COVID-19 has given us a wretched reality. It’s pathetic — there’s no doubt about it.
After some relaxations were announced, the first things that circulated heavily on all kind of social media were videos of queues for booze. There was one of near where we live — the queue went on for almost 800 metres with people squeezing into each other.
News channels had more such horror visuals to report.
I’ve not had a drink in over 2 months. I’m not a can’t-find-the-glass-I’ll-drink-from-the-bottle sort of a guy. I’m not even a weekly drinker. But I do enjoy my beer — or some whiskey — every once in a while.
Would I like a beer? Oh, absolutely! Do I miss drinking it? No, not really.
I know this might not hold for many of you, but think about how we’ve adapted to this ‘new’ way of life. We’re generally doing ok. In fact, look beyond a few trifling things and the lockdown has largely been fantastic. It’s been an eye-opener.
I really don’t want things to go back to the ‘normal’ of before.
Normal was paan-chewing people spitting a waterfall of red anywhere they so chose. Too bad if some of it got sprayed on you. And if it did, a brawl would break out. You can’t predict the end result of such an incident. You might die. People have.
Normal was seeing my friends go to work for stuff they could’ve easily done sitting at home and saved over 3 hours of going to-and-fro. A freelance professional, I’m not a slave to finger-print attendance, but it feels stupid to drive 50km — or fly to-and-back another city — for a 20-minute ‘meeting’ which turns out to be more a meet-and-greet only to schedule another meeting for something that can be done over a phone call.
Normal was a person rolling down the window of the car and littering the road with a packet of crisps, a banana peel, a can of some fattening beverage, cigarette butt or whatnot. You don’t quite do that at home, do you?
Normal was where working men and women were mostly unequal. On work, and on pay. Women were expected to do the chores at home as well, while men would Netflix-and-chill.
Normal was — unending traffic jams and unnecessary incessant honking; mindlessly losing your mind over petty matters; living a surrendered life to AQI of 500. Normal was being unable to see your child do silly stuff that would make you fill with joy. It was work-over-life imbalance. Normal was unliving.
I don’t want life to go back to the normal where there’s stupidity all around — people forever eager to fight as if it is an act of self assurance of their machismo. I don’t want to go back to the normal where quantity of hours behind a screen is measured higher than quality of work produced. I don’t want life to go back to normal because men have learned after long last the household chores and are helping the women. It’s beautifully satisfying.
I don’t want to go back to the normal of unending traffic snarls and agitation. I don’t want to go back to the normal where work-life-balance is only a rhetoric. I don’t want to go back to the normal where we were static.
I want the world to get better. That’s the simplest statement with the deepest meaning that I’ve written in a long time.
I want us to get more judicious and frugal. Meetings can be done digitally, we should live more with needs instead of wants. It’s super cool to acquire new skills and chase greater development instead of getting trapped in the vicious chase for money.
I want us to get more compassionate; partner and share rather than blame and delegate. I want to see the trees swing in happiness while sitting and working from my balcony instead of gazing out of the tinted glass of some corporate tower waiting for the day to end. I want to enjoy my time behind the wheel when I drive out on occasion instead of crawling in a jam daily, wanting to stab everyone around in the chest, or myself.
I want to be able to breathe, not just inhale.
But, am I being insular about just us? You know, the ‘us’ who are reasonably well-placed. Because those who aren’t are definitely having the worst nightmares coming true. This is why it’s critical to build tertiary and local industries — not necessarily factories, but employable opportunities.
I’ll give you a small example of reality. We have some agri-land back in our home-state of Bihar and the farmers have all moved out to big cities, serving as daily-wage workers, guards etc. They hardly earn any money. We’ve tried to bring them back and make them equity holders on produce and earnings but the lure of the ‘city’ is too strong for a majority of them.
I’m not saying that it’s the case with all daily-wage workers, but if there are opportunities spread across the land that promise them moderate living, it’ll never come down to such a depressing reality that we have going on currently.
It’s a long-tail solution — one that should’ve been the construct of development since forever. It wasn’t; hasn’t ever been. But it’s something that we must critically address — with the government, and as group of individuals. It’s a thought to ponder over a drink.
We were in a conversation — a friend and I — about the unruliness of people in the entire episode of queuing up for booze. It was going wonderfully well till he said, and I’m paraphrasing of course, “I just want to buy my stuff normally like I used to. I want this nightmare to end and things to get back to normal at the soonest.”
“I don’t,” I said, and there was a momentary pause of awkwardness before I ended the call. There was nothing else to say.
It’s ironical that a virus which kills has shown us the meaning of living. Or has it really?