2020 was like living inside a tunnel, with just a few moments thrown in when we rushed out gasping for breath. What we dreamt of was walking recklessly under the sun, hugging a loved one, going to a concert, watching a match…things most of us took for granted earlier, but found impossible to do this year.

However, whilst inside our war tunnel, we discovered a new best friend: the screen, from the big to the small to the smallest. From the veritable idiot box which now became the biggest source of information (in most homes, news played on a loop and was on full volume when the superhero Dr Guleria came on), to the laptop, where you visited YouTube with a vengeance for some new songs, and, of course, the phone, to which we remained glued for ‘fun’. It was above all the year that saw the birth of the storyteller, the mind-engager, the laugh-jerker and the heart-tugger.

So, here is a list of the top 20 stories that kept us engaged this year—and the +1 superhero that promised hope in a year many are calling ‘202O won’!

1.      Yashraj Mukhate: Let’s start with the best: Yashraj, the young music composer who had everyone in splits. The most la-di-dah lot was caught asking either ‘rasode mein kaun tha?’ or ‘saada kutta, kutta?’ because of him, as he picked up moments from outrageous TV soaps and the ultimate reality show Bigg Boss to create songs that were totally entertaining.

2.      Ruhee Dosani: In the same league was the bhangra-turned-modern dancer Ruhee, who calls herself “Punjab di kudi, now in foreign (not Canada)”. Her affable smile was what lit up your screen when she danced to filmy songs or even the jingle of Baadshah Masala, her bevy of friends adding to her charm. Soon enough, she was titled the Ranveer Singh of dance—and rightfully so.

3.      Mom Wears Prada: Yes, we grown-ups were locked up, but having toddlers and little kids in that bind was an added challenge. And hence emerged a whole new genre of mommy bloggers, with Harpreet Suri in the lead. Tired and weary young moms were hooked on to how the lady behind momwearsprada was able to not just keep the kids happy, but also look shipshape in her PJs.

4.      ITRH: This account sure had heritage addicts glued. As couturiers with their expensive wares took a backseat, even the ubiquitous Lampi gota, found abundantly on the streets of Hyderabad, became an endearing story on Instagram.

5.      The fashion mavens: However, it would be wrong to say that couturiers did not catch the eye at all. The younger ones sure did. Karan Torani for one kept everyone enchanted with his rooted videos, his ethereal photo shoots and his little trinket tales of heritage and history. And so did Suket Dhir, who told women a million ways to wear a men’s jacket stylishly. The richer the textile got, the more masculine became the silhouette, and the total impact was fabulous.

6.      Kamakshi Khanna: Her single for Saavn, Qareeb, hit a million, got listed at No. 2 by Rolling Stone, got her on the cover of Indie Rising and made her a young musician who is here to stay.  However, to me, the most remarkable is the stop motion video that she conjured up with young artist Arsh Grewal, which had humans made from felt cloth make up and break up through a series of romances till self love was discovered.

7.      Swineryy: One has no idea who this amazing voice belongs to—sometimes a mullah, at other times, a cute piggy—but it always had us crack up on the predictable moments from a life lived in undivided Punjab.

8.      Divani: On the subject of undivided Punjab, the brand that coexists on both sides of the border celebrated Hindostan most beautifully, be it with visuals of jalebis and sandesh or vintage frames of the train departing from Delhi to go to Pakistan.

9.      The twin climbers: Yes, Virat Kohli might have kept the world busy with his bat, but for online addicts, the histrionics of the twin climbers, Nungshi and Tashi Malik, kept them enthralled.  While the world sat on the couch, these girls from Doon were scaling mountains, wading through rivers, dancing with Vidya Balan and talking bravely to Plan India’s girl activists.

10.  The Maharani who won hearts: From Baroda, with love, the stunning Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad showed that life had simple goals even when lived in the world’s largest residence. Her peep into the rich heritage, her support to weavers, her own love for textiles and her unflinching work at the vocational centre Chimnabai Udyogalaya showed the role royal patrons can play in a democratic India.

11.  Nonita Kalra: From editing Harper’s to becoming the quiet voice for all things beautiful, rooted and design-driven, Nonita Kalra gave a voice to luxury and couture, chatting with legends of the business and keeping their credibility alive even in the reigning gloom.

12.   Dudewithsign: He was all over New York, mocking ‘Covidiots’, asking people to mask up and constantly reminding you to live life idiot-free.

13.  Tanmay Bhat: And the proverbial hair cut. At a time when all other stand-up guys were asked to sit down, here he was with a clip of a haircut, mocking all those men who were giving their wives’ tresses a run for their money.

14.  Rahul Mishra: Yes, there were online fashion weeks that were nothing but a series of yawns and utterly irrelevant, until Rahul Mishra presented his show in Paris. A face, a life and pulsating energy.

15.  Dalgona coffee: Something even our grandmoms made when all you got were instant brews, the Dalgona took every other coffee’s hot sip away. It was, if I may say, the Beatles of coffee making.

16.  Rashmeet Kaur: From singing shabads to jamming with Major Lazer where she asked for Jadi Buti in the midst of a ‘Narco andolan’, Rashmeet, with her voice, her persona and her medley of songs, stormed through our screens.

17.  Faye D’Souza: She was the news source for the youth, the sensible voice of dissent, the truth speaker and the logical reporter. If Faye said something, every urban youth listened.

18.  Vishnu Kaushal:  His personification of Canadian Punjabis had us all in splits, especially how at the least provocation, their pind Punjabi came to the fore. Surely, a laugh riot.

19.  Kusha Kapila and Dolly Singh also kept the genre of ethnic jokes alive. Their spoofs, memes and puns on moms had mothers rankled and kids in splits.

20.  Komal Pandey: There were makeover videos galore, but Komal Pandey, whether in her chaddis or in a Shantanu-Nikhil creation, had the fashion seekers enthralled.

And the hero of all heroes, is the hope from Pune, Serum Institute of India, who has the key to unlock us from this prison. The vaccine man, Adar C. Poonawalla—when he spoke, we listened, and now we await his vaccine and a free tomorrow.