Dr. Shashi Motilal
Department of Philosophy
University of Delhi
'Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining’ the "silver lining" being the Pandemic Vision 2020 that is relevant, not so much chronologically (the pandemic happening in 2020!), as conceptually - the reference being to the very clear and unequivocal lessons the pandemic has taught us.
So, here are some of the big learnings that I have gathered from this experience:
Less is more - A realization that dawned on us from the experiences of the lockdown is that ‘less is more’. Forced to restrain from frequent trips to the market and ‘binge buying’ made us review and mindful of our essential needs and adopt the ‘three ‘Rs’ - reduce, reuse and replace! We are now learning to live with less, to preserve and conserve more sensibly and to value resources more than ever before.
Beyond the conventional there is always an option - The sudden lockdown forced us to adopt unconventional methods of working - work from home (WFH) - with all its shortcomings, distractions and interruptions! Children learning to use technology for the first time, teachers challenged with innovative methods of teaching without the personal touch of the classroom all were great eye openers. Notwithstanding initial hiccups, everyone got used to it and many in fact loved the versatility of this new medium of work. The benefits of ‘lesser commute’ on the environment like reduced air and sound pollution became evident.
Together we can do it - Forced into taking on household chores to meet the demands of the family, especially young kids and the elderly, every household was pushed to the wall. Facing this ‘existential situation’ has taught us - together we can do it! Accomplishing tasks that previously considered unimportant or undoable (without the domestic helpers) made us aware of our dormant creativity and our untapped ability. Lessons in self-reliance, self-discipline, time management, caring and sharing and the feel good factor were additional bonuses.
Taking time out - Many faced the lockdown alone. Indeed, it was hard taking on every task on one’s own, but, working at our own pace gave us more time to catch up with long forgotten friends - rebooting a strong sense of friendship, camaraderie and connectedness. Quiet moments indulged in music, art, exercise and hobbies long forgotten, filled the psyche with unbound pleasure. Walking down memory lane, re-living precious moments spent with family, sharing throwback pictures with friends made us feel blessed for everything we have - something we never found time to delve into otherwise.
Respect and Value for work - Waiting for food and medicines to be delivered to our homes, we realized the yeoman's service that some people rendered at the risk of their own health/safety. Medical professionals were always revered for their humanitarian services but the lockdown opened our eyes to the selfless service of otherwise neglected workers like the sanitising staff, delivery boys, and police personnel. Voluntary workers organizing food kitchens, mask making, etc. made us realize the importance of social service.
Human vulnerability and the egalitarian virus - Much still remains to be deciphered about the novel coronavirus. But, what is crystal clear now is that it has an ‘egalitarian’ nature.’ Not discriminating on the basis of age, gender, caste, class or creed the virus has exposed human vulnerability to the destruction and damage that it can cause ringing an alarm bell that ought not to be ignored.
Window to the World - The conundrums of modern living had made us oblivious of the world outside the comforts of our own cocoons. The lockdown made us realize how hard it has hit the vulnerable sections of society - the hungry, jobless migrant labourers, walking distances to reach home, even succumbing to such hardship, women and children locked in their homes subjected to domestic violence and child abuse. Their plight has made us more sensitive and benevolent human beings.
Having said it all, the big question it all boils down to is - when the fight with the pandemic is won, will we go back to ‘business as usual’?
Someone once said - when you hit the pause button on a computer it stops, but when you hit the same in a human it starts to think. The global fight against the novel coronavirus has pushed the pause button on the unsustainable, consumerist and wasteful lifestyle of modern living, bringing it to a sudden, unexpected halt - and this has forced us to think - we need to go beyond sustainable human development to sustainable ecological well-being and make life-style choices as a collective that will help us achieve this for generations to come. But are we ready to adopt the pandemic ‘Vision 2020 ? Only time will tell.