“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.” —Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
The biggest COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in India has been extended till May 17, 2020. As of May 13, 2020, India has reported 74,281 confirmed cases and 2,415 deaths from this pandemic COVID-19 since its first case on January 30, 2020. India was swift to close its international borders and enforce a prompt lockdown throughout the nation, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) praised as “tough and opportune”. The lockdown has also provided the government of India time to be prepared for a possible surge in cases when the Pandemic is forecasted to rise in the coming weeks.
Do you ever think about what will our lives be when the whole nation with other countries as well, will lift the lockdown entirely? Will, the life we were living before COVID-19, be returning back? Well, with the extension of this lockdown till May 17, 2020, although with some essential relaxations by the government, we have time to find about it. We have had lockdown for the last 48 days. The much-anticipated guidelines regarding the partial lifting of restricted economic activities have been declared by the government were pragmatic. It is good that the government has opened the doors towards working on an exit route and has included the essential activity, agriculture to operate freely. Electricians, plumbers and water purifiers maintenance technicians in the capital have been permitted to move and function usually in Delhi except in the specified containment zones. Like the Delhi government, the other state governments had also partially lifted some restrictions.
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By all these restrictions being lifted, it does not mean that life goes back to normal – the education institutions, companies, etc. have to make preparatory arrangements to maintain social distancing so that no one gets infected again. However, till now as we don’t have a factual data to tell us that when this pandemic will be going to end, but, it is quite sure that social distancing would be practiced and masks, gloves, sanitisers will be part of our life for many months. Even if all the limitations are lifted by the government, we still have to remember that the COVID-19 is still among us. The photographs coming from China manifesting huge crowds at tourist places, as soon as the country lifted its lockdown, are any sign that this scenario is not going to happen any differently in India as well. There are news reports of the second waves of COVID- 19 in China and various lockdown measures have been taken into consideration in many regions. As Wuhan again reported a new case of Coronavirus, which is first in the epicentre of China’s outbreak since April 3, 2020, was previously asymptomatic according to the Health Commission. So, unless we all are not going to follow the principle of social distancing and other norms, we are going to see a surge in the cases of COVID-19 in India.
When all the mortal beings went into a lockdown across the planet, mother earth quietly went about healing herself. On the 50th anniversary of the World Earth Day (April 22, 2020), the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom stated, “Covid-19 is reminding us of a simple but vital truth: we are one species, sharing one planet.”
While we all are locked inside our homes, the air and sky become clearer; the smog got off the cities, with fewer vehicles to emit toxic gases. For instance, according to the AQICN.org website, on April 23, 2020, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Bangalore City Railway station was in the green zone, 47 (good) in the index. But with the partial lifting of restrictions and rising traffic, it took only two days to raise the spike from green zone to yellow zone, 60 (moderate) on April 25, 2020. Reuters, an international news organisation posted ‘before’; and ‘after’ photographs of the major cities of the world – from the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy to high rise buildings in Jakarta to the India Gate war memorial in New Delhi to manifest that how the lockdown has reduced the air pollution drastically throughout the globe.
Though the lockdown may have made all of us insular, it has also brought the world closer. We are getting used to our new life in the lockdown very swiftly. People went into digital transformation. Moreover, we adapted to ‘Work from Home’, parents took the initiative to home school their children and used video – conferencing for work and family calls. Online streaming platforms became our saviours when it came to fun and entertainment – providing us with a wide variety of choices. We went from seminars to webinars, classrooms to online learning, virtual parties to conference calls, the lockdown have made us retreat into a bubble, which is nothing more but a “digitised bubble”.
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More and more sectors and companies are realizing that work from home, well, works! The IT sector in India has been the flag bearer in this. Tata Consultancy Services MD and CEO, Rajesh Gopinathan, has already announced that he is planning to keep at least 75 per cent of his employees on remote working. He also stated that “This is our new operating model and represents the future of work and it assists our employees in enjoying a better quality of life”.
In addition, we also started to live an uncomplicated life and started concentrating on what matters! In India, with many houses who had maids to run their homes, people have learned to keep their homes clean and cook healthy meals for their family by themselves. With any visits to any store or supermarket, we learned to manage with only the essential products available in local grocery shops to fulfil our basic needs.
Lockdown Revealed That Less Is More
On Earth Day, in an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The late show”, award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore stated, “Nature has given us this warning, it’s putting us right now in our time-out room, and we should be utilising this time to think that when we come out of this, how we are going to treat the planet earth”.
When we talk about the post-COVID-19 world, ‘social distancing’; might become the standard. For instance, Apple and Samsung are planning to bring out phones which would work as a virtual debit card. Furthermore, The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wrote the payment networks such as MasterCard, Visa, and the National Payment Corporation of India to all authorise tap- and-go functionality on card payments at shops. Even in our day to day life, people are preferring to go with locally manufactured products rather than wasting their time and money on unnecessarily expensive labels. Nevertheless, this quarantine made us realise that “Once you need less, you will have more”.
Never has it become more imperative to do this, to give time for humanity and the earth to heal. The global, novel virus that has been keeping us restrained in our homes and maybe for several upcoming weeks. It had already started reorienting our relationship to the government, to the outside world, and also to each other too. According to some experts, some unfamiliar and unsettling changes are expected to see, such as: Will countries remain close? Will touching become a taboo? What will become of restaurants?
Due to Coronavirus, there are crises all across the globe but, these crises moments also present an opportunity to all of us: more flexible and wise use of technology, less polarisation, a revived appreciation of simple pleasures of life. No one knows what is going to come and what is going to happen, but we have to best stab to the mysterious ways that society- government, economy, lifestyles and more-will change. While a few people may make lifestyle changes, I believe that soon enough, we will mostly be sucked back into the same tempting lifestyle as before. It will be curious to see whether the “new normal” is just a bump along the way or a path-changing reality. The Coronavirus has given all of us a gift, and it is up to us whether to unwrap it or not.