Restricted to our homes for months together made many of us realise the futilities of impulse buying and hit home the importance of conscious living. People today are going back to the basics and opting for a more unhurried and rooted life in terms of what they eat, watch, listen, read and experience.
By Reya Mehrotra and Vaishali Dar
As the year of the pandemic draws to a close, we look back at how it changed everything we did. How we ate, how we worked and how we lived. Reya Mehrotra and Vaishali Dar examine the trends and how they will impact us in the years to come
The new accessory
Shopping streets had a new fashion accessory and brands built creative campaigns around it. The fight against Covid-19 made the ubiquitous mask a necessity and became an intrinsic part of social culture. But not everyone took to wearing masks happily as it also led to a lot of mental distress and anxiety. Masks hide facial features and identity. It has also been theorised to bring psychological effects: disinhibition, as well as various psychosomatic changes. Besides discomfort in breathing, blurred communication and forcing one to give non-verbal cues, masks also made one feel claustrophobic. And yet stepping out without one today is unthinkable. Masks, which were sociologically identified with a tendency to hide something, became a sign of a conscious citizen who is not only doing good to himself, but also to those around him.
Restricted to our homes for months together made many of us realise the futilities of impulse buying and hit home the importance of conscious living. People today are going back to the basics and opting for a more unhurried and rooted life in terms of what they eat, watch, listen, read and experience. With less social outings and less impulsive buying, people realised what is essential as it helped lower the financial burden to a large extent. Family ties have become stronger and physical distancing has brought in social togetherness.
A preference towards more relaxed clothing with a clear switch from fashion to function, hygienic am-to-pm pieces and pocket-friendly, buying local was big. Thus, simple and minimalistic living is going to last longer than expected.
The 2020 diet
As the pandemic caught the world unawares, mankind found solace in hope—and immunity-boosting products. Immunity became the keyword for fighting the invisible demon wreaking havoc worldwide. In no time, large and small businesses were beaming with the idea of ‘natural cures’ and ‘immunity builders’.
At the same time, meat consumption across the globe came under heavy scrutiny with animal rights activists, vegans and health experts raising questions on the unethical killing of animals. Clean label products, restaurants, fast-food chains jumped on to the plant-based diet bandwagon to demand for plant-based protein and meat alternatives and immunity-boosting diets that have an abundance of macro and micronutrients and antioxidants, which help in keeping cells strong and healthy to fight off viral infections.
There was also a visible shift in the narrative with the focus on healthy eating without compromising on taste. Crackers laced with sodium and cookies dipped in sugar made way for grab-and-go yoghurts, fruit and nut bars, vegetable and bean snacks, quinoa soup and burgers, and amaranth cupcakes.
Natural foods that boost the immune system like turmeric, green leafy vegetables, almonds, ginger, pepper powder, Indian gooseberry (amla), giloy with water or in pill form, fish, vitamin C-rich seasonal fruits, wholegrains, have become part of everyday lifestyle. So even if the vaccines are out, healthy living is here to stay for some more time as more and more people become conscious of what they consume.
Back to nature
Wear a cardigan, bake some bread, play some country music, live slow and you’re cottagecore. The trend was extensively observed in Taylor Swift’s 2020 album Folklore that explored the cottagecore (mix of Victorian-Bohemian era) theme like none other. Swift was seen going about in the woods in a maxi, with a vintage hairdo and playing a moss-covered piano in a forest and donning a hand-knit cardigan. Internet aesthetics like grandmacore, faeriecore, craftcore, naturecore, honeycore, warmcore and others took over the internet since the lockdown began and gave one a chance to live like we did in the golden old days, a simple life and cherishing nature.
The year 2020 saw philanthropy in full swing and in a variety of shades. However, there was also a bit of paradox to giving this year, where corporates donated wholeheartedly, but also laid off thousands. While some did it for the good of society, some for their peace of mind, and some for social validation.
Indian heroes like Vikas Khanna, Sudha Murty and Sonu Sood stood out for their contributions, while the PM Cares Fund saw huge donations by corporates and the mega rich.
Taking it slow
The lockdown also put brakes on our fast-paced lives and we realised the importance of living slow. Slow living entails adapting sustainable, natural ways of eating and living and adopting slower approaches to everyday aspects of life. Spending time with family became important as we realised what all we were missing with our earlier hectic pace of life. The trend even drew people out of cities as many moved back to their hometowns and even the hills permanently or to work there temporarily.
Many popular and prominent personalities like Neelesh Misra with his Slow Movement, Kumar Vishwas, Delhi based ‘slow’ clothing brand Buna and even international brands like H&M took to the slow and sustainable way. We can say, the year taught us the value of matching pace with the environment, nature and living and prospering with it. With plenty of time in hand before we move outdoors, it is time to relook and reschedule our lives.
A new lingo
“It is indeed a Coronageddon! I saw a bunch of maskholes flouting social distancing norms and risking a super spreading event. So, I schooled one of the covidiots who stood face naked in a domino distance behind me.” Until 2019, one would struggle to grasp what was being said. But this was the lingo of 2020. Even the Oxford University Press listed 32 new words appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary, which included Covid-19, self-isolate, infodemic, etc. As many as 14 new sub-entries or phrases integrated into the body of new entries, nine updated sub-entries and eight additions to unrevised entries like PPE (personal protective equipment) were also made, signifying how our language changed in an unprecedented year.
The scandalous revelation of the ‘mysterious’ woman in the rasoda who placed the empty cooker on the gas flames took the country by the storm. The combination of Kokilaben ruling over her daughters-in-law was a meme fest. Thanks to the meme, its maker Yashraj Mukhate rose to overnight fame. With everyone living virtually, content creators provided comic relief through memes as the pandemic wreaked havoc in lives. The likes of Ashish Chanchlani, Bhuvan Bam, Kusha Kapila and Dolly Singh all gave birth to a new yet untitled genre oscillating between vines, memes, sarcasm and funny.
A chef in every home
If TV shows like Masterchef evoked interest in the kitchen, the pandemic spurred home cooking like nothing else. With no eating out and no domestic help, we didn’t have much choice anyway. Everyone started with ready-to-eat foods and as the pandemic stretched on, took to experimenting in the kitchen with gol gappas, samosas and other indulgences. But when it dawned that the pandemic was here to stay and that immunity needed to be strengthened, the binging obsession turned to binge-healthy eating obsessions. Social media was awash with pictures of home-cooked dishes as our dining tables turned into Instagram fodder.
Work from home
If there is anything that defined 2020 most, it was the work-from-home (WFH) culture. Nobody thought it was possible to operate from home and still get the work done. But thanks to technology, it was made possible. In fact, so tuned did we all get to WFH that it seems the trend is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future. Many corporates have made this part of their intrinsic work paradigms, as they gave up on office spaces altogether and asked at least a section of employees to stay at home permanently. For the millions of professionals striving earlier for optimum work-life balance, the trend enlightened them to the possibilities of working from home, which will surely have a deep and lasting impact on our lives at least for many years to come and a hybrid model (combination of virtual and physical environments) will define the future of workspaces.