As the world grapples to fight the Covid-19 virus, most of us are hunkered
down at homes in a lockdown to help break the circuit of infections and
thus enable our governments to deal more effectively with the medical
crisis at hand. Like anybody else, I am too passing this phase through mixed
emotions of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and hope.
The virus has taught us many things; some that we already knew and some
that have been new learnings. To begin with, it has certainly given us a
sneak preview of a better world. A world where there is greater
cooperation, empathy and stronger bonds. A world that is not consumed by
the noisy engines of factories and vehicles that have for so long symbolised
growth and development. A world that can see the difference between
needs and wants, and can set better priorities. And, a world that has
somewhat been rightfully reclaimed by nature. Clear blue skies, starry
nights and merrily chirping birds are sights and sounds that I look forward
to each day. I fervently hope that the “new normal” that is set in the post
Covid-19 world, fosters and retains some of these positives.
The way local administrations across the world have had to deploy fire-
fighting strategies to contain the virus, the importance of decentralised,
empowered governance along with robust and credible local ecosystems,
cannot be understated. The administrative set up of several cities including
Gurugram have collaborated seamlessly with civil society to widen their
reach and impact. Many NGOs, corporates, RWAs, citizen initiatives and
ordinary citizens have come forward to help the administration in
unimaginable ways. Hopefully, this sets the trend of greater private-public
partnerships in the coming times.
Post Covid-19, sustainability should find a renewed urgency. As we
discover that more office work and meetings can be done from home, the
need for creating physical infrastructure (office buildings, expanding road
network) should reduce. There should now be a greater realisation that
messing with forests and natural resources can be counter-productive.
With the hum-drum of busy, hectic lives gone, people are enjoying the
simple pleasures of life – composting, gardening, growing vegetables,
cooking and finding time for old hobbies. It is a pleasure to see friends and
family recycling and reusing what they have. This can eventually lead more
to join the “minimalistic lifestyle” bandwagon.
Needless to say, the pace of technology adoption has been unprecedented
in this time. Be it virtual meetings and webinars, taking yoga classes and
music tutorials online, or students attending school virtually, technology
has been a huge “enabler” that has empowered our lives. Most of us have
used and upgraded our e-skills to spend our time more productively.
It has also made us think more empathetically about certain sections of our
society such as daily wage earners, construction workers, farmers and
small businessmen, as the crisis has exposed how vulnerable these sections
are in such situations. The government must create innovative and effective
schemes for these sections to withstand this crisis.
The lockdown is perhaps also a time to take our attention to critical city
functions and fix them for once and all. For instance, Gurugram’s waste
management is crying for help. The need for handing out segregated waste,
practicing zero waste dumping or waste burning and sending minimal
waste to landfills, cannot be felt more than in these times. The risk that our
sanitation workers bear and that of spreading contamination through non-
sanitised practices seems so “real” now.
To sum up, the lock-down will undeniably be one of the most unusual times
in our lives. It is an opportunity to build patience and resilience within, to
have compassion and be useful to the society at large, and perhaps a time
to re-invent and re-orient ourselves to make us future-ready.
Before I end, I must thank people who have not had the luxury to sit back
and relax under the lockdown. The doctors, nurses, paramedics, policemen,
sanitation workers, delivery men and many others have been working on
the frontline and putting themselves at risk to ensure our safety and well-
being. A big salute to these heroes!