Living in a vulnerable world

We are facing a peculiar situation nowadays in the shape of coronavirus across the globe.

I remember in 2012 when I was talking to my father about my Ammis intention to go for pilgrimage; I asked my father that Ammi wants to go for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. He was excited as we Kashmiris have one common dream and that is to go for pilgrimage once in a lifetime. We aspire to touch that stone and visit to the city of Prophet.

My Ammi happily performed Hajj that year and when she reminisces about her past where she had this staunch faith that in no way Hajj will be ever suspended and people would be disallowed to perform Umrah or Hajj.  This year is quite opposite to what we were imagining that the holy city will never be silent and empty. We never knew that one small tiny virus will make us so vulnerable that it will emotionally and mentally torture us.

When I think of these events that are taking place in front of my eyes, I feel vulnerable and believe that the common connection between people is vulnerability. Out of my curiosity, I have asked my friends and did some research on the vulnerability and I have received almost good responses from people who narrated their anecdotes of being vulnerable.

Some shared their experience of being laid off, some shared of losing business and medium of livelihood. Some shared the events of losing a good year of education. Some had taken loans or borrowed money from friends and parents, or even from the bank and wouldn’t be able to pay back due to unemployment. Some people share of being sick and unable to buy medicine. Some were newly married and the next day they were laid off.

What do we do in this situation which is quite torturous and numbing our mind and thinking process? We have reached a situation where we are no longer able to think positively. We are vulnerable to any situation. We are most obese, trapped in the debt, addicted and medicated, etc. we are filled with shame, vulnerability, grief, sadness, sullenness.

Nobody wants to feel these events in life – everybody wants to be happy and live a decent life with family. 

When I started thinking of these questions that life posed to me – or us, I started thinking on vulnerability. I have come across a very exciting book on vulnerability written by Brene Brown, in her recent online podcast she mentions that “this pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scared when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other.”

We should all speak up about our vulnerability and discuss how bad we feel when someone hurts us. We should talk to our coaches in Kashmir, I am not sure whether we have any coaches in Kashmir who take responsibility for building self-esteem among the students and counsel them throughout their career.

I have one thing in mind that is worth to mention; to help vulnerable kids in Kashmir through a mentorship program. The NGOs and other social community organizations have this responsibility to build confidence in students and coach them in these testing times.

Who will do this job in Kashmir? I am positive that someone will come up with suggestions and form a group of people and boost self-esteem through education, coaching, and talking.

We do no talk to children in Kashmir – we are shy to share our vulnerabilities with them and boost their confidence. Sharing stories with them gives them confidence that they are not alone facing such situations. They should teach many life lessons and engaged in real life examples so that they will excel in their career.

I have encountered an example of private school administration demanding fees amid the pandemic situations in Kashmir. The schools and parents should invest on children’s mental health and keep them safe and away from any mental depression. Second, how do parents pay fees when they have not earned anything.

Does that mean a kid has to drop out from school? How school administration misuses the vulnerability of parents and children who have not attended school for almost a year now.

We are vulnerable but vulnerability is not a weakness, it is more situational and no one should manipulate the situation and take undo advantage of others.

San’na Firdous is a Research Fellow