As I was looking over the past year that has gone by, the unfortunate outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, thinking about navigating these unprecedented times, against which the battle seems unending – there were contrasting feelings that I experienced in the endeavour to understand how I would encapsulate it. On one hand, it seemed like the year had gone by in a flurry- leaving me with the exhaustion that comes with watching an emotional, unexpected and scary movie, when one just cannot grasp how the movie went by, but always assumes that it is never over. On the other, I could string it together like a chain of pearls – slowly, moment by moment, gently cradling each pearl to feel its uniqueness and rarity, in all its glory.
Soon I realised that how I interpret the pandemic and the impact it had on me is akin to a storm and what a storm often leaves in its aftermath. One can never fully wrap their head around how the storm went by, it is always a flurry. Yet each frame of the storm, each experience, each realisation, each pearl – every squeal of joy and every tear of grief – is etched in the memory forever. The journey of this storm is closely knit with the journey and life-cycle of my commitment to serve as an AIF Clinton Fellow. It started from a point of unawareness, from a point of assuming that all of us, humanity as a whole, suffers equally – then moving on to the point of self-reflection and introspection as I watched the invisibilized inequalities of the world unfold, and finally landing and culminating into the determination of serving as a Fellow.
Hoping to capture the same in words, I am sharing a poem that I penned down on a cold winter morning, tasting the end of the year, sitting in a pool of thoughts and emotions as I’m starting my fellowship journey.
The calm before the storm and a presumptuous belief:
Each fighter rows a mighty boat just the same,
Winds fly rooftops away just the same,
Water scarily seeps into the ceilings just the same,
You and I
You and I and us
All stand equally together – just the same.
The fierce onset of the storm and a tumultuous realisation:
The invisible inequality wildly apparent, all the chains and shackles rightly defied,
Millions swimming against raging tides to migrate back home – coming up for air – sans the privilege of a mighty boat enjoyed,
Thousands looking for shade in the scorching heat, sans the protection of a rooftop to reside,
Hundreds falling onto the street, sans a ceiling to lean by.
The illusionary passing of the storm and a birthing resolve:
To find mighty boats for some, if not all, to sail through,
To build houses of stones, if not bricks, for a few to find shelter in as the gale brews,
To walk out of the solace of painted ceilings slowly, if not all at once, and shed comfortable skin to start anew.
The calm before the reviving storm and a hopeful belief:
To strive to persevere with compassion,
so that someday,
Each mighty boat shall keep all the fighters afloat just the same,
All in unison shall hold up their rooftops just the same,
The ceilings shall echo the joy of freedom, equality and dignity of life, just the same,
You and I
You and I and us
One day, all stand equally together – just the same.