Bringing in the New Year on a cold December night, when the clock struck 12 midnight, with a warm fuzzy feeling of a hopeful 2020 to mark the end of a decade, we were oblivious of stepping into the year that will be remembered the world over. Travel plans, career moves, weddings, college admissions in universities here and abroad, some kids starting their school year and some looking forward to their graduation, stepping out of college into ‘real-life’ and ‘adulting’, otherwise known as work-life, all this and much, much more were in full throttle on a highway of dreams when sudden brakes called Covid-19 brought everything to an abrupt halt.
‘Novel Corona Virus’, ‘Covid-19’, ‘SARS-like virus’ were part of news articles and primetime news channels, phrases used in some countries to describe an illness faced by people we did not know. This soon snowballed into a pandemic, social distancing, quarantine, lockdown, and asymptomatic becoming phrases of everyday conversations. We found ourselves in a world where the word positive had a negative connotation and we had to stay away from people if we cared enough. It was no longer news from another country and the severity was a jolt when this invisible threat came closer to home, to people we knew.
Countries are more prepared to face a tangible enemy than when struck with a global pandemic. The world went into lockdown, a time-out of sorts to stop and introspect personally and about the world at large. Pollution levels dropped drastically, rivers were cleaner and some birds that were extinct in densely populated areas were back as seasons changed.
Conditioned to a busy routine, moving from one thing to another through the day, I had not observed hues the sun cast at different hours of the day or paid attention to the azan that is perfectly timed every day. I had taken for granted the choice of stopping a rickshaw on the streets for a short ride and the mundane announcements on aircraft before take-off. It will be a while before I can again appreciate eating from roadside stalls or not flinch when I hear someone sneeze even if they were six feet apart.
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While country leaders used this time to plan infrastructure, train front-line workers, and prepare for the worst, the rest of us contributed to our social media footprint with pictures of Dalgona coffee and banana bread. There is an opportunity in every crisis, they say. Face masks became a necessity that was being promoted by every brand, in various colors and styles; good old Haldi milk found itself as Turmeric Latte on the menus of international coffee outlets; Kadhathat we couldn’t get down our throats when we were unwell as kids were now the choice of beverage at tea stalls.
In the 1980s, streets were deserted on Sunday morning because people stayed at home to watch Mahabharath and Ramayanaired on Doordarshan. More than two decades later, Doordarshan aired Mahabharath and Ramayan because streets were deserted and people stayed at home.
The distinction between Work-From-Home and Work-For-Home disappeared and some found themselves just working all day. Employers and employees, teachers and students, Government officials, doctors, and every other professional aligned themselves to this disrupted way of working to keep the wheels moving. The dust settled soon enough and everyone found their rhythm, a routine comfortable enough to be called the ‘new normal’. I cannot get myself to associate this with a normal. It is not normal to be talking to a laptop screen for work, banter with friends on a Whatsapp video call, video consultation with a doctor, attend a “Zoom” wedding, or a farewell party.
It is not normal to not shake hands when you see a colleague at work or not hug a friend. It is not normal to stay socially distant. Numerous people the world over have lost friends and family, jobs and homes, suffering an irreparable loss. This cannot be attributed to an outcome of a normal situation. I acknowledge that this is a difficult time for now; we must ride this tide that is sweeping through the world, till we reach the shore strong and safe. Accept this for what it is but hope for better days! We grew up listening to stories of our grandparents’ experiences of the Partition and our parents’ experiences of the Emergency.
I suppose our generation now has its ‘once in a lifetime’ event to pass on stories to the Coronials (the word coined by Cambridge Dictionary babies born during the pandemic). This Pandemic will go down in pages of history the world over to be the only event that affected all countries, developed or not, and did not discriminate between the rich and poor.
About Pavithra –
Pavithra is a Corporate Legal Counsel by profession who takes every possible opportunity totravel, with friends, family or alone. She holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science and wants to be a teacher someday.
An amateur blogger, she has taken to writing about her travel experiences and anything that catches her intrigue. An avid reader, Bangalorean, foodie, and a yoga enthusiast, she tries to juggle her day between legal jargon, reading fiction, and a few asanas on the mat.