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Updated: May 3, 2020

A true optimist is one who views a glass half full as against half empty. Over last month and a half we are mostly fed by the electronic and print media on what is going wrong with Covid-19 pandemic. The fallout of this has been growing incidents of individuals falling prey to psychiatric problems due to brooding over cataclysmic end to the world. Faint-hearted have started losing their nerves. However, Porosh, as usual, offers a different take on this issue.

The forced lockdown has made many of us realize the futility of unnecessary necessities. We have started to live with less. This is the new normal, Atleast for the time being. Scope for extravagant spending and money splurging is no longer possible. We are compelled to lead a simple life like it, or not. Suddenly designation and status appear meaningless. Yet the superfluity of 24*7 lifecycle is yet to sink-in with many. Those accustomed to leading bahirmukhi lifestyle are probably finding it unsettling to adjust to the unexpected shift in gear. However, what we may fail to realize is that it might be once in a lifetime opportunity for us to find true meaning of our existence. This period of lockdown could be the turning-point in many of our lives in terms of setting priorities beyond the narrow confines of one’s career and material accomplishments. Is there anything else to look forward to?

Yes. At the societal level we have become more self-reliant by way of performing household chores be it mopping floors, cooking, washing utensils, dusting etc. In this sense, lockdown due to COVID-19 has been a great leveller. It has blurred the difference between the haves and have-nots, a common man on the street and a celebrity. Not only this. There are news reports claiming that the senior citizens (and others as well) having asthmatic problems have reduced breathing problems.

On a still broader scale the good old Earth has finally got the much-needed healing touch. What global conferences on climate change could not achieve over the years, COVID-19 has been able to. It has proved beyond doubt that without genuine fear of death we are happy paying lip service to nature conservation. The Nature is reclaiming its lost territories and evidences are aplenty. Thus, COVID-19 has proved to be a great leveller by bringing the developed, developing and under-developed nations together and make them work in unison.

Although humanity has taken a beating yet we are confident of bouncing back a lot more wiser.

In the year 1973 EF Schumacher’s seminal book titled Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered was released. When COVID-19 has left the entire globe reeling under its impact, analyses made by him about half-a-century ago may help us appreciate deeper reasons triggering the pandemic.

Schumacher had observed, “Already the environment is trying to tell us that certain stresses are becoming excessive. As one problem is being ‘solved’, ten new problems arise as a result of the first ‘solution’. … the new problems are not the consequences of incidental failure but of technological success.” If we are to believe that COVID-19 is a man-made virus,then cannot it not be attributed to technological success which has gone wrong? The above statement calls for deep introspection. Superficial arguments will only obfuscate what is obvious.

He went on to add further, “The developments of science and technology over the last hundred years have been such that the dangers have grown even faster than the opportunity.” Unless we are opinionated it should not be difficult to appreciate that unbridled technological innovation has brought upon humanity unfathomed uncertainty along with material comfort as a mere palliative. Hence, Schumacher cautioned about the need for a conscious and fundamental change in the direction of scientific effort. What is it resulting in?

He contended, “Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control and therefore increases existential fear.” Can there be a better example than a sense of collective fear overpowering us today? We are mortally scared about our very survival as the threat of from an invisible enemy is making us feel so helpless.

Amidst all this the Nature, in its own way, is offering us a chance to recalibrate our fast-paced lives, an opportunity to slow down and a glimpse of simple living (and perhaps high thinking). After all this is over, mankind will probably emerge wiser and more humbles.

Post lockdown several videos of high-handed behavior of men in uniform (from different parts of the country) disciplining errant individuals became viral courtesy various Whatsapp groups. Naturally, we were a bit apprehensive meeting similar fate in course of delivering essential commodities to the senior citizens who made distress calls to us.

During the initial days when we were criss-crossing the city from Mahamayatala to Maheshtala and Naktala to Park Circus the very site of a police personnel manning an otherwise busy street junction made our hearts skip. However, our fears were allayed soon.It is true that on several occasions our vehicle was stopped and questioned by the civic volunteers and personnel of the Kolkata Police be it at Rash Bihari Avenue, Lord’s More, or Tollygunge Phari. But whenever we conveyed to them the purpose of our travel and shared relevant documents to substantiate they have always been courteous. Never for once have they been ham-headed.

In our effort to provide grocery items and medicines, the kirana & pharmacy stores have been of great support. During several occasions on our request they gladly arranged for certain items otherwise unavailable within a day, or two.

Had it not been for such help from different quarters of the civil society Porosh’s efforts to serve the senior citizens would have been far from easy. It has bolstered our belief that citizens of Kolkata do not dither from coming forward to help hapless fellow-travelers during moments of unheard of crises. Did someone say Kolkatans are laid-back?

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