By the time the apocalypse began, the world had already
ended. It ended every day for a century or two. It ended, and another ending
world spun in its place. It ended, and we woke up and ordered Greek coffees,
drew the hot liquid through our teeth, as everywhere, the apocalypse rumbled,
the apocalypse remembered, our dear, beloved apocalypse—it drifted
slowly from the trees all around us, so loud we stopped hearing it.
—Franny Choi in The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On
The word came to us via images, tickers, stories. And apocalypse became part of daily conversations in the past two years as a mystery virus ravaged our world. But Earth still kept spinning. We still ordered our coffees as the apocalypse thundered, or showed its passive-aggressive silence, outside our windows.
When the second wave of the pandemic hit India, and thousands died—many gasping for oxygen outside packed hospitals—every day was apocalyptic. Bodies were dumped in rivers. The mounds on the banks of the Ganges, captured in drone photographs, looked like festering boils on the face of Earth. Is that how the world is going to end? With nameless bodies burning, rotting, bloating? Perhaps, apocalypse was the death of all hope. Perhaps, it is a place of despair.
Many predicted the end of many things. But we survived. We learned new ways to cope with a world that made us fixtures on windows, looking out at a world coming to an end. Love is different now. Touch is a luxury. Borders have been reinforced. The rich are going to the moon.
The poor walk on cracked earth for thousands of kilometres to reach home, and nothingness.
In this anniversary and year-end issue combined, Outlook looks at a range of stories of hope, despair and redemption. We delve into this apocalyptic version of the new world with poetry, fiction and journalism.
And we dedicate it to those who died, the ones who were born, and everyone who survived.
(This appeared in the print edition as "Brave New World")