It was late November 2019. I was busy shuttling from my place to office. Customarily, I checked out the news for the day. I scrolled through random topics pertaining to the economic downturn, politics in the middle east, new movies releasing on the weekend etc. Just as I was beginning to quit the application, an alert news ticker stating a new type infection caught my attention. I nonchalantly tapped to see it, thinking the origin to be in Africa ( as the last virus outbreak). To my intrigue though, it was in eastern China. I barely took note of it, dismissed it, thinking it to be ephemeral.
Fast forward to June 2020, where the world is currently reeling under the breakout of this virus. With its expanse spread across two-hundred countries with varying magnitudes of fatalities and infections, I can safely say as a citizen of humanity that this pandemic has brought life as usual to a screeching halt. Lives and livelihoods have been lost, economies have shrunk, lifestyles and behaviours have changed. Amidst all these adversities, on one hand we have had unsung heroes rise to the occasions in the form of healthcare, emergency and law enforcement workers and on the other we have governments, corporates and other organisational bodies take necessary steps towards survival.
This account is not a description of the calamity that has struck us, neither is it a gospel of our unsung heroes. It is something else, something on the lines of what do we do now, to change, to adapt, to identify and imbibe the new “business as usual”.
Humans are creatures of habits, and in the current scenario we have had a disruption. Disruption in terms of questioning the BAU (business as usual), disruption in terms of our lifestyles, behaviours, consumption patterns and in terms of our aims and goals. And like in every disruption, we have had knee-jerk reactions to it. Right from mass lockdowns, to panic buying, to skepticism, to corporate furloughs and to the complete surrender/reliance on religion and faith. These reactions stem from what we call fight or flight reactions deeply wired within our psyche. After every storm though, there is a certain calm that settles in, that’s when we need to regain the patience to think and evaluate our next steps.
So the main construct here is to identify the new normal. Before you read any further, know this, that there is no correct answer to this question. There are just thoughts and opinions which will vary with perspectives. Whatever it may be, we can’t deny that sooner or later we will require to find the new normal. These are my unbiased views on how we need to go about discovering our normal.
Step 1: Accept
It is crucial and for us to accept the inevitability of this threat. It will be ever present. We can choose to live in denial and that would just devoid us of the reality and keep us susceptible to uncertainty. We wouldn’t be able to think clearly if we don’t re-condition our minds and accept the situation. Acceptance doesn’t alleviate the problem, it just helps us conjure patience in the face of adversity, to deal it with a calm and resolute mind. Think about a scenario where we resume our original way of life, whatever the way it was (for instance without social distancing), do you think it’ll be sustainable for us in the future?
Step 2: Recover
This is a crucial step. This step involves recuperating from the damage done by the pandemic and as a response, identifying the changes that need to be brought about. As a reader, you may identify the word “recovery” with a renewed sense of importance and reference. It may mean anything from a medical, an economic or a psychological recovery. An important factor to consider here is its expanse. This action is not exclusive to an individual, but to a community.
A sense of unconditional empathy to help people find solace is what we need. This can be achieved through the simplest of actions, such as a wellness message to a long lost acquaintance or checking in on your community security guard. These simple tokens of expression are essential to remind us of the support we have. The efforts expended for this step will vary, but with enough patience and belief, it is possible. These testing times help us to inspire and get inspired by others around us.
Usually we would look at the great leaders, orators or business-people for inspiration. But if we take the effort to notice, even the person who takes your trash everyday, or the person who throws in your newspaper, is a source of inspiration. They too face the perils of the virus, but the need to support their families outweigh these fears.
Step 3: Rebuild
This step takes place in tandem with Step 2, almost iteratively.
Right from rebuilding our skillsets, to our relations with our loved ones or to making new ones, just like Japan after WW-II, or Kerala after 2018 floods, we need to rebuild. We do need to take one thing into cognisance though, it is imperative to help others to rebuild as well. The extent to which we need to do this will vary, but the least we can do is…help. Help one another, with a true sense of empathy without any malice or ulterior motives.
The honest truth is that we all have our challenges. But we can try, try to help one another, in whatever way possible. Because no matter how competitive we may be, how focussed we may be professionally, we are just an extension of the countless people, who have helped us become who we are. We can do our part, one help at a time.