Year-ender: How a generation struggled to cope with the rigours of COVID-19 lockdown


On March 17, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, when a blonde woman with vacuous eyes and smeared mascara crouched down on all fours over what appeared to be a toilet seat on a TikTok stream, a spectre of destiny lingered over the moment. There was the foreboding weight of history being witnessed in real-time—a prophetic urgency that demanded muted silence and screamed for your complete attention.

Like Jawaharlal Nehru’s dramatic flourish on the podium on Independence Day midnight, or the first snowflakes of 1941 winter that surrounded the attacking Nazi encampments in USSR Moscow, or even Tony Stark’s fingers mid-snap in Avengers: Endgame.

In one quick motion, the blonde woman licked the edges of the human waste sanctuary (twice) and flashed the victory sign and an effortless duck face (I can already hear a horde of angry incels descend upon me on Reddit, arguing that it was a fish gape).

Predictably, the clip went viral. Even more predictably, the “influencer”

Ava Louise was invited to appear on multiple US national television channels including the hit show Dr Phil—the American TV version of DD’s Dr Rakesh, who spends half an hour a day convincing terror-stricken teens on air that, no, masturbation does not result in blindness. Louise identified herself, before an audience of millions, as a full-time “sugar baby”(noun; a sugar baby is to a prostitute what the NITI Aayog is to the Planning Commission); she claimed that, on the same day, she had put “way dirtier things in her mouth than the toilet seat”, and stated that she did the video because she could not “bear that the corona was getting more publicity than her”.

Her TV circuits were followed by a glowing VICE documentary on her “lifestyle” in their aptly named 'Slut-Ever' section.

Heeding the Khaleesi's call to “lick as many toilet surfaces as possible”, thousands of copycats swarmed Instagram and Snapchat, kissing and caressing the grossest surfaces imaginable to intelligent primates. The cherry on the cake? One influencer Larz, in that noble quest for internet clout, was even hospitalised with a serious case of coronavirus infection, a few days after he stuck his tongue into a public shitter.

Watching the events unfold, the dominos fall into place, was a thing of celestial beauty, something akin to an astronaut's first view of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). It was a scintillating, all-encompassing vision of something so vast and so ethereal that no mortal had the right to lay eyes on it.

No other event in recent history had provided as clear a bird’s eye view of a washed-up generation’s eternal struggle against the life’s mundanes and the extremes.

Make no mistake, the lockdown was our ultimate acid test. Think about it. How long have we been complaining (many of our gripes indeed warranted) about the horrible hand that has been dealt to us as a generation? Quoting from the Holy Fight Club, the millennial Bible:

Tyler Durden (PBUH) 13:2We are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.

Now, we had a Great War on our hands. We had our purpose. This was our time to shine. Whenever the father next screamed at us about having had to dodge a bullet in some pretty-sure-it-did-not-happen war, or swim across high-tide Ganges to attend school when he was your age (Geez, we just wanted money for a third Xbox), we had a tailor-made retort: Have you had to live, as a young person, through a global pandemic? Have you? Have you?

Whenever the mother called us in tears at ungodly hours, cursing the dabbawala (who was struggling for the next breath at the corporation hospital) and the cleaning bhabhi (who we refused to pay an extra Rs 30 to avail private transport during lockdown) for letting us starve to death in a strange land a four-hour drive away, you could proudly send her a video note of a spick-and-span house, boiling Rajma and simmering rice.

Our objectives were simple: stay inside, physical distance and reduce human interaction. This was a battle that was ours to lose. For what are we but a generation of self-proclaimed “introverts”, who moan 24x7 about a lack of physical space, mental “burnout”, and bash our employers for not giving us a three-day work week option. Who are we but a proud people who managed to make depression and physical dysmorphia into an exclusive and cool sub-culture, like a Radiohead fan club. This was our battle, on our turf—we were the Rafa Nadal on clay—and, by gods, we were bringing atomic disintegrators to a pie fight.

Wishful thinking is one thing. Reality is a whole different ball game. Turns out, we did not have some great unplumbed depths of courage and strength inside us. Turns out, once the Oreo supplies ran out, it was a struggle to boil cabbages and carrots, slice onions and prepare sustenance thrice a day. Not to mention the cleaning up after. The Alphas, who sternly lectured everybody on social media to use the lockdown to read one book a week, to work out, expand horizons with online classes, and invest in the stock market, was soon fatigued by the tiring vortex of everyday mundanities and retreated to a comfortable hole of doomscrolling on Twitter, 13-hour Netflix marathons and increasingly frequent episodes of self-pity at their gradually ballooning guts.

The betas, sniffing a chance after seeing the Alphas decommissioned, threw down their weapons and deserted the Holy Fight at the first light. They slid into the DMs of every female on the face of the planet, soliciting ‘nudes’and hoping against hope someone would acquiesce to their requests. Meanwhile, the Gamas were distracted, busy setting up ‘Justice for Sushant’and ‘Sushant Bureau of Investigation’accounts on Twitter. Even the trusted lieutenants that we pinned our hopes on abandoned us in the fight.

The great socialist hope Cardi B ranted incoherently on Insta Live to her 60 million followers about coronavirus and resistance and how “the bitch is scared”.

We imploded. For all our tall claims, we were betrayed for what we actually were: the perpetually under-stimulated ‘spectacle’generation. Raised on a steady diet of sugar and an unabating need for strangers’approval, we had lost the ability to perform even the basic tasks without the carrot of cheap dopamines. If we travelled, we were subconsciously driven by the need to #wanderlust on Instagram. If we ate, we ate not just to fill our belly but to boost our Facebook following. Our lives became geared for social media consumption and social media consumption alone, as we conducted rave parties on terraces, impromptu multi-house concerts that were ‘promptu’as hell, and sought escapism with the same fanaticism as a hyperventilating heroin addict in search of his next fix. We were overweight hamsters on the wheel, primed for easy slaughter.

Millions of people are dying, and children are starving and wanting of the most basic needs, but, hey, did you hear Joe Rogan rant for three hours on aliens, evil feminists and Illuminati? Can’t wait!

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