As I write this, I am sitting at my workstation at home, a cup of hot green tea in hand, like any other day. But that is where ‘like any other day’ ends.
My husband is working from home, no longer out on his weekly tour. The kids are no longer at school. We are watchful of every sneeze, alarmed at every cough. At least, three sanitizers would greet you on the way from my apartment, down the elevator to the ground floor reception. An email from Google is asking me if my business is affected because of corona virus; forwards from well meaning (and often ill-informed) relatives detailing baffling ‘facts’, even the magical cure of ginger garlic. WhatsApp groups are full of passionate debates about the ‘right’ degree of panic this should evoke. I myself am struggling to find the ‘cool’ response to this crisis, while chiding a friend in Philippines for note panicking and taking the next flight home, even though it will mean fourteen days of quarantine for her. Tom Hanks contracted the virus. The Canadian Prime Minister’s wife also did.
I am terribly hooked to Stephen Colbert’s daily monologue at the Late Show. It works like a wonder to cheer me up on my worst days. Today, as I turned to my daily dose, it took me steeply downhill as the host put up the gloomiest narrative, struggling to do a live show where a live audience is no longer allowed. This was it for me! I do not know if the virus has physiologically affected one or not, it certainly has in every other way — professional, parental, societal. It seems to be everywhere.
Some of my friends love to read and exchange pieces of thoughtful good writing. A few days back, we discussed one such piece and immediately agreed how cosmologists have the most beautiful commentary on life, as they can distance themselves from the myopic view of daily human life and zoom out into the universe. It must be easier to lose that momentary angst when you realise what a minuscule spec you are on a little dot.
I often say I am not as good at writing as I am at reading. So here is a bit by physicist Brian Green that I particularly loved. “Most of us deal quietly with the need to lift ourselves beyond the everyday. Most of us allow civilisation to shield us from the realisation that we are part of a world that, when we’re gone, will hum along, barely missing a beat. We focus our energy on what we can control. We build community. We participate. We care. We laugh. We cherish. We comfort. We grieve. We love. We celebrate. We consecrate. We regret. We thrill to achievement, sometimes our own, sometimes of those we respect or idolise. Through it all, we grow accustomed to looking out to the world to find something to excite or soothe, to hold our attention or whisk us to someplace new. Yet the scientific journey we’ve taken suggests strongly that the universe does not exist to provide an arena for life and mind to flourish. Life and mind are simply a couple of things that happen to happen. Until they don’t.” That last line in there is the only truth, the only take away, the only lesson. It is the same for all of us. Whether you are in Italy or India or Iran.
Corona virus has taken our nationalities, religion, colour, all away from us. It has levelled us all as equals, trying to make sense of a common enemy. We are now the same. Of course how we deal with it may differ, but only in degree. We are the same parents who worry for their kids, the same tourists who feel unwelcome, the same travellers who long to make it home, the same businesses that suffer, the same patients who are isolated, the same clueless heads trying to figure this out.
Corona virus has rendered us all the same — the human species – what we were when our kind started inhabiting the Earth.
Almost every industry in the world has been impacted — from sports to the financial markets. But through it all, we still turn to our phones to see that message of concern from friends, that well meaning (maybe ill-informed) forward from relatives, that email from an employer on how to keep yourself safe, that beautiful write up from a psychologist, that Google alert on the latest celebrity to contract the virus.
The talking. The reading. The communicating.
Never has it seemed more important than today, to keep that conversation going, to make that long due call, to show that concern, to fuss over that loved one, to accept that helplessness, to find that common ground in not knowing.
This article was first published in the Borderless Journal and republished in countercurrents. org. I shall be forever grateful to these fantastic platforms for including my voice.
Nidhi is Founder & CEO of Bookosmia (smell of books) – India’s No.1 publisher of content ‘for kid, by kids’ from 140+ locations worldwide. An ex-banker who pivoted from a 10 year banking career to disrupt a traditional publishing industry, Nidhi attributes her love for literature and culture to growing up in Lucknow , her feminist flair and an Honours in Mathematics to Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University and an MBA and her husband to IIM Lucknow. After a decade-long career in the financial sector, finally quitting as VP, HSBC as she suffers from a (misplaced) sense of satisfaction and a drive to do something meaningful with her time. She has been on the editorial board of the international journal Borderless, is a neurodiversity ally and mental health advocate for adolescents. Outside of Bookosmia, Nidhi spends much of her time overindulging her two beautiful daughters, organizing dastangoi/mehfils and co-hosting a podcast with authors,called Traveling Time with Books on Audible, Spotify etc.You can write to her at email@example.com