I am writing this in the village where I was born and still live, a village of 700 inhabitants in the province of Quebec, Canada, set on a deep lake amid rolling hills.
Despite everything separating me from people living in Bhubaneswar or elsewhere in Odisha, our common experience of life under the pandemic brings us together. The fear — for others as well as for ourselves; the confinement; the hardship of living under constraints, both imposed from the outside and self-imposed; the social distancing; the temptation to cheat, but the knowledge that cheating could be deadly — all of this is new for most of us, although by now it may seem to have been going on for eons, and this experience unites people in my native village with those in the villages, towns and cities in Odisha.
What used to be simple but essential tasks of life have now become fraught, despite remaining no less necessary: obtaining food and needed medications, for example. Life outside the home in the world has become reduced to these limited activities. At the beginning of the self-isolation, about six weeks ago (it seems so much further back in time!), my day was spent listening to the news, but this has become less important since the news never really changes but only gets grimmer and grimmer. As of today, Canada has almost 44,000 cases of infection and the number continues to grow.
As I enter week seven of this social distancing, my time now goes to exercises to calm my spirit. These help. Despite the difficulties and worry this pandemic is causing me, I am also painfully aware my situation is one of privilege. There are many people, in Odisha and also in Quebec, who have lost their livelihoods and who, in addition to worrying about the spread of the virus, are having a horrendous time feeding themselves and their families. For many of these, the practices needed to prevent the further spread of the virus simply cannot be the primary concern unless remedies are found for the precariousness of their existence. For their good, and for our own, now is the time for us, and our governments, to give them our support.
(The author is a noted translator and former Professor, Montreal University, Canada)
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