COVID-19, CoronaVirus, or just Corona, no matter what you like to call it, has been there long enough to become an important part of our lives now. Not a day ends without at least one update flashing in the news, radio or social media about it. From educating about how quickly it spreads to the number of hours that it stays on different surfaces, from updating the current numbers of casualties in the country to the new regulations adopted by the Government to prevent this pandemic, we have seen and heard it all. We’ve shared these new developments with our family, coworkers and friends. We’ve shared memes, followed orders, self-isolated ourselves, watched heartbreaking videos of the victims, read gut wrenching stories from all over the world, applauded the courage of front liners, understood that we must do our part to stop this pandemic from taking more lives than it has already taken away, and heartily accepted that we indeed are in this together.
Something else had become more important: Survival.
I didn’t just wake up one day and realize that I should stop socializing. Just like most of you, I went through the whole phase of ignorantly dismissing the dangers and hanging out as normal to finally accepting responsibility of my actions. It has been already more than a month now since I am working from home, going out only for essential reasons. It has its perks- the usual:
- No Traffic
- No early rising
- No packing breakfast and lunch
- No makeup
- No wasting time matching clothes with hijab
- No ironing
Add to the list. There are many more that you can think of, I know. It’s said that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. It’s safe to say that this has become the new habit, the new routine, and the new lifestyle.
I stared at those tables that once brought smiling faces together, of families, of friends, of coworkers, sharing stories reminiscing about their day, and enjoying a good cup of coffee, or an entire brunch.
My groceries needed to be restocked. I was clearly running out of them. So, I decided to make a trip to the Hypermarket. Life seemed very normal in there. Except for the masks, gloves, temperature checks at the entrance and a few changes, it was the usual- everyone busy filling trolleys and crossing items off their list. I did the same. Within an hour, I was out and, on my way, back home. That’s when I realized that I had forgotten to grab 2 more items. It was too late to drive back to the Hypermarket and the time for the permit was about to expire. I thought it would be instead better to pass by Carrefour market, located inside a little Centre, to complete my grocery shopping. As I exited the roundabout and drove straight, waiting to steer right to enter the Centre, my eyes paused for a good 5 seconds. I saw a line of cafés and restaurants with outside seating area- chairs placed upside down on those tables; dusty, untouched, covered with translucent plastic covers, lacking human touch. I stared at those tables that once brought smiling faces together, of families, of friends, of coworkers, sharing stories reminiscing about their day, and enjoying a good cup of coffee, or an entire brunch. Now, the same cafés and restaurants seemed languidly lifeless. Abandoned. Because something else had become more important: Survival.
I spent no time looking to park. The cars seemed to have no problem social distancing- there was ample space to park in the empty lot. As I began walking towards the entrance of the Centre, I passed by the same eat outs that I had, moments ago, seen through the window of my car. It hit me differently when I saw the contrast playing right in front of my eyes. Yes, I had read about restriction of movement and the daily list of increasing cases. I was fully aware. But, to gaze at an area, that once burst with energy, absolutely deserted, hardly showing any signs of life was a different ball game. Life was not the same anymore. I wasn’t visiting the Centre after years to find out that people’s preferences had changed to another mall for a hang out. I was visiting it after only a few weeks.
…we are not at traditional war…
I wondered if this is how it looked after a war. The fancy things didn’t matter at all; just the bare necessities. People would get out only to find food enough to feed themselves and keep them from starving. To death. And, if it hadn’t been for the need to feed oneself, nobody would ever get out. It was safer to stay inside than outside. And even when a few went out to run errands, nobody bothered to make small talk or smile at the other. Each one looking out for himself and his family.
We are indeed blessed that even though this pandemic has made a 360 change in our lives in the past few weeks, we have the infrastructure we need to live life. We are surviving this pandemic and that is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
We are at war- with this virus.
But, we are not at traditional war- the one where basic supplies become extinct, where people get killed in a matter of seconds, where the threat of death is real even inside the sanctity of their own homes, where self-isolation is in pungent basements or a hidden attic with no clean water to utilize, and where the trauma ends up defining the person he becomes in the aftermath.
We will soon be back to physically sitting and laughing over a joke with our friends, discovering the beginning of a partnership, and celebrating special occasions with kids. It might take a few weeks, a few months, or perhaps, an entire year. It will eventually happen. But this is the time to reflect and count our blessings.
There are nations who have recently been through years of war and, are suffering the pandemic too. When the world has gone under lock down busy worrying about their own survival, petty wars have temporarily ceased. To those nations, who have seen their children being bombed in front of their own eyes, losing a limb, or two, or losing themselves to cruel death, this pandemic isn’t really a suffering. It is only a blessing.
While we are hoping to go back to our ‘normal’ lives, the war-torn countries hope that ‘normal’ would slow down by another day. They wish that ‘normal’ never comes. They know that it is inevitable. The moment this pandemic becomes less of a concern, their true suffering shall begin.
As much as we enthusiastically check for updates today and share the news with our loved ones, let’s not turn a blind eye to their plight. Remember, the least we can do is advocate for freedom to live peacefully for every individual and create awareness about the situation.
We are living in the hope that tomorrow shall be better. Let’s give that hope to those nations too. Let tomorrow be truly better for all.
-29th April, 2020