Adieu, tough year | Sunday Observer

Adieu, tough year

25 December, 2022

As 2020 drew to a close there was sheer joy among people who were confident they were bidding goodbye to the worst year on record in a long time. It may have not quite turned out the way they expected, to put it mildly, with Covid stretching all the way up to 2021 and almost beyond.

But yet 2020 closed with hope, much of it subsequently unfulfilled. 2022 is a different story. As the year draws to a close there is nothing but palpable relief.

The year of the worst economic-meltdown in history is over, but people would only dare to be cautiously optimistic.

It was that kind of year. Yes of course people could justly be happy they made it. Those of them who made it that is, not counting those that may have gone under financially and now have to recover from near penury, or worse.

But is the national nightmare of 2022 truly over? People have to be optimistic but be anchored in reality which is a contortion in any event. It’s that time of the year. It almost defies logic that the celebrations have come out so well, though.

The reference of course is to seasonal good cheer. The cities are decorated almost as if to blot out entirely the memory that 2022 ever happened the way it did. Despite the fact that there are power cuts continuing even though these days it’s for a few hours per day usually, the fact is that the Christmas lights are burning brighter than ever.

But nobody is complaining about wastage. Nobody wants to be the Grinch that stole the Christmas, with people feeling they have the right to celebrate more than in any other year.


But are the cheery celebrations a sign of anything getting better? Are they really the cherry on a cake that at some point was so badly baked, that a new one had to be baked again?

If 2022 was a comestible, it was horribly done. By July this year this country seemed like a horribly burnt out shell, a cake that had been over-baked to a cinder and rendered utterly useless.

But at the end of the year strangely the mood is quite starkly different. Cautiously optimistic would be a way to describe it, but even that wouldn’t ring quite true if one were to look at the celebrations which are almost over the top.

But nobody can or should complain. To a great extent the people had earned it. It’s also a sign that in a numerically predominantly Buddhist country, there is room for people to be totally comfortable in their own skins and appreciate a season of good cheer which is essentially centred around another religion.

So, on to another twelve month cycle then. What does it hold when previously as stated before, those years that were behind us were not quite totally behind us but lingered on in shadow, as we discovered after the misplaced optimism in 2020?

Most thought the pandemic would recede at the end of that calendar year, but the virus doesn’t work according to man-made plans or time conveniently parceled in people’s imagination as the end of this epoch, or that year.

The virus wreaked it’s peculiar brand of havoc well into 2021 and 2023, and at least if that’s a lesson to go by 2023 could have more perils than we could imagine. But what perils could be there after people had been to hell and back in 2022?

In many ways there is nothing that’s worse that the people could possibly experience after they had been through the wrenching economic anxiety that the middle-months of 2022 were all about.

Nobody surely wants to be reminded of those six-kilometer long petrol queues unless it’s by way of heaving a sign of relief. There was no gas, the prices were rising, and the sky was indeed falling down.

For the first time, yes, it was not an exaggeration to say the heavens were caving in, sort of, because that was exactly the way people felt.

A lot of them would have expected things to become a lot worse. Today however the kids are encouraged to join school trips that have been organized by school staff after some three years when the youngsters have forgotten what a school trip feels like.


This writer was told that each kid is told to cough up around 6000 rupees for a trip which makes most people gasp, because a few years ago parents would not have dreamt of paying half that much.

But the parents are paying nevertheless, and it’s a good question where they are finding the money.

It’s the story of the year 2022 — of people finding ways and being resourceful, in circumstances that they were not responsible for creating in the first place.

So that’s probably what’s salutary about the celebrations connected to the year we are leaving behind. It was a year in which people rose from the ashes, phoenix-like, and if that sounds as if it’s a maudlin exaggeration, speak to people, and then decide.

A lot of them thought that they wouldn’t make it and would probably be reduced to leading primitive lives without essentials, food or money by the end of the year.

Things didn’t turn out that way and now there is room for celebrations, some of which may even seem over the top. Nobody is thanking any particular entity for this turnaround.

One reason is that everyone is cautious and probably want to know whether this is permanent or whether they’d face a 2023 or maybe even a 2024 that’s at times not much different from 2022.

The other aspect is that celebrations notwithstanding, people have never had to cope with so much, and a lot of middle-class and poorer families are barely getting by now.


The only difference between the terrible meltdown months of 2022 and now is that at that time there wasn’t gas, electricity and fuel, even if you did have the money to pay for that stuff.

That situation at least has turned around and the fact that people are out in numbers putting a gloss on the ‘season’ to see off a year they’d rather soon forget, is probably a summation of where we are at this point in time.

It’s mostly about tender mercies. People are gratified they started off a bad year which could have been worse. They have a glimmer of hope that the bad tidings of this year — inflation for instance that makes their salaries etc. almost worthless at the end of the day — would eventually be a matter of the past with the passage of time.

For this to happen salaries should rise, and the cost of living crisis should be ameliorated due to better wages and fringe benefits.

This still is a sanguine hope and noting more, but the simple fact that the economy is moving once more has been enough for most people to end the year with hope.

Even so, some businesses are in crisis and jobs are still hard to come by for the younger people that are graduating, or leaving school and joining the workforce. The outlook for them looks far less than rosy.

All that notwithstanding, the year-end sentiments are not seen as being built upon nothing. The good cheer is based on the fact that the nation moves on, and things can only get better from here.

Generally what’s said about situations of uncertainty is that the conditions would get a lot worse before they get better, but in this conjuncture, there is almost no room for anything to get worse than they were in June of 2022.

Since most folk feel that we’ve been to hell and back, there is a definite sentiment that the outlook can only look up from here.

But is there a twist in the tail? Though there can be no certainties in 2023, it’s as if people have abandoned being anxious, and for good reason.

There isn’t any point fretting because it’s the people that willed the recovery. Nobody forgets that there was a people’s movement in 2022. What that achieved needs not be reiterated.

In that mood the people would surely decide the shape of their futures no matter how formidable the challenges they face in the year that’s so close around the corner you could almost touch it, and feel it’s wholesome, sturdier shape compared to 2022.