2021 was supposed to be a good year. After spending 2020 in lockdowns and uncertainties with vaccines and Covid variants, I had welcomed 2021 with hope and aspirations. But it was not to be. With the second wave hitting severely in this part of the world, getting stuck in strict lockdowns, losing some of our loved ones, and enduring losses in our business and other work opportunities, 2021 was a difficult year for many of us. Both professional and personal setbacks made it a rather challenging year for me.
However, when I look back, I feel a sense of accomplishment that this year was about books for me. When things were not going right, I took asylum in reading. Books became friends who were there for me unconditionally.
I guiltily accept that I had not heard and known about Kazuo Ishiguro and his work before 2021. He was introduced to me this year. And through his words, I travelled across Europe together with him. ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Nocturnes’ helped me realise that while walking this journey of life, we will make mistakes and have our regrets but that life still goes on. His latest book, “Klara and the Sun” show that no matter how much we advance in technology and artificial intelligence, it will still not be easy to replace the human heart. And his book, “An Artist in a Floating World” reassured me that we humans are full of our own denials and conflicts.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book “Whereabouts” was about a woman fighting her battle between the need to belong and refusal to form lasting ties.
The autobiography of Eric Clapton revealed that no matter how successful we are and with all the admiration from the world, people still fight insecurities. Sometimes we tend to take ourselves too seriously and miss the present moment over a future that might never come.
This year was also the year when I decided to re-read two books that I had really loved and admired when I was in my early 20s. This experience taught me that sometimes we should revisit the books that we liked when we were younger, and that the same books will have different meanings and show us the world in different light with the passage of time.
While I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy ‘Godfather’ as much as I did back in 2007, I was also pleased that I chose to read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini again this year; a year when the Taliban regime came back into Afghanistan. Somehow it felt appropriate to meet the characters of Mariam and Laila one more time. I had missed the many feminist stances that the author has taken in the novel when I first read it some 13 years ago, but the chapters that made me cry then still had me teary now.
Books like ‘Anxious People’ by Fredrik Backman and ‘Unconsoled’, again by Ishiguro, helped me recognise the futilities of our actions when we try too hard. Perhaps letting go, accepting what is, and surrendering could be a way to live life.
As I close 2021, I am not as anxious as I was when I was welcoming the year. There was too much burden on 2021 to be a better year for me. For 2022, I would like it to choose its own course and offer me what it has in its store for me.
The books that I read this year have given me an outlook that it is all good and bad, happy and sad memories and positive and negative emotions that enrich our experience of being humans. And I am rest assured that even if things don’t go as planned – which most often they don’t – I would have books with me to tell me that I can always take refuge in them.