, but it also made me more resilient, writes Namit Das

'I know that there is something inside me that has changed forever. It isn’t spiritual. I think that change is more practical.'

Namit Das January 03, 2021 09:06:03 IST
2020 was a year that went by looking at the phone, but it also made me more resilient, writes Namit Das

Namit Das

2020 has been a watershed year in history, and that has also trickled down to the realm of entertainment. In this series, 2020 Unwind, stakeholders from the Indian entertainment scene weigh in on how they view entertainment now, how their skills had to evolve and adapt to changing patterns and whether the year has altered them as artists.

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“If you want to appear on TV then head to our Instagram page.”

I read this today. It made me think about a lot of things that we have gone through this year. At a human level, the pandemic, the economic crisis, the fight between differing voices of thought, the lockdown, our masks, hand sanitisers, global warming, COVID-19 , and many other things. On a personal level, the things that came back to me — my Wi-Fi connection getting better, my Instagram lives, the OTT shows that I have been part of, Zoom calls, cooking ,washing dishes, cleaning the house — all of these came back to me as I read this seemingly insignificant line.

But truthfully, 2020 has been the year where we all, at some level, discovered a part of technology and made it our language. These were the tools that seemed immature. That person who is always on the phone. The idea of social media, and how useless it seems to me. This isn’t something I use. I don’t like this. This is beneath me. Although everyone is on it. I don’t take these things seriously. All of these notions were seriously questioned.

The question “Lockdown kaisa chal raha hai?” after a point of time, irritated me. I started giving vague answers of being soul-satisfied by cleaning the floor, laughing at odd moments looking at the sky from my balcony, talking to plants, watching birds that would come to our house regularly, counting the number of parrots that came to our house, their relationship, how one of them was huge and didn’t have to fight with others for food; he just had to arrive. The others would scurry around him to get something of what we served them. The sunrise, the moonrise, the empty roads... and the silent nights. The sleepless ones, where you knew everyone was awake in the building watching the same show. Sometimes, your voice echoing in the building. Sometimes you, hearing your own heart pumping more blood. Sometimes you're stuck with a word that you read or a music piece that refuses to get out of your head. The shadows of silence. The many moods of this long, never-ending night, and the next thing you know is that you are asleep.

There were moments when I felt totally empty. I had nothing to say to my wife. Let me rephrase that, I think I had nothing to say to myself. The words had dried up. Things were mundane. The same house, the same routine, the same trees, and the same birds. (Talking about same birds, I remember a bird that would create a racket between 1 PM to 3 PM. I had a fight with the bird because that was also my time to send some recordings to the production house. This bird had drowned my voice completely. I was trying to locate where the sound came from when it suddenly dawned on me that we are living in a zoo. The only difference being that I am the one in the cage and the bird is free. I stopped myself immediately. This was a one-sided argument. I think I will have to wait. I think the production house will have to wait.)

All of us were waiting.

And then sitting on that drab-looking dining table, my phone lured me. The sun used to shine so beautifully on this device in the afternoon. As I touched my phone, I realised I had many apps. Many things that I didn’t know about. I took out my laptop. I got use to using my laptop. I sat with it for two long days, figuring out its intricacies. Many emotions were expressed in understanding how these machines worked. I had always used mobile phones to talk, message, and be available on Instagram on and off but here, when I got deeper into my machine, I realised there is so much I could achieve.

I went live one day on Instagram. There were people talking to me. People from all over the world. I could also choose to go live with certain people. I saw this guy's house in London, who I will never meet. He kept walking around during our Instagram session. My head started spinning. I told him to sit down and he sat. I saw his face. His face was so common. I don’t think I remember his face but I remember the calmness my heart felt when he sat down. I sang with random people from all over the world while my mom commented on my live sessions. She lives a lane away from us but I hadn’t seen her for a month.

2020 was a year that went by looking at the phone but it also made me more resilient writes Namit Das

Namit Das in A Suitable Boy. Twitter

And then this became life. Not just going live on Instagram but also Zoom calls. After one of my shows went live on an OTT platform, I did my first press conference through my mobile phone, wearing a black shirt and only an underwear beneath. Nobody seemed to notice that. I did a live music session while the sun was setting, sang words written by Faiz, which were written by him more than 50 years ago. The words talked about the day and night meeting. I sang his words while the person who listened to me saw the evening from Bandra, and I felt it in Andheri. Not far off but yet all of it felt like poetry being shared from a distance.

But the best thing about this was that I could communicate and that’s the world I live in now. That’s the world that has been gifted to me by 2020 where even if I am not physically present, if I have a good Wi-Fi connection, I can make my presence felt. Yes, it might be in a box and yes, I might not tell you that I am still in my sleeping PJs. But I will be there making a point, telling you how I feel, telling you that I exist. If things go well, and the network is great on your side then you might want to do the same.

I am happy that I existed in 2020. Something in me tells me that resilience is most important for human survival and human beings have it in huge amounts. We never die. We pass on. We become something else. We transform. We adapt. We become a different language. Nothing stops. Nothing ends. Even the end is a beginning to something new.

I have been getting a lot of forwards where people want to forget 2020. Some make it look funny. Some make it sound somber. Some are even clever and sarcastic but all of them want to move on, and make 2021 their new home. And I echo that feeling.

But I am excited. I know that there is something inside me that has changed forever. It isn’t spiritual. I think that change is more practical. Without much ado, I think I just need to accept it and smile behind my mask. Let me make that smile really big so that my cheeks pop out and people know that I am smiling. People know that I am happy....

Talking about happiness, let me check my Instagram account first.

Namit Das is a film and theatre actor, and singer. He appeared in shows Aarya and A Suitable Boy, that released in 2020.

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