Liberating the Soul amidst a Lockdown

As India battles with a Coronavirus induced lockdown with preventive measures, our plan of action has started affecting our own daily lives. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced a nation-wide lockdown for a day on 22nd March 2020. It was said to be India’s first attempt to battle with COVID-19. Many praised him for this step, others left no stone unturned in criticising him. Following the lockdown, a big blow came to everyone’s expectations (except for the ones who could see this coming) when it was announced that the lockdown was to extend till 14th of April.

The masses murdered irony more than once by flocking at the general store and piling up as many supplies as they could for their personal use. On the other hand, there were people who accepted the idea that they would not live to see the end of this lockdown because they were daily-wagers. Multiple independent organisations sprang up to help out such people, and some were even funded by the government. On 13th of April, in a turn of events that didn’t surprise anyone with an iota of brain cells left, the lockdown was extended till 3rd of May. India has been facing multiple tensions at this point, with a plummeting economy and a lower class which is paying the heaviest price. Dozens of migrant labourers and their children even died while walking back home in the absence of state and national transport. As the middle and upper-class struggle with not feeling stuck at home, the lower class might just give everything (or whatever that is left of it) to feel the same way. This article will always fail to capture the misery of the lower class. Instead of me exaggerating or undermining it to make up for my lack of connection and understanding of the same, I consider it best to leave it as it is. The government needs to look into the conditions being faced by this section, while I fully understand that expecting an appropriate response for the lower class when the same can’t be delivered even to the upper one is placing too much expectation on the shoulders of society. If perhaps, we lived in Utopia, I would have argued more heavily on their behalf. The middle and the upper-class, however, are battling on another frontier altogether. Somewhere along the line, we decided that we would reap the benefits of the Industrial Revolution to the point that consumerism would fill our heads and make us forget about the human potential for change. It is so liberating to not have a mark for success because it also means that there is no mark of failure (and human beings fear losing more than they enjoy winning). People now complain about ‘having no purpose,’ as if they were championing the race for the discovery of physical manifestations of dark energy before the lockdown commenced.

While COVID-19 and Lockdown have torn down much of what we valued, it is important to realise that all that we valued was not the best for us. Now, with no friends to hang out with, we have turned to our smartphones. It is easy to note your change as well. Just take a look at the screentime of your mobile phone (it is accessible under the ‘Digital Wellbeing’ settings) and you will notice a huge surge, or at least the number of hours being more than what you previously expected. When the last episode of Money Heist ends and you have filled out the last Bingo sheet about your school or religion (or ideology), you will simply realise how bad you are at getting along with yourself. My heart goes out to everyone who has not taken ample time to mend their relationships within their families, as I know how much of a struggle it is for them to deal with people when there are elephants in the room. A special mention here for the women and children being abused at home would be befitting. It is scary for the commonfolk to realise how anyone of us can be a neighbour to an abuser. On the other part, it is important to note that there are people out there who for some reason are not at home.

Thinking long-term and caring for your own self will bear the best results
Thinking long-term and caring for your own self will bear the best results

They may be with friends or alone, but they all secretly wish that they could go back somehow (maybe for just a couple of days). Man is a social animal, but nowhere is it written that we’re meant to be so sad about being on our own. We are noting people literally risking their lives during a pandemic just to go outside and see the world. I understand that not all of us can be Shaolin monks, but the need to go out runs deeper than what our religion or belief preaches us. With the rise of consumerism and the advent of infinite-scrolling, we found it to be particularly comforting that we no longer have to deal with the idea of death. The advancements in modern medicine made sure that concepts such as Memento Mori or Danse Macabre remain fables or only for the truly wise who wish to seek the truth. Never, in the history of mankind, has man been able to isolate himself so much from the path of self-discovery. Sure, you could have indulged in many things in the past as well but there were still religious or cultural institutions that forced a man to think from time to time. That didn’t guarantee that they would not stray away from the path by indulging again or that they would even think straight while being forced to think, but surely there was some solace in knowing that an average person thinks of higher ideas and an unseen God every Sunday in Church or every Monday in a temple or every Friday in a mosque. With the decline of religious institutions because of their failure to keep up with modern science, what we also lost were generations of traditions out of which most would have been nonsensical but some held great unexplainable wisdom. Lockdown has acted as a revivalist for all the suppressed tendencies of our ancestors coded deep into our genetic code which we have suppressed by environmental and wishful factors. Your average popular kid of the school may not end up becoming a sage or end up with a profound thesis on the idea of God, but he has no escape left in the form of human contact other than social media. This is a major caveat in the whole deal. One can benefit greatly from the restrictions which have been imposed as a result of COVID-19, or one can throw away this wonderful opportunity which can be utilised to study, read more, or to develop new hobbies. Advertising campaigns have shifted their total focus on social media marketing and are trying harder to keep you from putting your phone down. A good way is to turn off your notifications and ease up your routine. Fix your sleeping schedule. Learn more about pandemics and how they have been successfully repelled in the past (don’t give into over-optimism or mass hysteria), think about the importance of human connections and what would you like to do once the lockdown is over.

Thinking long-term can be beneficial in making you feel better about the current crisis. There are home-based workout routines over YouTube which you can practice to keep your mind fresh. Lastly, COVID-19’s lockdown has provided you with an opportunity to restructure your lifestyle. The people around you may have made fun of you if you would have undergone change otherwise but nobody would call into question the authenticity of a change catalysed by a lockdown. The lockdown has come at a great cost, however. Thousands of people are dying painful deaths each day, and as I write this I am sad to say that I cannot also write about the stressful psychological condition of health workers across the globe. I am sure, sadly, that some of them would emerge from this pandemic having severe post-traumatic stress disorder while a small minority would have more cortisol running in their veins than blood. There is a need to destigmatise the event of having ‘deep thoughts’. People who have profound thoughts or review things in their mind are not out of the ordinary, but the current system of a fast-paced life makes it appear so. It is perfectly normal to struggle with ideas of God, death, punishment, evil, good, and truth. It is also perfectly normal to arrive at different conclusions that may or may not depict the famous stance held by your niche. At last, do remember that this is the best time to mend your body and your family relationships. Make it count.