AMBITIONS: Nihal Arthanayake, Sadiq Khan and Dr Nikita Kanani reflect on 2020 in our New Year special
AS 2020 drew to a close last Thursday (31), Eastern Eye asked some prominent people to reflect on the year and reveal their hopes for 2021.
We asked them: a. What have you learned about yourself in the past year? b. How would you reflect on 2020 and what are you looking forward to in 2021? c. Have you adopted any new habits that you intend to continue into 2021?
SADIQ KHAN, mayor of London
a. I’m a people person and the need to reduce our social contact has reminded me just how much I enjoy meeting other Londoners. I miss the chats we would have on the Tube or at City Hall events, and I really miss the debate, discussion and conversations you have in an office. Teams and Zoom calls have really helped but it’s not the same as engaging with people face-to-face.
b. To say 2020 was a difficult year would be a massive understatement. The pandemic has changed our capital forever and disproportionately impacted many of our communities. It has exposed and widened inequalities in our society. But it has also shown the strength of our communities, and the way that Londoners stand together to help one another in the face of adversity. The vaccines offer some light at what has felt like a very dark tunnel, and like many Londoners, I am looking forward to our capital’s recovery from this virus – including returning to the things we enjoy and seeing the people we’ve missed. Until then we must all continue to obey the rules to help each other and our NHS.
c. Like so many Londoners in 2020, I started cycling again and I intend to use my new bike as much as possible. It’s great exercise and good for my mental health too.
NIHAL ARTHANAYAKE, BBC presenter
a. I need to make new experiences with the ones I care about the most, rather than relying on and reminiscing about past exploits. I need to make time for things that are important. I lost one of my closest friends to Covid last Wednesday (30) and I need to make sure I don’t waste the gift of life.
b. I feel blessed for what I have because so many lost so much in 2020. I saw such extreme selfishness and foolishness in 2020, but also the very best of humanity. I should concentrate on celebrating the latter and ignoring the former.
c. Playing the piano. I have started and am really enjoying the feel of my left and right hand working together to create music. The chords and the melodies, when they combine, give me such an uplift. I never learned to play an instrument as a kid, but now I am proving it is never too late. If the Tokyo Olympics take place, I will be going to Japan, so I want to try and learn some basic Japanese. It is a beautiful language and I have the utmost respect for many aspects of Japanese culture. I also have a book to write this year for publication in 2022 and really need to get my head in the game for that. I MUST spend less time on Twitter in 2021.
DR NIKITA KANANI, medical director of primary care at NHS England
a. This last year has tested my own personal resilience, as I am sure it has for many others. It has been such a challenging time for everyone and I am grateful for the support I have from friends, colleagues and family – it’s often been remotely, but seeing my Ba and Dada’s faces on a screen has been a powerful motivation!
b. 2020 was a tough year in healthcare but I have been so impressed by how quickly the NHS has adapted and evolved to the pandemic. GP practices quickly moved to seeing patients remotely over the phone and online. Pharmacies remained open on our high streets providing vital support and advice, and dentistry stepped up urgent dental centres to ensure patients could still access emergency dental care.
Sadly, the pandemic disproportionately affected those from Asian, black and minority ethnic backgrounds; including the loss of many of our colleagues.
2021 and the arrival of two new vaccines brings new hope and we have already vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined. What I am most looking forward to in 2021, is seeing more of our population protected from this cruel virus. I would urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they are contacted.
c. I think having worked for so long now in a high pressured environment, for me retaining kindness and compassion towards my colleagues, friends and family has been so important. Making sure I looked after my own physical and mental health has been key and I even managed to squeeze in a charity walk in October, a double marathon! Access to our health services for excluded groups, such as refugees and migrants, is often challenging and for this reason I was pleased to be able to do this and raise money for Doctors of the World, an independent humanitarian movement working at home and abroad to empower excluded people to access healthcare.
SUNDER KATWALA, founder of British Future
a. I surprised myself at the start by quite liking the slowdown of lockdown. But the novelty had worn off by the end of spring.
b. Last year turned into a test of stamina and endurance, so 2021 should be a more important year. It will be one where we decide what we want to do with the experience, so that the new normal isn’t necessarily a return to what came before. Beyond Covid and beyond Brexit, I am looking forward to new ideas and debates opening up.
c. Lockdown has been bad for arts and culture, but we found ourselves watching the National Theatre’s weekly YouTube offerings quite often. A Christmas subscription to the National Theatre at Home is a chance to continue that. We made a good start with War Horse on New Year’s Day.
DR KAILASH CHAND, honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association (BMA)
a. Community family and friends are so important. It is good to devote time to oneself, reflect, learn and move on. Never give up – yes, the night is dark and deep, but when was it not permitted to light a small lamp? When the dreamed home you built with affection and love was drowned in destruction, when was it not permitted to pick up little bricks and stones to rebuild a small peaceful hut again?
b. I reached some major milestones in 2020, and 2021 will be the year to put into action all the learning from the reflections in 2020. Basically to live each day fully – life is ephemeral. The coronavirus has shone light on massive inequalities in society; I will continue to fight to level up.
c. Take enough time for meditation, regular exercise and healthy food. Social responsibility will be in my mind more so than before. I will stay connected to community, family as well as friends – and if not physically, then virtually.
PROFESSOR AISHA K GILL, PhD. CBE, professor of criminology, University of Roehampton
a. The importance of resilience, patience and seva (selfless service).
b. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls, and racial discrimination as a global emergency requiring urgent action. At a local level, it has further galvanised my community activism in terms of supporting migrant women and children victims and survivors of abuse. Between June and December 2020, my friends and I came together to fundraise £65,019. In 2021, I intend to be more determined in further raising awareness about gender-based violence in black and minority ethnic communities. Not only to reach the £100K target but also to reverse the inhumane, no-recourse-to-public-funds policy that has denied so many their basic human rights in this painful, pandemic year.
CYRUS TODIWALA, celebrity chef and founder of Café Spice Namasté
a. The past year has been one hell of a learning curve for everyone and I am no exception. I have come to conclude that I cannot do everything all the time and be on top of all my work and responsibilities as successfully as I think I should be. This is tough for me as I keep going and going, but often don’t manage to catch my tail. So, sometimes I need to let go and tackle things as I can. I also realised we are all very fragile and I am too. I had a major surgery on the very last day that all hospitals went into lockdown and while very lucky to get that sorted, I realised I’m fragile too. I haven’t learnt my lesson though as yet! You soon learn that friends, family and staff are very important and while we cannot meet, hug or chat face to face, just keeping in touch keeps everyone’s spirits alive. I also realised I’m not that bad at making short videos of recipes and posting them on Instagram – something I just would not have done otherwise.
b. We have learnt a lot from 2020 – it shattered everything. From our health and (Café Spice) having to relocate and set up business elsewhere to thinking of new ideas on how to make some business out of nothing and being shunted into a very difficult position, last year taught us that creativity emerges when one is pushed outside the norm. I will always look at it from the perspective that it’s a year that has changed our lives too and has pushed us over the edge and raised awareness. It should not be scoffed at as 2020 has brought misery and sadness to many, but it has been a wake-up call to remember that we do not need in life as much as we all wish to own and cherish. Above all else, it’s the people closest and dearest us to us that are what we really need.
c. I was a four-hour sleeper and always in a rush to get up and start my day early and get on top of as much work as I possibly could. Now I sleep up to six hours on most days and am not so rushed. This has made one of our very dear and regular customers Duncan Aldred very happy. He even gave me a book Why We Sleep (by Matthew Walker). I have not read it yet but I do sleep a couple more hours and find my energy levels up. I exercise more regularly now too as I’m more relaxed.