The assumption is that soon it will be all over. Once it is, what we shall have learned as a civilisation is important
It is like waking up every day into a dream: in a place where life imitates fiction. Things are happening just as one thought they should. The endless noise, a hallmark of urban life, is replaced with an eerie silence. The overburdened cities are suddenly empty. The sky is blue, the air cleaner. Flowers bloom as if nothing matters. The sun shines to its heart’s content and the rain comes leisurely.
Within homes, families are reunited after long. Cats roam on the streets or jump up and down the outer walls more freely. Dogs appear on the roads much earlier than the stipulated hours. They strut about in packs, and look menacing at the odd humans pretending to walk normally on roads they so took for granted.
There’s an ocean of time available for humanity that craved for it. It just does not know what to do with this ‘time’ - because something’s not right. Things are also happening just as one thought they shouldn’t. As if there’s a conspiracy against the human race. Forcing a global lockdown on people, work and life. Humans are getting sick and dying. Each a threat to the other, unless confined within four walls. But then who knows how safe the four walls are.
The late night calls for prayers made from rooftops are not actually calls for prayers; they are pleas to God — to ward off the evil illness. The newspapers lie outside, on the floor, waiting to be read. The air is not entirely clean. It carries within it droplets of suspicion and suffering, the wind dispersing sadness as it blows. The sadness is not only about the sick and the dying, in homes and hospitals; it is also about those without a home or those who lost their livelihoods. There’s no fridge to store their hunger (those posting pictures of their experimental cooking on social media, because the house help is relieved, secretly know it).
The media is able to cover some stories of those who once came to the city looking for a better life and good food but are returning to the village in a quest for mere life and food assurance. It’s like civilisation in reverse gear. Suddenly borders matter — between villages, towns, cities and countries. The media so far reports itself safe, as does social media. It works in different ways, advertently and not. There’s only one story to be covered, for days, weeks and months on end. Media it is that is breaking the borders for people. It is reporting the status of the pandemic, positive testing, deaths, but also cures. Social media is more about secret miracle cures because no one is ready yet for this promised, collective, sudden death.
There’s an opportunity this solitude offers. To reflect on how humanity tampered with nature, how vulnerability cuts across classes, how valuable humans are to one another, how precious is human touch, what is the worth of hygiene; and, finally, can love be our new normal.
Amid lingering fears, individuals and societies are learning their lessons, from countries that are through with the disease, by developing coping mechanisms, for both disease and loneliness. Some look for solutions in fiction, others in poetry; some in philosophy, others in psychology; some in food, others in charity. The assumption is that soon it will be all over, and life will get back to normal. Will it ever? Or will we move to a new normal?
Once it’s over, what we shall have learned as a civilisation is important. That’s an opportunity this solitude offers. To reflect on how humanity tampered with nature, how vulnerability cuts across classes, how valuable humans are to one another, how precious is human touch, what is the worth of hygiene; and, finally, can love be our new normal.