We needed an awakening, far from the madding crowds is where we needed to be. I wish it would have happened in a kinder, gentler way, but then again, if wishes were horses.

I n the summer of 1982, Tim Dlugos wrote a four-line poem entitled “My Death.” “when I no longer feel it breathing down my neck it’s just around the corner (hi neighbor)” The world we live in today, is a different one from the one we were expecting to live in when we celebrated the New Year 2020. There was no way that we could have visualised a disaster of this nature. We are all inside our homes, not just in India, but the world over, industries have shut shop, market places are bare. This pandemic has afflicted the globe, and in a single sweep, effectively changed our entire perspective and thought process, about how we live our lives, and how we should. I see many people right now looking for a silver lining in the midst of this disaster. An article caught my eye today in the morning newspaper, it was a survey by Lady Shri Ram College of which I am a proud alumni. The study was regarding the top stressors for people at this time. Hearteningly, the survey suggests that despite widespread anxiety over scarcity of food and resources, “essential items are not the biggest headache.”

The study, titled “Probing pandemonium”, conducted across 10 states and led by Kanika Ahuja, a psychology professor, seems to suggest that people are more stressed seeing the plight of the disadvantaged and the economic crisis. The study which examines the psychosocial stressors finds that most people are stressed about the plight of human beings around them and the suffering that has come to the surface. In a world, where essentials are scarce and the human race as a collective does not really know where they are headed, there is an immense amount of insecurity for the future, if the biggest stressor is the fact that another human being is suffering, then I think we may have raised a generation right. The empathy and the kindness that we have seen in that past few days towards the helpless and the less fortunate is phenomenal. They are calling this pandemic an unprecedented disaster, but we have also seen unprecedented human kindness and love towards fellow human beings. The truth is that through the years, we had all become so self-obsessed and involved with our own intricate lives that somehow, we forgot the values taught to us when we were in school.

The first value taught to us, “Love thy neighbour”. Today, it fills my heart with hope for a beautiful tomorrow when I see young people take the initiative out of their own will, organise themselves into volunteer groups, donate and help others, simply because they believe in a greater good, they realise the value that Rs 50 might mean a day’s meal for one person, while it only means a packet of crisps for them, and they are willing to sacrifice whatever that money could have bought them, to feed and support another. What an awakening! This evolution is true across age groups. We were living in an era of consumerism and high society, where the only talks that mattered were drawing room discussions over the latest topic in fashion, we were all living a life of an Ayn Rand existentialist, fluttering from event to event as if that is all that mattered; realisation had to dawn. The simple luxuries that we had abjured; the sun shining, waking up to the birds, the time spent with families, relishing food at home, breathing fresh pure air are all we have today, and we seem to be relishing this time indoors. We needed an awakening, far from the madding crowds is where we needed to be. I wish it would have happened in a kinder, gentler way, but then again, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. The crisis that faces us today is strange; it is not war, or political or ideological in nature. We cannot see it, or feel it, or reason with it. This disease will attack us, irrespective of our religion, class or gender, this is an invisible foe, that is just there, and today, there is precious little we can do against it. Despite the fact that what we are fighting today is a virus, almost impossible to control, the measures taken by the Government of India are laudable.

It is common knowledge that the practicality and the ideology of politics are different, but the way, the Indian government has responded to the current crisis, without caring about anything else except the health of its citizens is something the world is appreciating. The measure of strictness determined by the World Health Organisation rated India at the strictest among countries. That being said, the government has also made sure that the underprivileged and the poor are not left out in the rain. A relief package of Rs 1.7 lakh crore has been announced to support the immediate need of the migrant labour and the poor. Besides this, the governments are organising food free of cost and monetary help for every family in need during this time. Day after day, Good Samaritans are taking up the cause of the disadvantaged. The police are stationed at various places undertaking to distribute food and essential supplies to people in need with the help of Good Samaritans. At this time, the work done by the police is laudable, I know of several friends who wanted to help with food and the police guided and gave them that last mile connectivity. While we are lucky and stay in our homes, tragedy has hit a large number of our fellow countrymen. The hardest hit is the unskilled labour and the migrant workforce. We recently witnessed a mass migration, where migrants were walking on foot to their native villages. Today that migration has stopped. It had to stop, the lockdown is in place to prevent the spread of disease and it is such instances that will make us more vulnerable, there is no other way out, except to stop them. I feel very relieved to see that despite the fact that there was no way out, and Prime Minister Narendra Modiji acted swiftly with the lockdown, our citizens were not left to fend for themselves on the streets. Today as I sit writing this, there is a very real possibility of the lockdown being extended, which although means hardship for our populace, is extremely essential for our country right now.

The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford published an analysis of 73 countries rating them on the stringency of measures taken to curb the pandemic, where India has been given a rating of 100, i.e. the strictest measures. The way India has tried to control the spread of this invisible enemy has been commended by several agencies and several other governments of other countries have followed suit. In the meanwhile, we wait inside, socially distancing ourselves, we wait, for a happier tomorrow, for days when we may once again go out of our houses and be able hug our loved ones and shake hands with friends, but life will never be the same again. It has changed, I hope towards a simpler tomorrow, a radiant and a more humane tomorrow and towards a more conscious, empathetic way of living. Hopefully, we will continue to value life with all its beauty and values and cherish them in the postcorona world. The article is written by Pinky Anand, Additional Solicitor General of India, assisted by Saudamini Sharma, Advocate.