COVID-19 As A Teacher: It Has Taught Us Indelible Lessons

Let’s walk down memory lane, back to the days when the world wasn’t as dystopian as it looks today. The world looked something like this – crowded trains, hugs that felt right, offices that wouldn’t approve a day’s leave because ‘work suffers’, weddings and sangeets and what not. A world where walking was not a criminal offense, where the people did not eye you suspiciously if you touched your own face.

And just like that, a virus that’s a mere 120nm big changed the world, one touch at a time. While we may think that the Coronavirus is a monster readying to consume us and our existential existence, it has basically changed the way the world works. It is a hard-hitting reminder of what humans have done to the world, how we have ruined everything that came in our path, including our own lives and our mind.

This was an act of reclamation of nature. Unfortunately, it came at the cost of too many lives. But with every tragedy that has struck mankind, like an unruly substitute teacher nobody asked for, COVID-19 too has left us with lessons. In the wake of the destruction the COVID-19 leaves behind, as we scramble to survive, some lessons are being thrown at us carelessly, if only we start to listen.
Here’s what COVID-19 has taught us, and here’s hoping we don’t forget it.

The beauty of self-reliance

If we could all plant our own organic plants at home, then why did we continue consuming pesticide-laden vegetables? Or at least herbs? If we could clean our own floors, then why did we ever deduct the salary of our house help for not showing up one day? As humans, we are proud, eccentric beings who can never tolerate the fact that we aren’t in control. And yet, every now and then nature throws something at you, that testifies this very fact. You aren’t in control and you never were. Then what would this existence mean? Just surviving?

The beauty of our existence always lies in the small things that make us humans. The power of being self-reliant and self-sufficient. We started taking more than what we needed.

Over the years, your house felt like a hotel you’d come in to sleep, work, and leave. You forgot the nuances of your own home that you so carefully created for yourself.

When this pandemic struck us, the first luxury most of us got cut off from was our house help. We went back to the basics, our survival skills sharpening up once again. We began to be self-sufficient, washing, cooking, cleaning ourselves, our homes, and our surroundings. The Millenials got their hands around cooking – a basic life skill, a luxury no more. We got humbler as we began to get in touch with our roots as we re-learned self-care in its most basic and raw form.

COVID taught us to restart the romance with ourselves, our homes, and our lives. We began cooking again and shared pictures on WhatsApp groups. Not just any normal dish, we used food for what it was, a means of spreading love and creativity. Every day, someone at home wore the chef’s hat to recreate someone else’s favourite dishes. There was unseen selflessness in the beauty of the act itself. As we walked on the path of self-reliance, we became more objective of our surroundings, less of a robot, who forgot how the plumbing system of their own homes worked.

When was the last time you went to a doctor? The fear of COVID stopped us from going to a doctor for small discomforts. That’s not saying we ignored health, but rather that we stuck to home remedies that helped with minor ailments. As a whole, we worked towards improving immunity using herbs and potions that have been passed down through generations. These tricks seemed to be lost but now has found its way back into our lives.

Hygiene has become a priority for all of us. We now take special care to improve hygiene practices like never before. Not only at home, but in public places too. We do not touch things unnecessarily, littering has gone down and so has careless spitting and coughing in public places

The rich and the poor

With this kind of self-reliance, the first thing that hit us all was gratitude towards everyone who helped make our lives convenient and manageable. From the drivers to the house help, from watchman to the milkman. These are the true heroes who outshone, and it was a tragedy that it took something as gruesome as COVID to figure it out. Dignity of labour came at work quite evidently. Sometimes, no amount of value education classes can inculcate lessons that three months of travesties have taught.

The virus brought everyone on a leveled and equal playing ground. There was no room for the oppressor and the oppressed. This hit everyone alike! From prominent Government officials, celebrities being infected to a common man living across the street. Everyone is humbled by the virus, schooled by the virus as a reminder, that you aren’t special, even with all your money, power, and riches. On days like this you understand, that who you are a sum total of your body + your mind. Nothing more, nothing less. Every class, every society, every country, the rich, and the poor were equally grappling with this newfound novel coronavirus.

Nature reclaiming what it lost
Ever been on a trek? Remember that moment when you are standing in front of a waterfall or before a huge mountain. The quietness of nature humbly minimalises you. At that moment, you are staring at the beauty of nature, with a pride feeling that you conquered. But did you? Nature is like that shy student in the class, who never talks, never answers. But every time their results are out, the child has outshone everyone else. Nature is so many ways is like that, it doesn’t go around screaming and crying blood for all the torture humans have inflicted. Because nature knows her power, she doesn’t need to sit on a throne to prove it.

There are so many examples of how nature reclaimed everything that was lost and abused by mankind. A huge number of Flamingoes flocked the Mumbai lakes, 25% higher than the previous years. The water canals in Venice became clearer. The mountain ranges of the Himalayas were visible from Punjab after years of fog and pollution that made this impossible. Wuhan, Seoul, Mumbai, and Delhi which were among the most polluted cities of the world witnessed some drastic decrease in pollution levels. We all experienced clearer blue skies that we loved snapping from our terraces and the clarity with which we could hear the chirping of the birds’ thanks to reduced honking and blaring. This was the world we witnessed in our childhoods and it is endearing to experience it again.

It took us years, decades to make it this bad. Persistently and consistently ruining the environment. And all it took was 3three months to start unwinding the damage. The fact that everything starts returning to normal when humans aren’t abusing nature is exactly why this classifies as Climate Abuse. It’s high time we treat this as a wake-up call, to protect what we have. Sustainable is the keyword that deceives its due here. We need nature, and we are a part of her. The only change that needs to begin here is to stop taking what’s not ours. We need to grow, but sustainably. We are the smartest species on the planet, isn’t it high time we start acting like it?

Tapping back into ‘Basic Humanity’
This stands true for all organisations, units, community and management. That means how you treat your house helps, holds as much accountability as to how your organisation treats you. The world will remember, we all will remember organisations that went on to forgo humanity to run businesses.

If your employees have been through with you through the ups and downs of businesses, the organisations have been supporting their employees through these tough times. While we understand that companies are facing the brunt of this economic breakdown, humanity can never take a back seat. Protecting your employees comes first always. And while this may be tough, organisations across the world are doing it.

There are a number of organisations that have created innovative strategies that have helped employees. For instance, promoting work from home is a great step, but organisations have gone a step forward to ensure their employees have the right seating arrangement at home. This is to ensure that their back, neck health isn’t affected by long hours of odd seating positions. Expecting employees to work after-hours just because they are working from home is unrealistic and inhumane. Cut your employees some slack, this is what will motivate them to help the firm grow through their efforts.

The Sikhs for instance have been feeding endlessly to those who need it, be it cyclone-affected areas, or the underprivileged who needed basic food. This has been an eye-opening experience that has brought us closer to our community. We are all falling back to support our community, our doctors, our policemen, our teachers, and more. Everyone is trying in their own small way to donate, to help, to assist to make this pandemic easier on everyone.

Don’t encroach

Humans have been encroaching endlessly. For the sake of industrialisation and capitalistic gains, humans are constantly turning protected areas into industrial hotspots. But COVID has brought these activities to a standstill. This is why across the globe animals have been coming out in the open and reentering areas that we encroached. For years, we have been living on their land, and our presence was so heavy, that we forgot it wasn’t ours to take. But now we realize that the minute we locked ourselves home, everyone came out.

So many examples of animal species that have come out in the open, reentering areas, exploring the streets across the world with no abandon. It makes you think about how we are paying for the roles we reversed. Singapore Zoo for instance is now promoting to dismiss the ‘Zoo culture’. It was a massive step in the right direction. Just 3-4 months staying at home, with no social interaction gave us a wake-up call of how lonely and inhumane its act is. And we as humans have been doing this for centuries. A positive step such as this must be taken seriously and implemented across the globe.

We have encroached upon the world slowly but consistently. There were over 72,000 forest fires in Brazil (2019), almost an 84% increase as compared to the previous year. The reasons for which were illegal land grabbers trying to destroy trees, agricultural burn-offs, etc. Human intervention has caused major climatic changes causing incidents like forest-fires, glaciers melting due to global warming, and more. We have continued to encroach and damage, but it is now time to stop and reflect.

Dr Peter Dazack, president of EcoHealth Alliance, has been working on studying diseases that transfer from animals to people. He suggests that bats, the only flying mammal, have an uncanny ability to co-exist with various disease-causing viruses. They continue to eat disease-carrying insects and also go on to pollinate fruits etc. Humans get involved when they either try to encroach their habitat or begin to trade them as livestock. A series of such unfortunate events could result in a pandemic of current proportions.

Schools have gone online

With schools going online, this gives an opportunity for more people to have unhindered access to education. Of course, the condition remains that access to computer devices must be made, but when that happens, online education will make it accessible for more people.

Many people who were either working or had no time for education due to prior commitments like family obligations can now catch up using these online classes. Because you can have the option of viewing these courses on your own time.

This gives everyone equal rights and access to education in their own time. Because there are no restrictions of fixed time and space, people can have better access to education. Our effort should now be to provide devices and the internet to those who need it the most. This might just be the future of education. The fee structure is also expected to come down provided classrooms and utilities may not be used.

Online businesses are thriving

It was high time that the brick and mortar type businesses shifted to the newer online model of marketing. COVID has forced every businessman to shift some part of their business online so that they can have better reach.

In many ways, this also turns out to be more economical than traditional marketing methods. While rent for shops can cost anywhere between 20K to 1Lac, to say the least, an online e-commerce platform costs much cheaper as compared. Plus it caters not just to local markets but can cater to international as well. Online business leaves an untapped potential for businesses to explore this side of marketing.

Newer technologies are adding on to this experience. For example, with the new Virtual reality/ Augmented reality, women can try on lipstick shades using just the camera feature. People can try on clothes by just taking a picture and trying on it. This holds hope for the future of this technology to be used in a multitude of ways. Businesses are pushing the envelope with regards to technology, in order to push this forward.

The question remains, will we choose to learn and implement these lessons an unsuspected tyranny taught us? Or will we continue to abuse and grow unsustainably to a point of no return? It may be a little too late to salvage the extent of the damage done, but we need to believe it’s better late than never. The world lives on hope. Let us all use this as a step towards sustainability, in our lives, in our minds, and our environment.

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