“When did the future switch from being a promise to a threat?”
– Chuck Palahniuk
It goes without saying that the Corona virus pandemic has been a global catastrophe – destroying lives and livelihoods, alike. Confronted with the vulnerability of human life and the uncertainty of human existence, humanity stood in collective abject horror. Phrases like social-distancing, lockdowns, self-quarantine, herd immunity, containment, fatality-rate, and the likes became everyday terms, as we made peace with the new normal.
And yet, as it is with the darkest of clouds, this pandemic had its own silver lining. Numerous stories of heart warming kindness and humanity came to surface, as everyone struggled to safeguard themselves, and their loved ones.
The pandemic has shown us that life is truly unpredictable. Not even the mightiest of nations have any control over its path. The coronavirus refused to respect even international boundaries. Thus, showing us how even the tiniest of virus can bring the economic progress of the world to a complete stand-still. This should remind us of the insignificance of human ego, wars, and power tussles.
Despite all the scientific knowledge and progress that man has made, nature can flip our best laid plans on their heads. Humans have been trying to subjugate nature using the rapidly progressing technology. But nature cannot be won over, rather humans need to learn to co-exist with nature.
In fact, for many, the new normal has helped them reconnect with nature, thanks to the increased indoor time. From picking up gardening to building individual organic gardens in the backyard, we are finding ways to be one with nature.
The necessities of life are very few. During the endless lockdowns, we learnt that we can easily live with just the essentials. Being forced to cut down clutter has simplified our lives, like never before. Sustainability is becoming the new way of life.
Nothing in life is indispensable. Lockdowns and social-distancing forced people to unlearn old habits. Even the most prolific shoppers learnt to live without their favourite brands and stay indoors. Closed bars and restaurants forced people to eat healthier, home made meals, and abstain from indulging in drinks and parties.
Nobody wants to die. Even the most fearless of folks have an in-built survival instinct. Resilience became the most sought-after life skill. Relatives couldn’t attend the funerals of their near and dear ones. Lockdowns became successful, without much effort, as it was a question of life or death.
After long periods of lockdown, people began to realise the value of freedom. During periods of respite, most of us rushed outdoors. As the song goes –
“You need only light when its burning low,
You only need the sun when it starts to snow..”
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”
— Charles Darwin
This pandemic has brought to surface the undeniable importance of adaptability. Work-from -home (WFH) and digital meetings became the new norm. Digital financial transactions and e-commerce came into prominence. Even tiny-tots and students learned to attend classes online. Families and friends met on Zoom calls. Even the elders in our families learnt to use the most sophisticated of digital platforms.
As lockdowns and social distancing continue, internet connectivity has become a basic necessity. It now falls in the same category as electricity, or the water supply. This simple fact points to the increasing dependence on technology for our most basic needs. From the work we do to even the food we order.
Before the pandemic, people were caught-up in the rat-race. Most could not find enough time for their families, friends, or even personal hobbies. But, thanks to Covid, we were forced to take a pause. Family-members discovered new found intimacy. Living-rooms started being used for actual living, and not just to impress guests. People experienced what it is “to be” instead of what it is “to do” all the time. Many people discovered new hobbies, skills and interests and some even changed professions.
The pandemic brought to the fore that one individual cannot survive without the co-operation of others. We need to co-operate at many different scales-local, regional, national and global. It has shown us with crystal clarity that all of humanity is in the same boat. It has shown us the folly of pretending that we can achieve security in isolation – the virus can be defeated somewhere only when it has been defeated everywhere.
The pandemic has forced us to appreciate the true value of many people, whose roles in society tend to be undervalued: the nurses, the doctors, the people sitting at the checkout counters in supermarkets, the delivery personnel, the police personnel, the ambulance drivers, the many nameless Samaritans who suddenly offer help to the old and vulnerable. The pandemic has revealed a vast sea of kindness and benevolence in our communities and around the world. It has led to countless acts of selfless heroism in hospitals and care homes. It has impelled many of us to use our greatest strengths to serve our fellow human-beings, suddenly giving our lives new, inspiring meaning.
We have learnt, the hard way, that to tackle the pandemic, we need to have an early response system, effective command and a strong leadership. Disaster management response has to be swift, focused and well-coordinated. Pandemic control measures need to be taken effectively, by medical professionals with public co-operation. Health disparities need to be bridged, systemic lacunae need to be fixed and individuals need to take responsibility – not to harm or kill another individual by their reckless action and misbehaviour.
In these pandemic-battered times, all we wish for, is for things to return to normal. We are tired of gearing up to open the door when the doorbell rings, pray that no one else enters when we are in a lift, sanitize our hands when we open a door and wear a mask even when we are in a car all by ourselves because a court has deemed it to be a public space.
But, if and when the pandemic peters out and we return to the old normal, it is important to remember the lessons we have learnt and not lapse to our old patterns, again.