Journal from the Future – 1

This is a work of fiction in the form of my journal entry set in the future. All events and situations described here are purely imaginary and any resemblance to an actual situation or event is purely coincidental.

March 17, 2025

Birthdays have never held much significance for me. For most of my life I’ve thought of them as yet-another-day, an insignificant landmark that you cross as you march ahead with your life. Today, however, isn’t just a birthday. On this day, five years ago, I began to chronicle an event that by then had already been designated as a pandemic but hadn’t yet completely turned our lives upside down. Even during the days leading up to this day five years ago, I thought we were standing on the threshold of something that was historic, not in a comfortable, rosy sense, but historic nonetheless. I thought I should record the events as they unfold around us for my own sake, if not for the sake of posterity. I remember some of my own thoughts as I sat at my desk compiling the day’s news updates relating to COVID-19 and faithfully writing them down each night. Though the news was grim, writing them by hand gave me joy, and brought me some sanity as the world was lurching through the pandemic. The decision to chronicle the events began, in a large measure as a way to write more, though I had hoped to not have to write about COVID-19 for too long. I remember how there were two voices in my head then – one said this wasn’t going to be big and life would continue as usual, after all, we’ve been through many pandemics, natural disasters, wars, including two world wars., the last of which wasn’t even that long along when seen in the grand scheme of things. The second voice was different. Even in my head, it sounded low and raspy. The thoughts that it breathed out were ominous. Life was never going to be as easy as we have come to know and expect, it said.

I had a bad feeling about the novel coronavirus, as it was called then, even during the very early days. During the first week of February 2020, when this coronavirus was truly something of a novelty, and before it crippled the world in 2020 and 2021, I remember advising an Uber driver while I rode with him, to be careful and take precautions such as wearing a mask and carrying a bottle of an alcohol-based sanitiser at all times. I can’t remember his name or even his reaction to my advice, but when I think of him, I wonder if he took me seriously or just laughed it off then.

Some events from 2020 are etched in my mind as though they happened just last week. The lockdown announcement in March, the dreadful news coming every day from Spain and Italy, the terrible outbreak in the USA, the many opinions about the pandemic – they’re all vivid in my mind. However, the latter half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 are a blur. The next year too whizzed by quickly amid bad news, fear, devastation, and loss. Only around the start of the last year did life seem to return to a semblance of normalcy.

While today, life is mostly as usual, when you look a tiny bit under the surface, you realise that it’s anything but normal. The years leading up to 2020 seem like a different eon altogether. I can’t quite remember how it felt to truly be carefree, about how it must have been to be able to step out without nasal filters, about how it must have been to be able to step out of homes without requiring a valid reason for it.

I cant remember when the world dropped the 19 from COVID-19. It is just COVID now and it has been that way for some time now. What stuns me even after all these years is the sheer number of diseases and deaths that are being diagnosed as being directly or indirectly related to the pandemic of 2020.

Last week, I watched an interesting documentary that premiered in January this year to mark five years since COVID-19 began. The director travelled to various hospitals across India and traced the former healthcare workers who had been at the forefront during the pandemic in 2020 and had contracted COVID back then and recovered from it. So many of the patients who had recovered from COVID in 2020 later presented themselves with neurological issues.

Among the healthcare workers chronicled in the documentary, one had lost his entire family to COVID in 2020. Over the next two years, his own neuropsychological symptoms were severe enough to prevent him from continuing his work as a medical professional. In the beginning, his case was diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but was later declared to be a COVID-linked neurodegenerative disorder. Apparently, he had been a gifted painter and continued to paint prolifically until about two years ago. Tragically, his last few canvases were nothing but a mélange of shapeless forms in loud, garish, and utterly chaotic colours – perhaps a sad reflection of the tremendous chaos and turmoil in his own mind.