‘Happy New Year’, shouted little Ria.
Her friend Sheersh looked at her sadly. ‘What is so happy about the New Year’, he asked. ‘2020 was such a horrible year. Coronavirus made us so unhappy, we couldn’t go out to play, or go for holidays or even school! Everyone was scared and careful all the time. I still can’t get out of my house without a mask on my face. And not much has changed even with the coming of the New Year’, said Sheersh.
Ria looked at him confused. ‘Com’on,’ she said. ‘I know 2020 was different and yes COVID-19 is still not gone, but shouldn’t we also look at all the good things that happened in the year? Why not be happy and grateful for the year 2020 and the coming new year. And let’s hope that things get better in 2021.’
Sheersh was not convinced. He snorted and turned away. Ria was a happy child. She always found something to smile and laugh about. She understood why Sheersh what was not happy. But she wanted him to be thankful.
She and Sheersh decided to play at her home. He noticed Ria’s room was beautifully decorated with handmade stars and cartoon cut-outs. On her desk was a smart pencil holder made from an old cardboard box. Her pillow covers had tiny flowers stitched and embroidered. The bookshelf was neatly cleaned and stacked. Her closet had had dolls and cartoon stickers on them. Ria understood that Sheersh is surprised, so she said, ‘Due to the schools’ shutdown, I had so much time. So I decided to decorate my room, doesn’t it look brand new?
Then she showed Sheersh her puzzle and coloring books. She had solved all the Sudoko puzzles and was now trying to finish the crosswords too. Sheersh couldn’t imagine ever finishing his puzzle books! Suddenly mom came in and asked the children if they were hungry. ‘Yes,’ shouted Ria, ‘But wait mummy let me make those yummy sandwiches that I made the other day.’ She ran along to the kitchen with Sheersh behind her heels. She asked Sheersh to help her and choose his dressings. Sheersh wasn’t sure of what he could do. Ria offered him her recipe. She quickly grated the carrots and cucumbers and sprinkled salt and pepper. Then she assembled the entire sandwich, placed it on two plates and handed one to Sheersh. Sheersh couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘Where did you learn all this?’ he asked. ‘Of course, during the lockdowns, I was helping my mom at home and I learnt so many awesome things to cook. Next time I will give you my homemade cake, biscuits and salads that I learnt from recipe books and online videos,’ she said.
As they were munching on their food, grandpa came into the kitchen with his phone. ‘Here Ria, talk to your aunt Renu,’ he said. Ria and Sheersh happily started talking to her. She spoke for a long time and they really enjoyed catching up with each other. Ria’s aunt stayed in the US. Usually they didn’t have much time to talk to each other. But because her aunt couldn’t come to India this year, they had started talking on the phone. Aunt Renu complimented Ria on her exercise videos. Ria jumped happily saying, ‘Yes, I get up early and now I can do so many different yoga asanas on my own.’
Sheersh felt a pinch ashamed. He was always agitated at home. He hated the fact that the schools were closed, there was nothing much to do, so always got up late, right when online classes were about to start and only watched TV most of the time.
Just then the doorbell rang. Ria’s neighbor came inside with a box of chocolates for Ria. ‘Thank you Ria for your help. When I was not well recently, you used to put flowers or get well cards at my doorsteps,’ he said. Ria was very happy to see him. She ran to her balcony and plucked a rose from the many potted plants. Sheersh looked at her with a slight smile on his face. ‘You started growing plants this year?’ he asked. ‘Yes Sheersh, I read about how plants are so important for the environment. I ordered a few online and then I started taking really good care of them,’ she said.
By now Sheersh had understood that because he was not grateful and positive, he lost on a lot of things, which he could have done or enjoyed. Ria chose to find the positives and make the most of it.
Ria saw Sheersh thinking and said, ‘Sheersh, I know a lot of people were sick, everything was shut, people were scared. But it was also during this year that we spent so much time with our family, when our parents worked from home and we studied from home. We saw that the pollution in our city was much less. The sky was clear and the air was fresh. We had time to learn new skills. And thanks to technology we were still connected with our teachers, friends and family. Initially I was also disappointed about not being able to move out much, but my grandparents taught me to be thankful for whatever we have. We were blessed to have continuous supply of food and essential services, we had a good health, some people survived COVID. 2021 is a brand new year. Who knows by the end of it we all will be vaccinated and things might get back to normal,’ said Ria.
Sheersh looked at her with a broad smile on his face now. ‘Yes Ria, you are right. I am looking forward to 2021. And I am confident that I will be able to enjoy 2021 even if things are not what we were used to earlier. And I hope everyone around stays healthy. Now, I need to head home make some New Year cards for my cousins and also call one of them, who is in the US! Happy New Year Ria,’ he shouted back.