What’s the good word for 2020?

Anita Nair.   | Photo Credit: R Ravindran

If ‘lockdown’ is the word of the year chosen by the Collins Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary decided not to choose just one word as it would be difficult to select one to represent a year like 2020 that has seen sweeping changes in the way we we live, work, eat, converse and communicate.

As the pandemic swept across the world, certain relatively obscure words became part of our daily usage, including the word ‘pandemic’. Scientific and tech-related jargon were no longer the domain of the nerds.

‘Lockdown’ is right up there on the list, along with ‘working remotely’, ‘bubble’, ‘staycations’, ‘workcations’ and ‘quarantine’. Being ‘positive’ lost its status as a word to indicate a sunny attitude. ‘Social distancing’ made us ‘zoom’; online is where we live our lives as ‘virtual’ threatens to take over ‘real.’

In this new scenario, MetroPlus asks Indian authors to pick one such word that captures the essence of the ‘lost’ year of 2020.

Anita Nair

After her novel Eating Wasps, Anita wrote The Little Duck Girl, an audio book for children, that was published recently.


“A lassitude that creeps in with the sameness ( which isn’t a bad thing always) of what our days have turned into. I wonder if this is what prisoners in solitary confinement and astronauts feel... I wonder if this is the consequence of thinking that the earth was ours to do with as we please!”

Rachna Bisht Rawat

- Journalist-author Rachna’s latest book Insomnia is a collection of tales about the Indian Army.


Earlier associated with swashbuckling heroes like Zorro and Phantom, or sexy belly-dancing beauties, ‘mask’ is not just the word of the year, it has also been de-glamourised. Everyone is seen wearing one these days. Never a part of our lives till March 2020, suddenly, at present, one can’t leave home without one. From an object of mystery and glamour, it has now become a mundane necessity of life.

Rachna Bisht Rawat

Rachna Bisht Rawat   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Janice Pariat

Academic-writer Janice is the author of the The Nine-Chambered Heart, her latest work.


It might seem slightly counterintuitive, I suppose, when talking about a year wrecked by the pandemic and lockdown, but I imagine it to be the only word that might save us as a species; a word that might disallow circumstances to shape up in such a way that we face more outbreaks like this. To live with gratitude towards our planet, is to live respectfully, lightly, ethically, carefully, responsibly. In a time that encourages more consumption and more want, gratitude for what we already have is an act of resistance.

Janice Pariat

Janice Pariat   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

KR Meera

(Author of several landmark works in Malayalam, her latest work is Ghathakan)

KR Meera

KR Meera   | Photo Credit: Sijo

‘Social distancing’

Social distancing is a word that disturbs me. The right word should have been physical distancing. Social distancing, somehow, seems to indicate, somewhere in our subconscious mind, a distancing from everything social. There is an echo of political manipulation in that word. We don’t react, protest, criticise… That worries me. That word comes loaded with a lot of taboos that has roots in our past and hints at the caste divisions that insisted disadvantaged communities to maintain a certain distance from the ‘upper class’ communities.

Veena Rao

(Editor-in-Chief of the US-based NRI Pulse Newspaper, Purple Lotus is her first novel)

Veena Rao

Veena Rao   | Photo Credit: special arrangement


‘Novel’ which meant original, fresh and unique in the good old days, is now inextricably tied to the virus that has been ruling our lives. Novel also means a book of fiction, so to me, this loaded word has been especially relevant this year. My debut novel, Purple Lotus was released this fall. With no scope for book tours, virtual has become my new reality – virtuality.

My first ever book event was a Facebook affair. Every week, I log on to Zoom or Skype to chat with my readers or to attend an author friend’s book launch. It seems like the world has shrunk into my computer screen.

Salil Desai

(Author of murder mysteries, the columnist and author has written a number of short stories)

Salil Desai

Salil Desai   | Photo Credit: special arrangment


Vaccine! Everyone is talking about the vaccine as if it is one of those things that will suddenly give us immortality or, at least, will be a panacea for all the problems the world is facing as a result of COVID-19.

This word gives people a feeling that it is a magic cure that will save people from the virus. But it works only if you managed to get vaccinated before getting infected. Even when the vaccine is available and vaccinations start, your turn might take some time. Therefore it is not a cure.

Palash Mehrotra

Palash Krishna Mehrotra

Palash Krishna Mehrotra   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

‘Sourdough bread’

He is the author of Eunuch Park and the editor of House Spirit: Drinking in India

I'd go with 'sourdough bread'. When the pandemic came, my social media timelines were full of pictures of rising dough. I was puzzled; did baking bread somehow help ward off the evil eye of the novel coronovirus? In hindsight, one can thank the advent of the pandemic for making 'sourdough bread' a household name in roti-obsessed India. Also, if I might add, this was very much an April phenomena. While the virus continues to rage, the sourdough pandemic has long since abated.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 11:27:57 PM |

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