Day 84: Extraordinary or more of the same?

16/06/2020

Day 84

The day was spent on work calls. Working from home no longer seems a major shift in lifestyle as we get past the fourth month of the pandemic. Over the course of these days the writing here has meandered through personal observations, opinion on issues I care about and events. We are probably hitting a saturation with news on coronavirus – infections, deaths, vaccine development, economic fallouts, new normals etc. In the big picture of civilisational changes the pandemic still seems a blip on most aspects. Loss of lives is nowhere near the great wars. In most countries other causes like road fatalities claim more lives than coronavirus has. On economic effects as long as comparisons are drawn with previously experienced recessions we know that we are still on a referential scale. It hasn’t broken out of that yet. The ‘new normals’ also seem hasty and exaggerated articulations of changes that have happened through the lockdown days. 

On the 84th day and well past the harsh lockdowns of April and May, things look different. Perhaps, it is this ease that has come in that colours the perspective. France has lifted the remaining lockdown restrictions. Bars and restaurants have reopened fully. UK has reopened schools. Turns out that people’s worries were more about keeping children home above everything else. India continues with an exit-lock-exit kind of confusion across its states. The early coherency in its Covid-19 response seems to be lost now.

By now our daily life has worked out its way around the pandemic. There’s risk of contracting the virus and it is a working reality just as they see risk in other walks of life and work. The media has also cooled off with its breathless reporting about on-ground reportage on Covid-19. In as much as we think that this is an unprecedented event, its extraordinariness was about the way nearly the entire world was made to stay in their homes with a near complete seizure of work and all that is done outside our homes. 

Pandemic has brought home not the thought of mortality but of how easy it can get to lose one’s life while going about daily life. There is no ‘out there’ required anymore, where one risks life, like Afghanistan or Kashmir. Hang around in the neighbourhood, take a plane, commute using public transport, eat at a restaurant… any of these can bring home the virus. At least for us in India who hear enough about death and afterlife in our daily rituals and conversations it isn’t the thought of easy mortality that scares. Public spaces in our town don’t feel ridden with anxiety or fear. The town lives the curfew rules quietly and has re-oriented itself around the changed working hours for businesses and services. In the villages, people’s practices and daily life appears no different than what it was before the pandemic. 

Structured reading has fallen off track after getting out of Bangalore. There is a significant difference in living alone vs with family. The volume of activity around at home and on the farm has kept days filled, in contrast to the hours available through a typical lockdown day in Bangalore. This difference in the nature of daily life is useful to reflect on what each of these formats (town and city) deliver and how I might want to have them included in years ahead. 

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