The prognosis of the post-COVID 19 worlds has widely been discussed among scholars. The opinion-makers have disseminated speculations. Meanwhile, lives that halted and economic shutdown during the lockdown has seen gradual stances of unlocks in a series of events, unlike the lockdown process. With the rail of migrant workers marching on the highways, railway lines, platforms, all across and people aiming to return home safe, have reached respective villages, and now reverse migration is in progress.
The migrant worker, the pillar of the economy, is at work again. They have been struggling to keep themselves alive and earn the livelihoods that eventually forced them to migrate to the same city from where they have walked disgraceful.
During the lockdown, the environment has revitalized itself. On the other hand, humans have challenges dealing with the infection, particularly the frontline worker of the pandemic crusader. Besides, the pandemic has a positive influence on a section of the societies concerning behaviour and attitude towards the environment. The other section was sitting back and wishing to get a completely new and transformed world after the lockdown or at least post-COVID 19.
We all were ambitious to receive a world full of energy being invested into preserving nature, conserving the newly emerging wildlife, and consistently maintaining the ‘good’ habits’ acquired over a short span. Eventually, reality seems very far from the imagined new world. Let me take you through a few instances where we decide what we have the new normal or the same old.
First instance, a woman living in a patriarchal society is being forced to feel shy and introverted to go out in public. The prevailing insecurities compel them to feel uncomfortable walking in a public space. Once the mandate of the mask was implemented, the women have to cover her face, thereby her physical identity. Given the circumstances, women ‘received’ liberty in some way.
Perhaps, this sense of liberty, or freedom to move in a public space, has a hidden cultural connotation. But is this good? In a way suitable for a section of working women, they at least feel the freedom to go out, doing what they want, but does it do any good to their social life? Essentially that does constitute the new version of the old normal. For ages, this has been prevalent in the form of purdah or niqab system in human society and covering face at high temperatures in states like Rajasthan and Delhi. Now a veil or mask to prevent the virus.
Let us discuss the second situation, where the phobia concerning the spread of infection serves well the act of discrimination. Even after months of the pandemic, people are in the stage of not being fully aware of what the virus is, and how one must keep oneself safe. Up till when the virus reaches one’s vicinity, they follow a casual attitude, similar to what we saw globally when the virus first landed up in the news in early January 2020. The recklessness, lack of stringent measures is still the policy of the public.
You may still find people in public space without wearing a mask, or putting a mask over their chin (probably waiting for the virus to come and say Hi to them so that they put it over), or improper hygienic practices. But when a person, or their family, or anyone nearby gets it, they treat them with seclusion, indifference, and hatred. This doesn’t help, but in fact, spreads phobia and hate, as we witnessed in March or April with people returning from abroad. This is a suitable example of an old book in a new cover.
The third situation brings the political sentiments of the majoritarian rule favouring the religious beliefs and practices of the majority in Indian society over the minorities. The incidence of Tablighi Jamaat, which needs no mention, was recently declared vicious propaganda and an act of scapegoat in a verdict of the Bombay High court.
Over the phase of lockdown, many similar instances have happened, be it the Ayodhya Ram Mandir foundation pooja, Jaganath Puri Rath Yatra, Ganesh Chaturthi, or Tirupati temple. Nobody felt worrisome of these acts concerning the pandemic. The same act of political negotiations and political favouritism and the same media promoting the positives of all of it. Still, wondering if it is the same old or not?
The fourth instance is about those who believe in the theory of climate change and are concerned about the environment. Along with those who do not, altogether turned to preserve the environment and save nature for all good times that it exhibited in the lockdown phase. But does anyone care to stick to their intentions now? The traffic is the same; the use of air conditioners (ACs), the use of plastic, garbage mismanagement are the same. What is new about it? Do we have any measure to act better? We did not improve even on the lines handling it better. This is no new; we just realized the fact and returned to the same old habits.
The fifth and final conditionality is the persisting caste system in our society. Recently I was observing my LinkedIn profile. Some entrepreneurs are so actively posting about their efficient HR roles in accepting the conditions of the applicants, and giving them a platform or say a helping hand to promote their role in somebody’s socio-economic betterment. Such exaggeration was also observed at the start of lockdown, when people started donating money, supporting their home-maids, etc in getting train tickets, sufficient food for their families, a place to live, etc.
But over time, we realized that we, as part of Indian society, cannot merely survive without their aid, and all of the moral upliftment was momentary. They cannot sustain their social media posts by performing household chores evermore. They need them back, they need assistance, and need a person who could do this for them, clean their filth, so they get extra time to rest, work out, and post. This is nothing new again.
This has been the evident ideology of hierarchal Indian society. If we were at new normal, first and foremost is to realize ‘our house our responsibility,’ and if not, providing them with at least minimum daily wages for their work. Or else, this exemplifies the worst scenarios in the era of humanity, being nastier than the ‘same old’ we talked about throughout.
No matter what conditions confront us, the fundamental nature of humans is difficult to change. If in the current situation, the social systems and their functionaries are not changing, then what are we waiting for? Do we need the pandemic more disastrous and perilous calamity for the changes to constitute a ‘new normal?