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Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020 10:00 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020 04:26 [IST]

Embrace the change

Life is a great leveller and a global health crisis has proved this beyond doubt. The Covid-19 pandemic has humbled humanity and unmoored us from our regular habits. The disruption it has wreaked upon the world has caused us to react in ways that would have been unimaginable before it struck. When Chinese authorities shut down Wuhan in January, it was the first modern instance of an entire city with millions of people being asked to shelter-in-place. Only a few weeks later that new idea had become commonplace as India imposed one of the strictest lockdowns of all on a billion people.

As data and science have evolved and moved in the weeks since then, we have had to make material changes in our thought processes and lifestyles. We’ve had to learn, unlearn and relearn several things. A massive, quick and widespread disruption like a pandemic offers this opportunity in a markedly different way than a disruption like climate change, which is difficult to envision and comprehend in a short time.

In this prompt we intended to ask a professional question, but also a deeply personal one. All of us now know people personally who have been sick; many (even all?) of us know people who have died. All of us have had lives upended, lost opportunities, had careers and livelihoods set back or even wrecked.

How do we pick up the pieces? What pieces are even still available to us? Which pieces should we cast aside, and leave on the ash heap? We see (or can simply hear more clearly) more wildlife. Can we hold on to this and build on momentum for and the dream of greener cities for all? New modes of communication and teaching have a lot of potential, but are also fraught. Meeting in person has real, intangible, and alchemical value. Not all of our students have the desire to learn online, and not all have the resources to do so. Many of us are slowing down, “smelling the roses”, baking more bread, finding new ways to connect to others. Can contemplation and mindfulness be sustained? Many are amazed at the clean air and reduced consumption. Can a new normal for the fight against climate change and for livability be embedded in our social actions?

And when it is all over, hopefully soon, the proof of concept will be open for discussion in the public domain. Choices will be stark but the old normal should not become the new normal again.  We have an opportunity to press the reset button for a new normal, one where equity prevails for all things natural. The catch here is, will we be able to remember?

Now is the time to think ahead about how life should look like in the post-Covid-19 future – we need to trick time further than our personal spaces. We have learnt that as communities and as individuals, we change best when we are affected as individuals, when our sense of freedom and our quality of life is on stake. And the virus has taught us that we as a species can change real fast, if nudge sufficiently. If we can be motivated enough to reduce our travel and increase our concern for nature, if we can question our politicians and challenge big business, individual action has the potential to transform the community of this generation.

Although a vaccine or proper treatment for Covid-19 is still not in sight, we have to try to shake the feeling of being trapped in the present. We now need to engage with the emerging politics of time, which will determine our near future.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi