The pandemic, the lockdown — who are the people that emerge on the other side of it? Not entirely new, not entirely familiar either. Maybe neither. We’ll never know, unless we begin to imagine it.
Any resemblance to people known is purely coincidental, or not.
This piece is w.i.p. for the foreseeable future.
Rayan found himself gradually gravitating to a way of life that aligned with all that was natural and steeped in the wisdom of nature. It gave him gentle recourse and gradual renewal. Until the pandemic. Confronted by the swift terror of the virus, Rayan decided nature may not fight the fight of men’s making with absolute force & urgency. Since then, he’s turned to the visible word of science. From wellness to grooming, nutrition to leisure — he now seeks absolute numbers and tested facts to navigate choices. He reads the back label before the front, prefers lab-made to hand-made. Better science than sorry, he says.
Nina has had it all and revels in pleasures higher than, beyond sustenance. Her pleasures have been of excess; the more the better. The lockdown shook Nina’s extravagance partly through curtailed access, and partly through the sobering reality of those fighting for actual survival. But old habits die hard. Nina must find pleasure to live. She calls herself a frugal hedonist now — championing the elevation of the bare minimum. It’s not basic, it is elemental elegance, Watson.
Manu had always been a moderately cautious person. He planned for the future, optimistically and optimally. But triggered by the un-preparedness of the lockdown, he now plans everything for the worst-possible scenario. Living in the moment is so 2019, he says. Manu buys everything in bulk now, and is swayed only by spectacularly long expiry dates and instant money-back schemes. Obsessively and frequently, Manu takes stock of his provisions and plans, only to feel insufficiently prepared almost immediately. He is working on Plan D.
Bala’s dreams were bigger than the village she was born in. Starry-eyed and determined, husband in tow, she moved to the big city. Together they joined the lakhs that eked out a little more than bare living in the city, but motivated constantly by the signs of progress that mushroomed around them. Life moved one small step-up at a time — from a tarpaulin roof to a tin sheet, from a pressure cooker to a mobile phone. It always seemed things were bound to get better.
The lockdown shook Bala’s optimism, overnight. There were no reserves, no plan B, and no comfort of kindness. Charity meted out in measured and abrupt doses, was well intentioned sometimes, but barely comforting. Most unsettling of all was the nagging feeling that they did not truly belong. The city owed them nothing, and they had no claims or agency in its dealings.
Bala has set out again, going back to her village with different dreams, where she may live or die, but in the comfort of a familiar earth & people.