COVID-19 lockdown and the New Normal

Will we ever be able to go back to ‘normal’? The normal where we wake up, get ready, go to office, attend meetings, make presentations, talk to a group of people, get back home, plan a holiday, visit a relative, eat out, party and so on. The normal where we have a routine every day. The one, where, in our day to day lives, we meet people, interact, shake hands, hug one another, share a meal or drink and communicate in person.

Will life post the virus and virus-imposed lock-down be the normal we knew once? Or are we looking at an inexorable change in our lifestyle…? The one where we have limited interactions with people, limited going-outs, more work-from-home days, less of meetings, less travel, less vacations, less stay in hotels, less visits to restaurants, less taking kids out to park, less movie at a cinema hall… Life will hardly remain the same. Economic pundits have predicted enduring changes in the way we live, work and eat.

As we see, the work-from-home concept has suddenly become the norm. It definitely gives you more time to think without any distraction, happily sitting on your favourite sofa at home. There is your favourite array of food, snacks and drinks at your arm’s length to pick up and relish on. Although this avoids unnecessary travel and the dreaded airport transits, the work at home concept may fail unless one follows a defined schedule and discipline. There will be a dip in productivity unless you balance it with a sense of routine. Its imperative that you add some hours for physical activity during your couch time at home. As Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of #Biocon puts it, we may be looking at more work from home in the long run. She even suggests that post the #lockdown we explore the possibility of work from home for a week every month. We might as well plan well in advance for the future where this may become a routine.

Talking of eating out and going out to parties, this may well be the end of it, or, we don’t know! The industry had been witnessing a lot of changes in the way people eat with the mushrooming of delivery apps and ordering in by the young. The millennials prefer the comfort of staying home and ordering-in their favourite food. The recent developments are going to push the industry more towards home delivery and take away. Premium deliveries are going to come up in a big way in our cities as Anoothi Vishal says in her piece. The concept of social dining where you meet new people over shared tables may take a hit in the coming days. A lot of you may already be brushing up your cooking skills and trying out basic as well as advanced cooking with the help of your loved ones. This is supported by the increasing instances of middle-class working men posting their cooking LIVE on social media.

Moving on to health and healthcare, this is going to get depressing and difficult for the patients and the delivery persons alike. On the one hand, due to the recently imposed lockdown and #curfew, lifestyle ailments will see an upward swing (along with a lot of swollen buttocks!) but on the other, we will see crumbling infrastructure at our dilapidated public hospitals and sub-optimal healthcare delivery by the workforce in there after the lock down is removed. We will see increasing number of people waiting to get their healthcare needs addressed putting a strain on the already fragile doctor-patient relationship prevalent in our country. There will be a backlog of piled up elective surgical cases waiting for their turn at the operating table. The incessant wait may worsen the condition of certain diseases leading to a more protracted surgery with lesser than optimum results post-operatively. You may see insurance claims taking painfully long to get processed and quite a few getting rejected as well. All these developments are going to take a toll on the mental health causing more visits to therapists.

Another depressing development in the long run would be that we will need to work twice or thrice as hard as now to make the same money. We may see a lot of salary cuts and delays in promotion. Our allowances and incentives will be stopped. The social scientists even warn of job losses which were happening before itself due to the economic #slowdown (long before the virus-related economic freeze set in). Weekends will never be the same, they may end up as work days as well, whether or not we do it from home. Reduced holidays and vacations will put a stress on the quality of life of the family.

But every crisis teaches us something. And this will do too. If you have not realized, we are already learning. We are closer to each other now. We are more mindful of our loved ones. We spend quality time back home which used to be a rarity earlier. Our times in FB and other social platforms are more conscious of others’ experiences and voices. We realize the value of time, money and relationships. We are mending our ways and being more appreciative of our loved ones in their endless efforts to keep us happy. We realize the value of goods, groceries and gadgets as we cannot afford to run out of those, as we cannot go shopping, as we cannot hail a cab at the comforts of our A/C room. We are having to do with lesser variety of food and fruits yet try out new recipes with limited resources. As we get more frugal with our needs and demands the contrast between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is getting blurred. The contrast was already subdued due to the impartial nature of the virus. Though we may argue that the affluent and well-heeled foreign travelers brought the virus back home, it is among the slum dwellers and the downtrodden where it is going to spread hitherto unseen. The virus can spread in parties as well as community shelters. It can spread in supermarkets as well as road side shops which do not practise social distancing. The number of beds in hospitals and ventilators in ICU are limited and if the case load were to cross the health care capacity then we are looking at an impartial impending cataclysm. The rich and the poor are going to suffer alike.

As a family we are learning to manage household chores which otherwise our maids used to do wonderfully and painstakingly. We now appreciate the thorough and careful work done by them. (It remains to be seen how many of us give them their full salary for this month though). We have gotten to know our neighbours about who we never bothered though they were living just a meter away in the apartment complex. The religious, cultural and linguistic differences are getting obscure. The never-ending discussion regarding temple and mosque among the fanatics of H and M has stopped now as the question is about survival. Survival of each and every soul regardless of caste, creed or colour.

Years of blatant pounding of all forms of mother nature and indiscriminate procreation with absolutely nil regards towards sustainable and equitable development may be the reason for this calamitous virus having emerged. As we see this #contagion reel the world lethally, let us hope that in the future we love each other as well as the environment in a better way. Let us work with a fervour to build a new world where everyone is respected, valued and cared for. Where the virtues of kindness, love and care take precedence over the vices of hatred, intolerance and indifference. For such virus outbreaks may become more frequent in the future putting years of hard work and economic development in a downward spiral. For only a world sustained on the strong bonds of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and equitable growth and development can take on the challenges posed by the smallest of all living things, a #virus, which can change its strain anytime and put years of research work for developing vaccines and cure down the drain.

Peace. We shall overcome this together and successfully.

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