Tumultuous changes are taking place in society after COVID-19. We haven’t been struck by something as threatening for 100 years barring the two World Wars. The lockdowns in many countries are testing the limits of human endurance.
People who have been used to getting their daily necessities from milk, bread, cooking fats and oils, grains, meat and several other things are facing shortages for the very first time. Those who are out most of the day either at work or for other reasons are for the first time being faced with being imprisoned in their own homes. If we touch our faces 16 times in an hour in normal times, we are being asked not to touch our faces at all.
We wash our hands only when we think it is necessary, before eating or after the restroom and depending on our profession or situation. Doctors wash their hands after every patient. Mechanics wash their hands more often. Now we are washing our hands very frequently because if there is one weapon we have against Coronavirus it is washing our hands (soap destroys the fat envelope that surrounds the virus). Man has been creating cleaning products for 5,000 years and yet the simple soap and water works best.
E-commerce has been affected because their delivery mechanisms have been disrupted. Modern man has been spoilt by ordering almost everything online. Groceries, household products, gadgets, durables, almost everything that used to come at a day’s notice is not available anymore.
Work from home, which is a lofty idea in modern business, has its own shortfalls when enforced on an entire population. WFH workers could still party at night. Today they can’t. Being locked down in your own house for the entire day is something we haven’t experienced before. Many are struck by cabin fever, that distressing, claustrophobic irritability and restlessness that can create several problems on the home front.
Social distance is a cultural phenomenon. In Western countries you notice the natural distance that people maintain from each other while at a bus stop or in a queue. In India, social distance is not an option in the average queue, on the train or on the bus. The average slum in India might pack as many as six people in a 10ft X 10ft room violating every social distancing norm to protect ourselves against the Coronavirus.
Domestic violence is on the rise in most countries. In France, a woman can go into a drug store and say the code word ‘Mask 19’ to the druggist, to indicate that she has been a victim of domestic violence so that he can report the case to the authorities. Many thousands of miles away, Sri Lanka is no different. It ran a campaign on domestic violence at the beginning of April in an effort to warn the perpetrator and help the victim. India is following closely.
Overall anxiety is on the rise. People are watching the news on TV more closely and spending more time on both their phones and other devices. Fear about the Coronavirus is driving the additional screen time. The need to relax is driving increased viewership of entertainment programmes. The runners, cyclists, gym rats and all those engaged in athletic activity are being forced to find new ways to keep fit.
Many parents looked down on home-schooling as an option. Today every parent is forced into home-schooling.
Some are learning new life skills. In India, where unlike the West, domestic help is cheap, drivers, maids, cooks, and other domestic help is being banned from most apartment blocks. People, who never cooked, are forced to learn to cook. In an androcentric society, where men are not inclined to do any domestic work, men are now picking up the broom and the mop. And doing the dishes.
This huge change, from the way we live our lives, is creating both mental and physical changes. All the things that are supposed to protect us against the Coronavirus, social distancing, washing hands, not touching the face is creating conflict. And yet it is the only thing that can help to protect us against a pandemic that is sweeping the world in large numbers.
But it is time for us to learn and get inspired by each other. Learn social distancing from the astronaut who does it for a whole year in space. Learn to wash hands from the doctor who does it several times a day. Learn not to touch your face from the man who has no hands.
It is a time to reflect. And push the limits of our own endurance.