This covid normal is certainly very abnormal

The pandemic has cut across all borders and man-made barriers imperiling the whole humanity. Consequently there is a worldwide chaos beyond description in our lives.

People who are scattered all over the globe for livelihood, higher studies or for whatever reasons are trying to return back to their places of birth and descent, among their kith and kin. I guess all of us somewhere deep inside don’t want to die anonymous and uncared for, with no one around to shed a tear or two when one bids the final adieu to this material world.

Everyone is frantically yearning for Home. People are returning to their roots. The privileged arriving through convenient means while the penurious taking the arduous journey by foot; heart-wrenching images rattle our conscience.

The kinetics of the mechanical culture that developed within the diverse societies over the years has made us forget the value of small things and little experiences in life. These experiences are a source of spontaneous joy. But we tend to overlook these experiences as mere trifling.

Sadly, the sophisticated paraphernalia has only complicated our lives and cluttered our outlook. The prism of affluence through which we view our limited lives has only narrowed our vision. Simplicity is seemingly an out-modish charm.

Recently, the WHO experts predicted a status-quo. In such a situation it will be imperative that we learn the ways and means to avoid the infection, and accustom ourselves with the virus that comes alive when in contact with our warm bodies. Now on, we are all vulnerable. How powerless is man before the Creator, Covid-19 virus has underlined this fact yet again.

Already there is a paradigm shift in our lives from the daily hustle-bustle to un-eventful and monotonous inactivity. This new normal is certainly very abnormal. The energy for our efficiency has suddenly been arrested. There is a strange kind of emptiness creeping in and a lull setting in. During this lockdown in particular our existence has been reduced to mere survival. Unfortunately for many people even this bare survival is no less of a challenge. Our ailing economy is already in shambles, businesses have slumped and the market is mostly surviving on the money circulating from the salaried class and of course the savings of the people. The poor having little or no means to survive are heavily bearing the brunt of the situation.

Happy occasions ensure one’s longevity of life as we are unburdened of our pall and gloom and recharged with smiles and filled with happiness. But now we can’t meet and mingle frequently in the society with relatives or with friends, everyone hesitates.

This year the marriage gatherings are facing prohibitions. There will be no congregational prayers or sermons and recitation of night long Durood/salutations on the auspicious occasions of Laylatul Qadr, and the ensuing last Friday of Ramazan. Even the Covid necessity of demarcations into red, green and orange zones has suddenly generated a kind of psychosis. This is causing mental distress. An emerging emotional disconnect is a matter of grave concern specifically among the elderly and the children of tender age. It needs to be dealt with patience and positivity.

Distancing ourselves therefore is an anathema to the basic human instinct of community socializing, but nevertheless the only preventive measure we can take.

Thousands of Kashmiris work and live in the Gulf and the European or other countries. Many have settled in various parts of India too. They are those who went to earn their livelihood and settled in foreign lands. There are those who left behind elderly parents who live all by themselves, occasionally relatives come around or servants serve them and they eagerly wait for those distant video calls. Many a time in case of death the last rites are performed by the caring neighbors and relatives.

The schools remain out of bounds at least for the immediate period. None is going to risk the well being of these precious tender souls when the situation is so unpredictable. The children are the worst sufferers of the pandemic. Indoor activities are limited and 2G internet connectivity makes e-learning frustratingly difficult if not impossible.

Crisscrossing paths with the course of nature caused an ecological imbalance and wreaked irreparable havoc…..  Here we are cursed! We are responsible for our avarice at the global as well as the individual level. We forsook our bounden duty as Ashraf-ul-Makhluqaat (the very best of His creations). But while we distanced ourselves from the outdoors, the earth breathed a fresh lease of life. It healed! I can see many migratory birds building nests, the sparrows had almost vanished. The vast azure is refreshed, it is deeper moist blue; the rain tastes sweeter, the air smells of roses, the nose doesn’t get blocked with smoke, the roadside view is clear and there are no madly rushing vehicles making vibrations of an earthquake. In calamity the earth is calm!

The Covid crisis has taught us that it is not outlandish to talk about home. Home is an identity where every individual despite different leanings merges into an entity called ‘US’; in ‘us’ there is no ‘them’. It is the family that evokes a sense of pride, a sense of belonging a sense of bonding and a sense of responsibility. Having a big dastarkhan set out for the whole family is fulfilling.

Children fill our lives with joys unlimited. They are unique gifts of Almighty that give us a sense of purpose in life. How much quality time do we spend with them? We all know the answer, after school they are sent straight to tuitions. In their free time our children are whole time occupied in gadgets, they don’t even play. This time around may be the parents could involve themselves pro-actively in the lives of their children and build that emotional connect which has unfortunately gone missing. Our children have become aggressive because of neglect. Reprimanding them means hurting their pride, they became independent the day we put the toddlers in the crèche where nannies wiped of their tears.

Families could well reconcile their differences, build their understanding of each other. Complaints of domestic violence have increased during this pandemic; more than legal action such couples need counseling. May be the lockdown will increase our tolerance levels too. The elderly need to be taken care of and the young need to be protected.

We do see injustice around; there is money for the destructive weaponry but none to feed the hungry mouths. Even in this crisis they are hounding the miserable and the poor.

One thing is very heartening amidst all this; there is a great show of community spirit. It hasn’t deterred our daredevils, the forefront workers, the nurses, the doctors and those manning the administration who are assisting in fighting the deadly disease reaching out to the needy, cleaning the surroundings maintaining the hygiene, attending the patients, treating them successfully, gearing up the faltering system providing logistics and support. We owe them our gratitude.

A friend of mine held up in Delhi texted me, I replied back, ‘in Nimaz’.  Sometime later she again messaged what’s up. I replied back, ‘in Nimaz’. Later on I called her. She asked Nimaz for such a long duration; I replied, ‘Dear my account for the hereafter is zero balance, so was trying to increase it’. In a lighter vein lawyers are supposedly professional liars. This one she believed me. I am amused!

There is a surge in social media activity. Unless it prompts you to think, engage in worthwhile conversations and exchange of opinion, it is futile to channel our energies there. One can connect to share views, and build consciousness.

So, while there is no fretting and fuming in the morning, I am missing my morning newspaper and tchoch vor , local bun sprinkled with sesame seeds, with dollops of butter.  Whatever de-stressing activity we undertake, I believe laughter is the best medicine. Laugh away the virus.

Death is not a distraction. We must face it at the chosen hour. May it dawn on us to live our life with love! Do away with the  superficialities of our lives.

Perfectionism may be an art of the possible, but why seek perfection at the professional or personal level, seek the art itself. The way will open up to fulfillment even in leisure. Discover something called nothing, the Shuniya-the void is not empty at all, it’s full of YOU. The goal must be self realization through introspection. Minimize the patent ‘Myself’ in the mirror find the latent ‘Self’. Wisdom lies in cultivating mental strength and our resilience lies in the resurgence of our forgotten values.

Shefan Jahan Gazi is a Practicing Advocate