by Swatee Jog
My parents narrated tales of wartime when as kids, they ran about house yelling about enemy planes coming. That was decades ago, but they still remember the sirens going out for a blackout when everyone shut off the lights and had even covered the windows with black paper. We’re going to be just about a similar generation, narrating tales to our kids about the COVID outbreak and the lockdown. After two weeks at home, I’m seeing people being settled down in this zone, albeit with much discomfort.
Thankfully, people have understood and accepted that staying at home is the only way we can save ourselves. But it has created a new normal. No one is in a hurry to either sleep or wake up early; the kids have begun helping moms with mopping and cleaning. The husbands are doing their bit of housework because, well, there’s nothing else at hand to do. The harried women are complaining about the work, but trust me, they couldn’t have been happier about the family having wholesome homemade meals together. Although the police are quite strict about not venturing out, they have been considerate to allow that one person access to essentials.
I was alarmed when a friend said today, that although he knows the impending financial crunch and the host of problems he is and will have to face once we emerge, he’s feeling comfortable with this life. Some neighbors are already talking about efforts in keeping their sanity. I see people pacing up and down on their terrace with blank faces. God only knows what’s going on in their minds.
In the first few days, people felt overwhelmed. The main reason was a loss of control over life and the loss of freedom, which we are so used to. Once we realized that we don’t have an option and its imperative, we kind of accepted the new normal. But the new normal will surface in all its shades after the lockdown. Already, parents are saying they’re hesitant to send kids to schools till September. UG and PG exams are scheduled to post May 31. The SSLC students are the hardest hit, just like the PUC II ones. When is the new academic year beginning, we don’t know? People have had to use up their savings and maybe, many have had to borrow. With money being the hardest to be hit, spending is slated to be very thoughtful. An array of businesses dependent on spending is badly hit. Salaries slashed, expenses staring in the eye, the only hope is that indomitable spirit of our people.
Yes, we will have to embrace the new normal where we will value the freedom we had taken for granted. We will value the neighbors, the doctors, the healthcare staff, the grocery shops and the vegetable vendors who carted their ware just so that you don’t have to venture out. We will also value our own frugal lives when we overcame that urge to spend and saved. Each one of that rupee has helped us tide over these times.
There will be job cuts, there will be a loss of livelihood, but then a new normal also will give way to new opportunities for those who are ready and skilled. Like the story of the farmer, who is a drought-hit region, kept tilling his land year after year when others sat idle so that when it rained, he was ready to sow. Keeping morale high is very essential.
It will be very easy to slip into a comfort zone for the rest of the days or blame the times for the hardships. But the wise ones will not while away the time. They will skill themselves, they will sit down and plan for a new tomorrow. They will keep a tab of changing world order and see how they fit into the new picture. Nothing is as difficult as it appears once we take that first step. The lockdown itself appeared so overwhelming, but see, we’re already halfway through. Yes, we will have strange academic years, yes we will have to rework delivery schedules, yes we will have to prioritize our savings and spending. But more than that, we will have to promise ourselves that just like we stood solidly behind our nation in handling the menace, we will have to actively work hard and contribute further in rebuilding our nation.
A month of not doing anything should not mean a dip in energy or productivity. How we tide over these times is important, but more important is how we emerge out of this. Not wasting a single minute idle, creating wealth for the nation, helping each other, taking care of our family, our health and our finances will be the new normal.