The world is going through a very difficult phase, the virus which started from Wuhan slowly spread and by March struck this part of the globe and brought everything to a standstill. Offices to businesses and even social life and interaction among people were severely affected. Hospitals world over are overwhelmed with patients. As winter approaches, the second wave is expected and already there are surges in cases around the world. The infection is fast-growing and has according to the latest statistics reached more than 57 million with a death rate of more than one million. The USA is the worst affected followed by India and Brazil. Unless a vaccine is invented, there is no way we can halt the virus from ravaging the world. Businesses are going bust and people are losing their jobs. As cities come to a halt many people are left without any employment and this is triggering exodus to villages as the hardscrabble life has cowed down the people and to escape the scourge of this pandemic they have no option left but to migrate to their home villages and try to make ends meet, as the cities have shut their businesses and offices, leaving them in the lurch. Businesses are opening up slowly as economic fallout is affecting everyone so badly that there is no alternative but to slowly start the social and economic activities.
The pandemic has affected every aspect of life and has jolted us so hard that we are at a loss to get our life together. Everything has gone on a spin. The loss to the economy worldwide has been colossal to the tune of trillions of dollars. To overcome and get the normalcy back would be a herculean task. Every sector is in the line of fire. Schools would witness the dropout rate soaring because many would find it hard to go back to a normal pre corona life. The unemployment rate would jump which already is serious as businesses are laying off workers.Everything from the mindset to the mode of interaction is changing. We would incorporate many things into our lives which we have picked up from a life under the pandemic- a life under lockdown and isolation. For many years our lifestyle and perception would be different. The entire situation is quite distressing and alarming.
Like every other country, Bangladesh will also witness a fall in GDP and face the impact of youth and adult unemployment. Poverty will see a rise and disparity will grow. In developing countries, the population will also rise as per the report. Health, education, the business are all in the crosshair due to the raging virus. Unless a vaccine is soon introduced we don’t see it slowing down. Predictions of leaders and Presidents in some countries have been horribly wrong and misleading. There is also a sizeable chunk of the population that believes it is against freedom to lockdown and wear masks. Experts call for abiding by the rules and regulations set down by WHO but these have fallen on deaf ears and violent protests and recriminations have become common. Conspiracy theories have also spawned and tried to paint it a sham and a conspiracy. This belief has brought on a dangerous and disruptive trend and resulted in an uncontrolled spike in infection rates. Mandating masks have been decried as undemocratic and irreligious by some.
Bangladesh is facing with prudence and rationality this crisis and trying to keep the wheels of the economy on the right trajectory and giving stimulus packages to mitigate the sufferings of the people and minimising the economic downslide.
Despite the chaos and fear and subsequent uncertainty, we have to agree the digital sector has seen quite an impressive development and it has become part of people’s life and made communication and transactions possible and easier notwithstanding the lockdown. Online shopping has grown exponentially and digital banking has become a vital part of our daily transactions. The youth are taking to it and new portals are growing where people are finding an opportunity to do business and earn money and for shoppers, they are easily getting their stuff at home which is convenient and safe. The online outlets are following all safety protocols and providing services to customers. A new world is opening up of digital communication and business. We will see a spurt of new technology to make life better and easier. We have already seen the growth of digital newspaper where we are getting used to reading the daily news and articles and people can be seen regularly participating in webinars organised by the Newspapers. Zoom has shown the way, its popularity is growing fast. Zoom platform brings to us video telephony, online chat, teleconferencing, distance learning, and social relations. Online education is slowly picking up and in the future, the entire length and breadth of this country will embrace remote learning which will apparently become part of the learning process and method and we will see revolutionary changes in our psyche and regime. Social perceptions and norms will change which have already started transforming. We might even see the gig economy getting popular in our country as the country opens up and tries to kick start after being attenuated by the rigours of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, we ruefully reminisce the days with friends and hanging out in coffee and tea houses and restaurants. Animated discussions over cha; backslapping, cutting jokes and pranks are all missing.
The new normal which has changed our socialising outlook and interaction brings to mind the poem of poet Mirza Ghalib:“Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiye hue, josh-e-qadah se bazm charaaghaan kiye hue”
Translation: It has been quite long since my invitation to my friends. The gathering, heated up with goblets.
It so aptly shed light on the present situation. This poem by the Urdu poet Ghalib instantly brings to mind the pandemic and lockdown. The poet has so rightly put it that I couldn’t help mentioning it here. The Poet Mirza Ghalib’s poem and his prescient words written more than a century ago still reverberate and make you wonder how true they are in these tiring times.
Time has changed, our daily activities have reduced. We must follow certain guidelines and health protocols to face the situation with a healthy body and mind. To stay safe it is essential to wear masks maintain social distance and disinfect surfaces to keep them free of germs. We have to regularly wash hands with soap and use hand sanitizer. Healthy food and exercises are important and one should take up a hobby like reading books, painting, or playing music to keep calm and sane. I suggest we should keep away from distressing news. Too much of viewing TV staying hooked to the mobile screen can have a negative effect so we must keep a strict routine and monitor our screen time. These are some dos and don’ts during these difficult times which can keep us in a healthy state.
The writer is a freelance contributor