Random Thoughts on Life in the Time of Corona Virus
By Saroj Thapa

Pandemic, lockdown, quarantine, social distancing – these have become everyday vocabulary; a global crisis of this magnitude is a first for everyone. Economic implications of all these are scary and will have far-reaching implications. The number of people infected and who have succumbed go up every day giving rise to fear and uncertainty.

All of us are glued to our screens and following reports and statistics from every part of the world, and it is chilling to say the least. Travel is banned at the moment; livelihoods of many people are at serious risk. For the elderly and other vulnerable sections of the society, their very lives might be in danger. However, amidst all this bleakness I see a glimmer of hope – that all is not lost. The basic goodness in humanity comes forth every time there is crisis; and if there is this global pandemic on one hand, there are also acts of caring and compassion all around that is so uplifting. Compassion is the key to our success in trying to come out of this crisis.

Technology has been the greatest enabler allowing us to stay connected, and support each other. Messages from friends and family enquiring about your wellbeing, sharing prayers and good wishes help to keep the spirits high. The sharing of information online has been a boon and helped us to stay connected even in the times of a lockdown. Furthermore, being able to work from home has enabled us to stay focused and productive, and collaborative work has never been easier with multiple platforms for video conferencing and meetings. We have online news, entertainment and online shopping for essentials, and had it not been there I wonder how different the situation in a lockdown would have been!
We have been talking about virtual classrooms since the time when internet revolutionized our thinking and made it a possibility. But so far it was an option and today it has become a necessity. Teachers have been making an effort everywhere to keep the students at home gainfully employed trying to keep the momentum of learning going even though the schools are shut. In many countries the teachers are still going to school to ensure that the students get their lessons at home. They are rising to the occasion to ensure that they are meeting the students’ needs – academically as well as emotionally.
Just as the schools closed down, the online learning platforms immediately made their content available to students for all grade levels. Khan Academy came up with a daily schedule for students of all ages. Whether it be Amazon Audible or Scholastics, many online platforms made their reading programs available to the users. Internet proliferated with ideas of keeping children gainfully engaged at home including physical activities. And everyone diligently shared it with others, who they thought might find the resources useful.

There is also a lot of online humour. It is good to be able to laugh your stress away and there is unparalleled creativity in the memes that make you smile, and motivational forwards which give you hope and encouragement. It is as though we all understand that we are in it together and we need to support each other in order for all of us to be able to get through it. There is group singing, dancing and physical workouts in own balconies, maintaining social distancing and isolation, yet generating tremendous sense of community. And there is free online streaming of performances and concerts, and renowned museums are providing virtual tours accessible to anyone anywhere with good internet connectivity.

On the one hand we hear of rising number of deaths due to Covid-19 which is scary and depressing, and at the same time you hear of doctors in Italy, who when tested positive, refused to go off duty because of shortage of doctors, and instead volunteered to continue working in the wards of confirmed Covid-19 patients. There are so many private citizens who are taking on the effort to provide food to the many daily wage earners who have no jobs and no money to buy food or to the elderly who cannot go out to shop for food themselves. There are health care workers and essential service providers who are working tirelessly and fearlessly to ensure that the rest of us are safe and well cared for, and we show our appreciation by mass clapping and cheering, expressing solidarity with them.

There are so many positive instances that go to show that when it comes to the crunch there is kindness and basic goodness in humanity that come to the fore. Acts of compassion become more commonplace and we stand out as a caring and humane society. We have the time now, since we are all grounded, to think of what is essential in life. Lockdown has forced us to pause and reflect and hopefully learn a valuable lesson. Spending quality family time, connecting with friends and family enquiring after each other’s wellbeing show us what we have been missing out on. Protecting and assisting the most helpless among us and acting in line with the greater good make us feel that while we feel vulnerable ourselves we are not powerless. Clearer waters in Venice and clear skies in Delhi indicate solutions to the problems that we have created for ourselves. Life after Covid-19 will go back to normal, but I hope that this new normal will be with an awareness of the lessons learned during these difficult times