At War with the Unseen: COVID-19 and Its Effects (Part 2)

I looked outside my balcony at 4 am, I visioned a giant Corona monster in the glum sky laying its eyes at me, waiting to prey on us. I could see nothing but the empty streets painted by a vociferous silence amidst the uncertainty and chaos. The rules of human interaction have been changed and the words like social distancing, self-quarantine, sanitise have turned out to be the new norms.

If someone had told me six months ago that the world was going to change and we would be in lockdown probably in our home or the city we live in would be ravaged by fear. It would sound just like science fiction to me. A virus that affected animals made a metamorphic jump and infected one human, and in a matter of months spread around the globe, infecting hundreds of thousands of humans, killing thousands of lives with no discrimination of economical status, caste, creed, age or gender. Now it really is a war with an unseen (virus), which has instilled uncertainties and fear in all of us. Majority of people have penned down the ill effects of COVID-19 on the world and what worse can happen in the forthcoming times. In part 1 of this blog, I addressed some of its negative impacts on humans and their lives and how the state and civil societies are working towards the worst hit sections of people. 

I think every coin has two sides and what we need to do is look at both facets. A rife of reasonably positive impacts can be encountered across the globe if we pay our close attention to the simplest things in and around us. What if I described the same scenic view of the early morning scene as “I looked outside my balcony at 4 am, the sky was glittered with tiny stars and their halos. I could see the street shimmered with bird calls, punctuated by the shrill bark of a lonely bored dog in pacifistic silence, untouched by the worldly noises. I could feel the fresh and crisp air cuddling on my skin and filled me with new hopes and happiness.” A major difference of perception and observation can be noticed between both the descriptions of early morning view. We, as humans, usually create our negative impression about other people or situations as we tend to be disproportionately influenced by evaluating negative characteristics of a situation or people.

Because people tend to believe that what happens to them boils down to fate, they don’t realize how thinking differently could put them in better control of their present and future. Our thoughts are extremely powerful — what we think and how we think creates our personal world and reality. We all have the mind power to make our experiences either positive and meaningful, or negative and dreary. How we think will greatly determine whether we get the very best that life has to offer us, because those thoughts determine how we perceive what we’re experiencing.[1]

Yellow Flowering Tree

There were just three giant trees outside my balcony. Every morning, it gave me immense pleasure to see fresh green leaves and bunches of beautiful yellow flowers on their branches floating in the air. In just a few months of lockdown, I noticed a tremendous amount of greenery in my surroundings. Plants and trees have grown out of the woods because of the cleaner air and no human interference. As modern life has  largely been put on pause with millions of us hemmed indoors in an effort to lessen the spread of pandemic. But outside, the world has resounded, and shown incredible signs of benefiting from our absence. 

Cleaner air has perhaps been the single greatest positive effect of the lockdowns on the environment. Citizens in northern India have seen the view of the Himalyan mountains range for the first time in their lives, due to the drop in air pollution during lockdown.

Himalayas view from the rooftops in northern India (@parasrishi/Twitter)

In fact, cities across the world have seen pollution level plummet as people have spent less time in vehicles, offices and factories and more time at home. A substantial decrease has been noticed in the pollutant level across the globe. Wildlife such as deer in Japan, boars in Spain, wild puma in Santiago, orcas in North America have taken the opportunity presented by our widespread absence suburban streets and city centres to venture out and explore. [2] 

As the figure of COVID-19 cases started upsurging in the nation so did my anxiety about going to work and in all probability exposing myself to the virus.

Coronavirus disease outbreak  – warning alarm message statistic

 

 

 

 

 

This was the point when my office officially cancelled/postponed any form of travel and so did the national guidelines. Which meant a huge change in my daily schedule at work and plan to go back home. I unanticipatedly found myself locked up in one room and chained to my bed all day working on my laptop, a hefty change for me mentally more than anything else. 

My repeated trips to the hostel dining, a forced acquaintance with video conferencing apps, the ringing of an alarm that signals that it’s time for your parents, music from the neighbor’s window has become the regular elements of my quarantined life. I have never liked video calls or conferencing. If there’s camera static or otherwise, I would rather keep myself behind it than on it. But perhaps the universe needed  to orchestrate something extreme to change my mind.

I started rewiring my life around this time. With no company in the hostel and no office to hustle in every morning, I used to start off my day with black tea and some delicacies like dosas or idlis with chutneys of different tastes. I was exploring my most favourite de-stressing activity – composing poetry. I had a list of books, documentaries and virtual courses that had been lying in wait to be done for the longest time. I carried off as many of them as possible by the time we are free from this lockdown. And spent the whole day either working on laptop and video-calls, from colleagues & family to oldest friends or acquaintances, to be acquainted with their lows and highs or engaging in meditation. That period of three months in self-quarantine and isolation has given me a space for introspection about myself and others. I realized that for every low, there’s a high and the present situation has a silver lining too. 

This situation has really made us feel that we are together in this and taught us the importance of reaching out to friends and loved ones, and perhaps we will stay close to them. I have observed people being more expressive and competent in their communications. They are getting out of the system and not just simply exchanging bon mot; they are reckoning on tech-dependent communication to manifest their feelings and ideas.

 

 

 

The effects of lockdown across the world aren’t always negative. For many, they will have also proven to be a good opportunity to re-evaluate personal relationships. Social psychologist and relationship scientist Veronica Lamarche said we could use the lockdown to work and “Think of lockdown as a clean slate. Things that weren’t working well before, we can focus on and re-invest.” [3] This COVID situation has given us time, time to slow down, time to breathe in and take life in, time to restart, introspect and evaluate our actions as human beings. 


References:

  1. Wallace, D. “Change Your Life by Changing Your Perception.” Positivity Post. 30 August, 2017.  https://medium.com/positivity-post/change-your-life-by-changing-your-perception-2bcf824d0292.
  2. Child, David. “The Positive Impacts on the Environment since the Coronavirus Lockdown Began.” The Evening Standard. 3 April, 2020. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/positive-impact-environment-coronavirus-lockdown-a4404751.html.
  3. Kennedy, Rachael. “Life after Lockdown: Will our Soical Habits be Changed Forever?” Euronews. 14 May, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/05/09/life-after-lockdown-will-our-social-habits-be-changed-forever.

Mantasha is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with SAFA in Hyderabad, Telangana. For her Fellowship project, she is designing a communication strategy for engaging illiterate and semi-literate women and children at skills training centers and for publicizing program impact externally. Born and raised in a small district in western Uttar Pradesh, Mantasha pursued her education from Aligarh Muslim University. She graduated in English Literature in 2015, pursued a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2016, and completed her Master’s in Social Work in 2018. All through her academic pursuits, Mantasha weaved a dream of playing a part in the development sector. She began her career in Buildyourself Sewa Sanstha as project coordinator to work on skill development of youth and handicraft artisans in Moradabad. During her graduation, she spent a year to work as block coordinator in Nirbal Samaj Kalyan Parishad in Aligarh, focusing on education, health, and family welfare. She interned with Digital Empowerment Foundation in New Delhi, offering digital literacy to children in slum areas. Mantasha strongly believes in the power of storytelling and the capacity of a person to share their own to bring change and also draw inspiration from the stories of others. Owing to this belief, she particularly gets pleasure from creative works like composing poetry, writing quotes and short stories, painting and sketching, and art and craft works in her leisure time. She also enjoys learning new skills through virtual courses. Through the AIF Clinton Fellowship, Mantasha is tremendously excited to foster her experience and knowledge in the development sector. For her, this Fellowship would act as an incubator where she can implement her ideas and expand her learning.

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