The very best part of this very worst year is that it’s been terrible for everyone. Right? Even the trillionaires who use champagne in their bidets, have lost friends and family. Even the most cruel, powerful and ruthless leaders have fallen sick. One of them even lost his election (please, Lord, let there be no proofing error in that sentence!).
Still. There’s really nothing redeeming or cheerful to say about the last 10 months. Times like this are when we need this list. Progressing from least to worst, be grateful that …
1: … you no longer need to dress for work, because you’re slumming in front of your computer, at home. No under-wired bras, no high-heeled shoes, no skin-clogging makeup. No ties, no scratchy underwear, no stinky socks, no suffocating suits. No rusty razors to cut faces or underarms, no after-shave lotion to sting your skin, no deodorants to stain the bras you no longer wear. Best of all, everyone you know is in exactly the same condition.
2. … your children are at home, so you no longer need to drive them to school, make packed lunches or do laundry when they return, muddied and crumpled.
3. … your children are home, so you can exercise your vocal chords, roaring at them at top volume when they drive you mad because they’re not doing their schoolwork. And no one will complain or call the police, because they’re all doing the same, in their homes. Including the police.
4. … you’re already divorced or widowed/widowered! Or else, from what your friends tell you, you know that if you were still married, you’d be plotting to murder your partner.
5. … you’re still married! And you can enjoy all the excitement of plotting a really devious murder.
6. … you have children, and, therefore, you have continuous reminders about how much worse it is to be a child in this era than it was for you. Children everywhere today are forced to survive with parents who are getting divorced or murdering one another. Or chilling out in the asylum.
7. … you have parents whose behaviour ever since the pandemic began has become so vicious and unforgiveable that you can hate them forever. In this way, you will save yourself the heartbreak you would otherwise feel when leaving home to get married or to go to college or to work. You will not have to face the trauma of looking after them in their old-age — particularly if, as is the case in some families, they have cleverly managed to murder one another.
8. … that you’re single and have no children to despise or spouses to murder. After all, murder is not only a very serious crime, but it takes up a great deal of time, energy and, quite often, money. Really, this has been an excellent year for recluses. Not only are you entirely comfortable being alone through the silent reaches of the night — and the equally silent reaches of the day — but you are for once in the position to smile condescendingly at all your whining, complaining extroverted friends, who are forced to wrap themselves around their pets or their giant hot-water bottles for comfort.
9. … that you’re single because you’ve lost everyone in your family to illness and, therefore, have no reason to find other and more violent means of getting rid of them. Really, this is such a very grim reason for being grateful, that it’s truly tasteless of me to even mention it. Indeed, you might consider being grateful that we’ve never met, because otherwise you would be forced to call up your local assassin service (www.terminal-dispatchers.com) and arrange to cross me off the directory of the living.
10. … that you’ve lost your job and your home, thus driving your family away from you. This means that you’ve been spared the horror of losing them in other ways (see above). Being homeless and despised by everyone you know means that you’re finally free of all worldly attachment. You can throw away your now useless credit cards and empty wallets to embrace the highest levels of spiritual advancement. You can achieve maximum fitness by walking at your leisure to the Himalayas, while starving along the way. Once you’re there, you can find a place by the side of an icy mountain stream and contemplate infinity.
11. … that you’ve been thrown into prison for your misdeeds towards your family (see above), because you can finally write that book that you’ve never had the time to get around to, all these years. You can learn yoga, or else a degree in law. The degree will come in useful for fighting your case in court. Once you’re out of lock-up, you’ll have a lucrative professional life ahead, defending others like yourself.
12. … that you live in a country that supports the death penalty and have been fast-tracked towards the gallows, because — how lucky! — you pleaded guilty. As a result, you won’t have time to catch COVID-19, thereby risking a nasty, uncomfortable end, in the prison hospital.
13. … that you’re being executed and will thus be relieved of your miserable life very efficiently. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be painless but it will be quick, especially compared to COVID-19 deaths. Victims of the disease typically take around three days from start to finish, whereas you should be gone in less than five minutes. Even though we have no confirmed accounts of existence (such as it might be) in the afterlife, many accounts suggest that, as a friend put it recently, “the grass is greener on the other side”. This may have a lot to do with the grass on this side having been burnt away by fires or riots or lack of water. Seriously? Almost anything on the other side would be better than what we have endured this year.
14. … that you’ve read this list because whatever you read next will be more cheerful!
This article first appeared in the print edition on December 25, 2020 under the title ‘Thank you for nothing’. Padmanabhan is an author, playwright and cartoonist.