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As the saying goes, time is the greatest healer. With the pandemic receding from the public consciousness, it is easy to forget the trauma, the suffering, the incalculable loss of lives, and equally calculable disruptions to livelihoods caused. Indeed, more so when nations worldwide have almost accepted the Coronavirus much like the common cold, i.e. a fact of life one has to live with, though more severe than the latter, requiring periodic inoculations or booster vaccine doses. However, Lest We Forget, here are 5 pandemic lessons did teach us very valuable lessons about just about facet of our lives, including our work, physical and mental health, and most important of all, the “fragility” of the world we live in, both in our mental constructs and the physical infrastructure.
The Indian Experience
Let us start with how India dealt with Covid. From “rushed” lockdowns to equally “hurried” unlocks, and from the official apathy to the neglect of the value of human life, the haphazard and utterly inhuman way the pandemic was handled had tragic consequences for Millions of our fellow citizens. Moreover, we “ignored” expert advice and our “chalta hai” attitude proved costly (literally as well as figuratively), compounding the pain and the anguish of the nation. Worse, targeting minorities and scapegoating particular social groups was anything but in good taste. Added to this was the lethal impact of “fake news” on everything from “unproven” remedies to deliberate misinformation about treatment procedures and the availability of beds and scarce ICU resources.
Indeed, as the “brutal” Second Wave showed, images of Indians scrounging for beds and, sometimes, losing their lives waiting for hospital admissions is a telling commentary on the state of our healthcare infrastructure. Coming as it does on the eve of our 75th year of Independence, it is clear that India@75 failed to deliver when it mattered. Added to the misery was the high-handedness of our bureaucracy and the lack of anything resembling an organized response from the Powers That Be. In one sentence, the pandemic proved that we Indians are “on our own” when the chips are down. Hopefully, the “right” lessons have been learnt and mercifully utilized when the next round of any such plague strikes.
The Pandemic Taught Us That Work Is Not Everything
While I can go on and on about this, it would be remiss if I left out the lessons that working professionals learned from the pandemic. Right from a “sudden” shift to WFH or Work From Home to freshers seeing their job offers kept on hold or even terminated, the pandemic impacted the White Collar workforce in multifaceted ways, so much so that the post pandemic landscape of the “world of work” has been irrevocably transformed. Lest we forget, the Blue Collar workers were rendered “invisible”. Indeed, as Millions of Migrant workers made their way back to their homes, Millions more found themselves out of a job and were uncertain about “where their next meal would come from”. Such insensitivity to the plight of the poor reveals the utter failure of our neoliberal capitalist economy, which could have been more compassionate and caring where it mattered.
The Pandemic Scarred Us All And Left Us With Lingering Mental Health Issues
All these dislocations and disruptions took a toll on our mental health (lucky if our physical health remained normal), so much so that an entire generation of Millennials and Gen Zers decided they wanted more from their lives than slaving away at work. With trends such as The Great Resignation and the acute rates of burnout and stress among these age cohorts, worried business leaders scrambled to make sense of Millennial “angst” and devise appropriate responses. Indeed, even in India, there was another trend (along the lines of the above) playing out where Crores of Indians of working age simply “disappeared” from the workforce, demoralized and discouraged as they were by the prospects of a “jobless” recovery. More is in store for Indian women, who found themselves unable or unwilling to resume work and careers due to the many vicissitudes of the post-pandemic economy.
However, The Pandemic Ushered In The Digital Age
If the above represents a “gloom and doom” scenario, it is because they are and though the pandemic “ushered in” the Digital Age, our excessive dependence on technology enslaved us and made us all “junkies” looking for perpetual “highs” in a Sisyphean quest to nowhere. Of course, the changing world of the post-pandemic era is leading to a rethink on everything from what work is, what we want from life, and how we must manage the “transition” from a Smokestack era of the Industrial Age to the Smartphone symbolized Digital Age. Indeed, the pandemic would be remembered as one of the few consequential outcomes that can transform our world in the years to come. Of course, this would only happen with our collective will to change and not beguiled by the fake “prophets” who cropped up almost everywhere.
Breakdown Of the Social Contract Is The Most Consequential Lesson From The Pandemic
Last and certainly not least, the most impactful lesson from the pandemic is the rise in lawlessness, casual violence, skyrocketing suicide rates, and the exponential spike in crimes. These are troubling trends that, if left unchecked, can inviolate the “social contract” that binds us all and lets societies function as the glue that holds the threads. So, in a way, lest we forget, the pandemic has made us victims of brazen social unrest and chaos and anarchy have been unleashed, even in the most ordered countries of the West. Coupled with the above lessons, the biggest takeaway is that the next time something similar to the pandemic happens, it is curtains for our ways of working and living, and more like, we will be hurtling towards a Dark Age.
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