With the Wind

Familiar and Strange

Tulip Chowdhury

24 October, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Familiar and Strange

Tulip Chowdhury

There is a magnetic attachment to familiar things. When we wake up to the sunlight pouring in the room through the window panes, our morning hours, somehow, our spirits lift. On the other hand, the sight of a dark and gloomy sky seen through the window dampens the energy. The window is a regular part of the room that we miss when we are away from home. But these days, our familiar, cozy feeling has changed to anxiety. Before looking at the window for the sunlight, we check the updates on world news, wondering where we are in terms of the virus's spread. We get out of bed feeling the pandemic blues, dreading the bad news that keeps pouring in. These are familiar mornings but strange ones.

In the usual ways of life, the neighbourhood one lives in is carved into the bigger world outside. Every house, trees, the people we see around us give a sense of belonging. When going off to work, the moment one leaves the street where home is, there is a tiny movement within, as if the locking of the front door wasn't leaving the house, but going on to a new street has taken you far from your home. The village, town, or the megacity one lives in has its characteristics that become so familiar that we tend to call all that as home, the attachment that grew over time. As Kanka, a student living in Boston, says, "Whenever I come back to this city by bus from other states, I feel so happy at the sight of South Station. I feel like stepping into my room right then."

In the pre-pandemic days meeting a friend while walking home was to stop, hug, and exchange words of joy. With the pandemic keeping us indoors, masks and hand sanitizers, the sight of a familiar figure fills us with alarm. We ponder if we can pause, greet a friend and catch up on life, and be safe with it all. People worldwide recognise fear; it is a strange kind of familiarity; to care for others and keep our distances. Covid-19 has flooded our emotions with emotional anxieties deep enough to give rise to mental health problems. As an uncertain future looms and little progress is made over a preventative vaccine, mental health is taking a toll. It was unthinkable in the past decades to have a deadly situation and be helpless about it. Humans are, by nature, resilient to changes; we climb mountains to reach our goals. But no one saw the pandemic coming, and it caught the humans unaware. Economically, socially, politically, nations and societies are devasted. The people who depended on daily income and lost their livelihood are stuck on deadends with others. Community services that served the less fortunate people find it challenging to reach their destinations with the quarantine and safety measures. The pandemic's physical and mental health crisis has raised the demand for telemedicine, mental health support, and new job markets for health workers. Months of remote working and lack of physical activities have added to weight gain and other health problems that arise from it.

As people lose jobs and societies struggle to maintain the health precautions over quarantine, politicians like President Trump of the USA discourage masks. Countries like Brazil and others have people unhappy with their leaders' handling of the coronavirus. The use of face masks to keep us safe in the present pandemic is purely for health from the expertise who wish to keep us alive. The list of things making life difficult is endless when one is suffocating under the pandemic blues. We are in it together, and each must do what they can to support the other.

Covid-19 has changed the course of life in many ways, and it has happy sights to sad ones. Many people have lost the loved ones to the pandemic, and driving by their houses is painful. The office you work for may have lost colleagues. On weekdays, whether remote or in-person the building or  Zoom meetings, there is the shared sadness of the loss. People caught in remote corners of the world, unable to go home upon news of loved ones passing away. And there are stories of people unable to hold the hands of a dying mother beyond a doorstep. As Katy, a neighbour, says, "My mother, who celebrated her ninetieth birthday last year, passed away in her nursing home a month back. No one was allowed for the safety of other people there. I would never have thought that I could not be by her side in her final hours."

The familiarity of the pandemic blues gives us an affinity to strangers and close ones alike. It is an emotional familiarity that takes the tangible world beyond the intangible one. The closeness in our shared anxiety-filled days is the 'new normal' new, but one that we hope shall take its leave. With all its devastating effects, the Covid-19  has mental health at stake too. Finally, to quote Brad Feld, "While the line between stress, deep anxiety, and depression often blurs, most entrepreneurs struggle with broad mental health issues at various points in their lives." And the coronavirus has nailed the words home.


Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA.