An open letter to my future self on the Covid-19 times

Hey me in my ‘60s…,

Remember the times when Covid-19 had the whole world in its clutches? And all the uncertainty and the precariousness related to it? Well, it is happening right now – in the first half of 2020! Pretty much the whole world is observing social distancing, and staying at home restricting our movements. We have faced calamities, but never before in a 100 years has the whole world been scared in a similar manner! Now that we have adjusted with the fears, and accepted this as the “new normal”, we have slowly figured out ways by which we can keep ourselves busy.

The commute having been cut out from our daily lives, we realise that there is so much time in our days now – time to spend more time with the kids and pay attention to what they actually want to tell us, care more for the wilting and under loved houseplants, mow the lawn that needed a haircut badly, time to try a slow-cooking dish that looked very tempting on the cook-book, to reimagine and re-decorate the living space, time to even iron the pyjamas well – after all, that is what we wear day in day out!

Socially distanced

Now that it’s a few decades past, I am sure you might have grown used to the ‘new routine’ life on the other side of the Covid times. Are you enjoying the new norms of remote working and studying? How about the digital events and e-sports you can watch from the comfort of our home? Or the telehealth appointment you just had with your General Practitioner? You better be thankful to the people of the world who faced unprecedented crisis in the Corona times (including your younger self that is me), yet dealt with it with such amazing vigour and adaptability, worked with such impressive innovation; and bounced back from it in no time!  

Days when we would only see the world through the window

Remember, how ‘human’ world suddenly turned virtual once people just stared staying at home following the social distancing policies – well about quarter of all of the people in the world? Schools and workplaces just got converted to remote ones in just a matter of couple of weeks. Initially when we heard about this so-called social distancing, many people thought it sounds like a badly scripted Hollywood movie where a virus selectively affects human beings making them stay indoors; where as every other living being in the world is safe! But yep, it was real – and how bizarre was it!

One really hilarious occurrence that you may recollect is the toilet paper crisis that happened in Australia – the queues in local supermarkets for toilet paper, and people stockpiling toilet paper like crazy; but in the end met with absolutely no crisis of the toilet paper, or anything else for that matter? Well it is intriguing that more than anything else, it is the toilet paper that people fancied about if the times get tough!

OK, let me stop pretending everything is hunky dory. Let me be honest – as you know, it was not at all easy in the beginning. If someone asked me on 2020 New Year’s Eve how it would feel for a quarter of the world to stay at home or for the renowned Bondi beach to be closed, I would think that person is cuckoo. Come March, it suddenly became a reality! 

Part of a very enterprising community, being asked to give up our social life altogether was really difficult for me too. Friend’s weddings that have been prepped for ages, nice little holidays planned with mates at the central coast of New South Wales, even family get-togethers for Easter had to be cancelled! And so many similar things that you can recollect – it was as if the whole of Australian autumn season in 2020 itself was deleted from everyone’s memory!

Everywhere to travel…

Talking about nature, it is fascinating how nature rebuilt so soon during the Covid- 19 lockdown times, once we humans decided to take a back seat from occupying every single nook and corner of this planet – clearer waters in Venetian canals as a result of decreased boat activity, drop of the air pollution because of Sydney and Melbourne’s’ traffic reduction by 80%, Himalayas becoming visible from parts of India because of smog disappearing and so forth. And remember, as always there was fake news that went viral and giving false hope too – how cute were those falsely created videos of dolphins playing in the clear Venetian canals devoid of the boats!!

Greenery catches up alongside the roads

Closer to home, is something that you may hark back to – when all of us started staying at home, we started growing hungrier. Apart from family breakies, lunches and dinners, substantial morning and afternoon teas became a usual occurrence. Added to this was the no-exercise days and lazy evenings, and we started gaining cellulite like crazy.  Some of these kilos that you have been struggling to shed the last few years can be tracked back to the Corona lockdown times!

But things were not all to be seen through the rose-rimmed spectacles. This was a tough time for the essential, healthcare workers who did not have the privilege of staying in the safety of their own hopes. And many others like cleaners and chefs and tradies that serviced the hospitals – they were on high alert, to look after the hospital premises whilst being aware of their own safety. Tens of thousands of people in the retail industry and travel workers lost their jobs. You may recollect Johnny who helped us from the moment we moved to The Hills district; standing with a frozen smile as told us about his lost job. Many people who work in hospitality across the country faced similar fates as the restaurants became take away only; overnight. A large chunk of the population started to feel the crunch; pushing them to live within tighter budgets. Job keeper, small business payments and were a consolation, but the associated uncertainty was hard to be managed.

When nations closed borders and air travel became a rarity, it was the migrants like us who suffered. Remember, our parents were alone in our home country, and we couldn’t even travel to visit them up until 2021? We think we live in a global village but it only took a little virus to shoot all our egos down; and make us all stay at home. Realising that beyond everything that we have ever considered valuable, it was hand wash that costs 5 dollars that saved our lives!

During March and April months of 2020, I couldn’t even forsee a post-crisis world where people will not be afraid to shake their hands with each other, sit next to a stranger in a café or not stare at someone who has just coughed once! But as every other calamity or crisis, we saw the other side of this one too, and it did pass! We did ‘flatten the curve’, and travelled past the second wave too, and the time did come once again where loving hugs are not met with a doubt! But you did learn a lot, and you now know that a lot of things that we saw as an entitlement before the Covid times are actually privileges – even simple things like a comfortable home to live within, and food on the table – and for that matter, an unending supply of toilet tissues too!

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