Living Without Fear – Life Beyond Covid-19

A few months ago, my younger sister had fractured her leg and was confined to a wheelchair. She loves to play sports but, sadly, began to feel as if she would have to miss out on many fun evenings with her friends. Seeing her like this, we decided to take her down to the badminton court in our apartment complex one evening. She was delighted. Her friends greeted her with excitement and before we knew it, they were taking her wheelchair onto the court to play with her. As bystanders, my parents and I were surprised. We thought this arrangement wouldn’t last long as such a disruption to the game cannot be compensated by a friend’s presence. We were wrong. The children arranged themselves so that my sister would sit in her wheelchair and not have to cover more than 1/4th of the court. Two team members joined her on one side and two played on the other side. This continued for months and my sister didn’t miss out on her favorite game. It was beautiful to see small children finding ways to be accommodative and enjoying themselves without worrying about ‘rules and regulations’. As adults, we are often concerned with finding happiness and we spend an insane amount of money consulting experts and enhancing teamwork. That day, the children showed me how happiness is a creation of the most innocent and loving acts of collaboration. They taught me that the bond they shared was stronger than a problem they faced, and moving forward, that is a lesson we need to inculcate in our lives.

The Covid-19 virus has changed the meaning of socialization. We must make sure that we do not allow fear to perpetuate our new ‘normal’. As the war against Covid-19 wages on, we have to think about how we are setting ourselves up for the future. In China, people are walking in plastic bags, disinfecting themselves every 15 minutes. When a family opens the door for one of their guests, they spray them, ask them to throw away all the protective equipment they adorn, check them for symptoms, and only then, do they allow entry. I ask anyone who reads this article – is this how we want to shape our future? I understand that safety and precautions cannot be undermined at this point, especially since recovered patients continue to test positive months later, but can we undermine our need for socialization and togetherness?

We walk out today, if we are allowed, and see everyone with gloves and masks, but more importantly, fear in their eyes and doubt in their minds. Despite writing this, I feel afraid when I go out. No one can say that are not carriers and despite textbook precautions, no place can ever be completely safe. What does this imply for the next few years? Well, as the situation stands, scientists are working hard to find a vaccine for the virus. However, despite their best efforts, it is not an impossibility that a vaccine may never be developed and the only cure would come down to herd-immunity through the previous infection. If no cloud-clearing success is found soon, we would effectively be bidding farewell to age-old practices of shaking hands and hugging one another. It seems almost impossible to imagine that you would not be able to hug that childhood friend who you see only once or twice a year. If it seems impossible now, think how strange and empty we would feel when that is implemented. Of course, once implemented, we shall adapt to it, too. Being at the top of the food chain, we are masters at survival, and that mastery arises from an inherent ability to adapt quickly. This adaptability surely helps us, but if adapting to a repetitive and, largely, virtual life is what is needed for survival, I would worry about how this will impact future generations’ perception of happiness.

Writing about happiness, I remember Albus Dumbledore saying, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light”. Take a second and think. What makes you truly happy? For some, it’s a Lamborghini. For others, a smile and a hug. But for most, happiness is a feeling arising from something special. Something to escape the ordinary or the mundane life which capitalism has thrust upon us. What will happiness be like for our children? Would it be, or can it ever be a video call? Will they never bump into someone in the market and make a friend? Is it impossible to imagine a world where we only know of those who live with us or those who we see every day? These questions bother me. I can never say they are baseless and given how the situation looks, I cannot even say it is impossible anymore.

And when I think of answering these questions, my mind goes back to seeing my sisters’ friends accommodate her in the playground. During such global changes, to avoid ‘fear’ penetrating our lives and defining how we choose to live on, we must become children again. We must modify our approach to favor accommodation over-regulation. If we continue to live with the belief that everything will be fine, then our actions will automatically translate towards that goal. Those days in the badminton court of my apartment complex, I saw five children finding innovative solutions to problems they faced at the moment. They were not worried about something that may arise later. They enjoyed the moment and they chose to normalize the situation rather than changing the game. What could a population of eight billion people do if we put our hearts to the task?

“Danger is very real. Fear is a choice”. That is what Will Smith told his son in the movie, ‘Earth’. It could not be more relevant today. We can live knowing that each second a deadly virus is infecting more and more people on our planet may already have infected us, or we can acknowledge that but carry on through the storm. Mountains are not climbed in days, but we conquered the tallest one over half a century ago. It is time that we draw lessons from children and always remember the child inside of us. The world is our playground now, so let us tweak the rules and make room for others. Let us think of re-arranging ourselves instead of transforming the world into, potentially, a much more dull and unhappy place.

“Walk on, Walk on.
With hope in your heart.
And you’ll never walk alone.”

-Ashutosh Verma (Winner of Third Prize, Covid-19 Article Writing Competition, 18-24 Age Group)

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