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Living in uncertain times

The only thing to do is follow the instructions put out by the government and look after the safety of yourself and the family

Let’s imagine that you are travelling on a flight. Before take-off, the cabin crew gives the standard safety instructions. However, you have no control over what would happen in mid-air. We can only follow the safety instructions, help out fellow passengers and leave the rest to fate.

The above example is true in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic also. It can be axiomatic to say that there are no definite answers to the various questions being raised on the pandemic — how this has come; how long this will prevail; when a vaccine will be discovered; what would be life in the post-recovery period and so on? The more we delve deep into these issues, the more intricate questions will emerge.

Hence, the most appropriate way to deal with the situation is to strictly follow the instructions put out by the government, and look after the safety of yourself and the family and try to help others in need of support.

Instead of crying wolf in this challenging time, we need to understand one basic principle that we cannot change a situation, we can only try to adjust our life to cope with the situation — to give a simple example, instead of asking for favourite vegetables and groceries, we will have to manage with whatever is available.

New initiatives

While staying at home (and opting for work from home in my case), this trying period can also be converted into an opportunity for doing many things that we have been thinking of doing for quite some time. Keeping this in mind, some of the initiatives that I have taken are narrated below.

1)Read newspapers online, and catch up with books I could not read earlier.

2)Spend at least one hour each in the morning and evening doing exercise/yoga (a related point: since we are all sitting at home, try to have a balanced diet, particularly since you will be inundated with a variety of food items).

3)Valuable informational videos are available on YouTube; choose your favourite topic to watch.

4)Constantly keep in touch with all family members. Last week, we had a wonderful experience of a video call with all family members (nearly 30) who are located in different parts of the globe. Needless to say, apart from knowing the updates, such calls will go a long way in strengthening family bonds.

5)Spend more time with family members and view award-winning films (particularly some films which have not been shown in theatres).

The above are only "indicative" and not "exhaustive", and we can see many things as we go along.

Changes in the offing

There is no doubt at all that there will be substantial changes in all walks of life in the post-recovery period, both in India and abroad, and those who are unable to cope with the changed circumstances will be left aside. Apart from the economic slowdown, we will have to face many physiological problems. Many families will be left in the lurch because of deaths of near and dear ones. However, since we are at a loss to know how long the current situation will last, at this juncture, we will not be able to do any crystal-ball gazing, and imagine the gravity of the situation, though our high-brow economists are analysing and predicting the recovery in different shapes — V, W, U, L... The pendulum of power may swing to the other side. This will have cascading effects on many Indians working abroad, deciding to return to India, either voluntarily or compulsorily due to loss of job.

The pandemic also taught us another lesson. There was a perception that all were safe in the Western world, thanks to their effective medical schemes and social security system, and all elderly people there would be looked after well. Also, those developed countries could cope with any calamity. However, we have now seen how the reality on the ground is different from perceptions.

As I conclude, I am reminded of a story. There was a banyan tree which lived for more than four decades. During this long period, there were many storms, cyclones, torrential rains and other adversities. However, this tree withstood all these extreme conditions and natural calamities. One day, it was uprooted. The reason was simple: small insects were eating into the wood and ultimately one day, the tree fell down. Similarly, some of the so-called developed countries in the world fell prey to this virus. A related lesson — despite all our achievements and tall pronouncements, how fragile we are in this world!

To sum up, the pandemic is an unprecedented one which will have cascading effects on all walks of life. The best way to arrest the situation is to strictly abide by the rules, thereby becoming a self-made soldier in this war. Thanks to the effective measures taken by the governments — both Central and State — and backed up by the marvellous work of medical and police teams, let us all hope that we will surpass this calamity also with less damage (as compared with other countries), and that life will soon be back to normalcy. Let our current mantra be, "Stay home, stay safe and learn more!"

kutty@piramal.com

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 11:26:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/living-in-uncertain-times/article31544144.ece

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