By SUNITA VIJAY
Any announcement on national channels by Prime Minster Modi makes one miss a beat, especially when he says, ‘aaj raat barah bajeh se…’. But this time his tone was different, it had compassion and conspicuous fear. A worried head of the state earnestly requested the citizens to stay indoors for next 21 days, not once but thrice, because of the deadly virus spreading its tentacles in India, gripping the nation with solicitude. The ensuing panic to procure essential goods was expected. It was a worrisome sight to see people standing in queue, till late at night, close to each other, breaking all social distancing barriers/norms, exposing themselves to risk. What if they catch the virus in this chaotic rush, go back home and infect other members? But nobody seemed to be bothered!
Yesterday was Ugadi, festively observed as the first day of the New Year as per the Hindu calendar month in the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, while the North Indians celebrate the first day of Navratri. This year, the gusto was missing. Nevertheless, the devotion remained profound but the enthusiasm stood denuded. Gods were propitiated, solely not for selfish gains but for a different reason. People stood united, prayed against a common enemy that has brought the world to a stop. How each heart longs to be back in the good old days, the days we cursed, when the filth around us would fluster us, the sight of thousands of human-heads on roads would make us wish for solitude, a swarm of busy faces running to their work place in desperation would make us ask for some relaxed moments, the visible reluctance in the little feet while walking towards their school would generate pity, traffic jams met with expletives.
But today the forced lockdown has brought the routine to a stop. Everybody is in self- captivation mode. The absence of humans has disturbed the stray animals too. The birds are not as chirpy as they used to be. The sudden stillness has affected us all. Or maybe the feeling of anxiety has set in. There is silence. It’s the same kind of silence that I experienced as a kid on Sundays when vehicles were less, there were no ACs, coolers or generators to create noise. The weekends remained family time in pure form. The same magnitude of quietude I witnessed today but it lacked the calmness. It is disquieting! The learned say, if you can’t go outside, go inside. Yes! This is the right time to explore oneself but years of restlessness have settled in the subconscious which are acting as a hurdle to let one go in and explore the vastness inside. Plus the absence of hullabaloo has made the heart grow fonder for the busy routine that we once had. The hush is there but this silence is creating cantankerous noise within. How must one calm it!
I vaguely recall the core essence of ‘Silent Spring’, a book by Rachel Carson, that carefully explained what the balance of nature is. She describes the balance of nature of the soil, of the earth’s waters, and of the organisms of the earth. We have to accept that this balance is disturbed. What we face today had been anticipated at some point in time but we ignored that call. We are not used to this kind of deafening silence. We have untrained ourselves to be in chaotic state. We love noise. We love sound beyond the tolerable decibels of our hearing power. We like loud music at home, in pubs, in gatherings, in multiplexes. Even while walking or exercising we need to feed our ears. We do not want silence. We hate to listen to our own heart’s beat, our inner voice, our consciousness. How unhealthy! We have been intentionally turning a blind eye towards reality, nature and our sense of belonging. It’s the karma theory playing its game now. Our actions have retaliated with vengeance.
I hope this phase passes soon and Nature’s fury alleviates. As an optimist, we have to believe, everything will be normal but it will be a new normal. We will have to amend our lifestyles, our travelling bones, our gastronomic urges, our dining-out adventures and most importantly our hygiene standards.
This phase will be remembered. I wish it refines us. It has given us enough time to polish our personality. We are safe. We are helping the nation. We are alone yet connected to the world. It’s a time for realisation when we may start nurturing good relationships, nourish friendship, make associations more conducive even across borders and make cleanliness our top priority; cleanliness in thoughts, action and behaviour.
May this time bring us closer to nature. May we realise our mistakes. May all countries scratch their heads and works towards redress. May we all start working towards healing the Earth. It’s never too late to mend. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but the labyrinth cognitive faculty of the Homo sapien who has turned selfish can reform and revamp its old habits, anytime, for its survival and betterment.