The outbreak, and a lesson in humility

Abstract Mar 17, 2020

Only around 2 weeks ago, nobody was even bothered about the virus in India.
Things were running normally. Fast city life was pretty evident wherever we
went. Trains were overcrowded, our canteen was full, and the security was
tearing at our eardrums at the bio-metric entry. People had merely heard about
"this disease outbreak in China”.

Fast forward to now. Section 144, which has so far been synonymous only to
places with political unrest, has found a friend in the pandemic. Weddings,
concerts and college fests, which bring with them great euphoria, excitement and
a wide range of emotions, are being postponed (mostly until further notice,
canceled I fear).

Conversations, where they exist, cannot exist without a few words that I've
promised you won't read in this article. But apart from what meets the eye, there are other concerns to the part of society merely taking precautions.

One issue is the social deprivation being caused. With colleges shut, students won’t be coming together and receiving their quota of daily interaction. Public places won’t be the hangout spot, and our buddies are, and rightly so, constantly anxious about being outdoors. We will all be spending time with our family, possibly playing board games and having meals together; which is seldom possible, even during vacations. Owing to other forms of “chilling”.

Students are being sent back home from hostels. For students in the west, there is even a blatant show of racism. Imagine walking into a bus with a Southeast-Asian friend, and having everyone around do a 180-degree turn to face away from your party until you get off. Imagine them washing themselves with sanitizer in your absence. This is what people are undergoing.

It was hard to believe, and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming;
when I saw empty station platforms and markets, which have forever existed among bustling and incessant yelling. Of course, I haven’t walked out of my house to a supermarket. I haven’t been to the train station these past three days. I haven’t been to a restaurant or café. But the thoughts of these makes me a little sad. Because I'm sure they would have lost their charm and excitement which makes them special.
There is an element that excites me though. I have found myself increasingly imagining history textbooks (I believe there will always be books) in the year 2120 with a chapter on the 2020 pandemic. With a complete and comprehensive analysis of the regions of impact and the socio-economic changes it brought about. How the population affected weren’t the poverty-stricken, but rather the middle class and upper-class Indians who have had the luxury of traveling, which has cost them dearly, to say the least.

While this break shall take the form of a surprise mini-vacation for most, it also comes as an illness recovery period. Exhaustion, weather change, common flu, and what-not. So while one sect is having the time of their lives, the other is recovering from fever, a small bit has been quarantined, and an even smaller bit has contracted the it-that-must-not-be-named.

But in all this gloom and boringness, there is something that unites everyone. The same thing that orchestrated successful mass bunks for two days in a row. The same thing that causes us to hold heartfelt conversations with our friends and family because we reckon we won’t be seeing them for a while now. The same thing that we feel when we say “take care” to someone we love. The virus came with a bang and made sure to be precisely inconvenient to time the shutdown end with the close of this financial year. Coincidence? Karma? China's pollution levels have drastically dropped thanks to the shutting down of industries and a drastic reduction in vehicle emissions. Emissions worldwide have reduced owing to stagnation of 1,00,000 flights per day. The water pollution caused by luxury cruise ships is non-existent because they cease to travel. Is this Nature’s way of dealing with climate change when humans haven’t been able to?
Think. Learn.

– Shlok Sampat

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