The COVID-19 crisis has brought home certain fundamental truths to almost the entire world (excepting those, of course, that manufacture the narrative according to ideological diktats, such as China). The first realisation is that, in the final analysis, everybody on this planet is in it together. Wealth, status, power, influence – all those factors that people feel proud about in what were ‘normal’ circumstances – are of no use in the face of an enemy like this pandemic. As a result, the dependence on each other has been understood, as has the importance of properly functioning public facilities. All the everyday things that were taken for granted – the freedom to move freely, to socialise with others, use public transport, go to school, college and the office, and so much else – are now out of reach as everybody struggles to just get through the day. All the importance one gave to oneself has been placed in its proper perspective when compared with the heroic role assumed overnight by health workers and the others who risk their lives every day to keep the system running smoothly.
The luxuries and many of the pleasures of life have become inaccessible, such as travel, tourism, watching movies in the theatre, visiting food courts, etc. Instead, home life and being with oneself have acquired ‘disproportionate’ importance. While relationships in some cases have become stressed, mostly they have transformed into deeper bonds and understanding. The humdrum and the mundane have become subjects of nostalgia – ‘oh those boring classes, that tedious time spent commuting, the aimless chatter with friends’, all are fondly remembered. Even more, the critical role played by domestic help in keeping the home functioning has been experienced in a very personal, even back-breaking, way.
And also has come the realisation of how such pandemics have been faced in the past, with near total surrender to the circumstances and just blind attempts by communities within their limited knowledge to fend them off. Today, all the world’s resources and the most advanced technology is being utilised to protect humanity. Every little advancement in knowledge is being dispersed around the world without delay so that counter measures can be tweaked accordingly. While there has been ‘social distancing’, modern technology has kept families and friends connected in various ways. Society has been quick to transition to ‘work from home’ in a surprisingly smooth way, while so much of government and corporate functioning is being done over tele-conferencing. (In a recent report, the use of loudspeakers to teach village children is only one of the many innovations that society has adopted.) It is a certainty that, when humanity emerges from this crisis, its world view will have changed – though it is also a probability it may return to many of its old heartless ways soon after. It is to be hoped, however, that some of the lessons will be retained so that it will be better prepared for the next calamity.