By: Abhishek Jha
I feared crowds. The agony was so intense that I missed several exams waiting for an ‘empty’ City Yatayat bus to college in the morning. Every second of suffering I endured, when people invaded my personal space, made me wish for some sort of miracle. Out of the blue, the intervention came, in the form of the harrowing corona-virus pandemic.
I rejoiced when the idea of physical distancing gained traction. A few days into the lock-down, I ventured out to witness the world I had so desperately wished for. People maintained distance. The idea of keeping apart was lodged firmly in their minds. The stroll felt like a victory lap. I proclaimed silently under the N95 mask that mine was the right way all along. I returned home triumphantly. However, later that night, a strange and holiday-defining realization crept over me. Quite surprisingly, I missed the warmth and sense of security that the proximity of strangers brought.
Several months and an elaborate self-exploration later, I almost yearn for huddling in buses and bazaars, like chickens on a farm, to feel social again. The loneliness has vanquished my fear of crowds. In fact, self-exploration in the lock-down has drastically altered my definition of a normal life and hence, the course of my post-pandemic future in a, hopefully, better direction.
A contemplation of my fundamental beliefs and assertions has completely remolded my identity. The portrait of self that I identified with before the pandemic has faded into a distant memory. The tragedy that our race faces encouraged me to skip a few chapters in my life's journey. I understand what it means to be human. I have chosen to lead a value-driven and not a career-driven life after the pandemic. And I earnestly hope that people, who can afford a leisurely reflection, have attempted the same to define the 'new normal' of life after the pandemic.
The unpredictable nature of life demands an openness to embrace change. Tragedies have historically empowered people to shed the luggage of the past and start anew. Every dreadful episode of human history passes inevitably. The corona-virus pandemic will eventually die out too. It is not the disease, but the change it inspires that remains as a legacy of the ordeal. It is upon us to decide what aspects of the current notion of normalcy we wish to retain in the post-pandemic world. Will the compassion and friendliness brought about by the pandemic endure, or will we look to return to the hateful and divisive life of the pre-pandemic times? Uncertain times provide us with an opportunity to choose the life we want ahead.
Compassion and Unity
Compassion is an action rather than a sentiment. Compassion and empathy for fellow human beings, animals and nature in day-to-day activities is essential in the post-pandemic world. The dedication of healthcare professionals and volunteers in the pandemic response shows how actions can exhibit compassion. Now more than ever, it is important to understand the woes of the economically disadvantaged groups through tangible actions that can inspire further compassion. Incorporating compassion and empathy as our core values will promote equality and justice in society’s approach. Promoting economic equality will mend the social hierarchy we have experienced in the pandemic and promote unity.
Social cohesion is of paramount importance in these trying times. Human beings are inherently social creatures. The pandemic shows how problems of one society can wreak havoc globally. Today, societies share fates in an increasingly connected world. The interconnectedness must inspire us to take interest and assist in the socio-economic development of developed and underdeveloped countries around the world. Cross-societal cooperation is essential to blur the perceived lines dividing people and promoting unity within and between the societies. A communal approach is vital to fight external threats against humanity. The need for unity in crises also makes a strong case for embracing globalization as the way forward.
Starting from Within
A collective transformation can be achieved by a critical reflection of thoughts and digesting the lessons learned from the prolonged global tragedy on an individual level. We need to identify the values we cherish most. We can look up to the actions of compassion and friendship of people worldwide for inspiration. Using the acquired values as lenses, we can acknowledge that normalcy we have built for ourselves is a toxic one.
Historic events show that world orders are dispensable. It is time to shed the divisive rhetoric of the past and move into the future, spreading love in unity. Such calamities usually expose the political narratives and social orders built upon divisive notions. The pandemic reaffirms the idea that dangers do not discriminate between humans based on caste, creed, or race. Moving forward, the existing sociopolitical order needs a major reshuffle.
The next few months mark the beginning of the transition to a life built upon the lessons offered by the pandemic. While perspectives will change, the beauty of life will be celebrated as usual. I yearn for the hot samosas I ate with my friends, crammed on small benches in the college canteen. I look forward to walking with the crowd into a new normal life after the pandemic.
The author is a third year Civil Engineering student at Kathmandu Engineering College.
Inspired to write your own article for this series? You can send it to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.