There are some who naively believe that everything will return to the way it was once a vaccine is discovered and becomes widely available. That is not going to be.
This is the 157th installment of a daily column on the corona virus disease I started writing on March 19. I started writing it because I pompously thought there needed to be a voice of reason on a disease that I was convinced would change the world. It’s the reason the newsroom started focusing on the disease early in January, and has retained that intensity of coverage; so much so that some of my colleagues have become experts, one on the health aspects, another on the science — not just behind the virus and the vaccine, but also such things as masks and lock downs — and still another on the data side of epidemiology.
Six months into the column, I’ll settle for faithful observer — I have got many things wrong about the pandemic, about the impact of various extraneous factors on the disease, and about how we are fighting it, to be the voice of reason.
What started as a seven-days-a week column became six days a week after a few weeks, then five days a week, and is now back again to being six. I have no idea how long I will keep writing the column. This could be the last piece — or I may keep writing it till a vaccine is discovered, perhaps even till one has been administered to most Indians. A few fellow columnists and editors have called to comment on my stamina. I often get asked why I keep writing. The simple answer is that I keep writing because the column has become a part of my daily routine. And at times such as the one we are going through, it’s what all of us need — a routine that keeps us healthy, mentally and physically, and engaged. It is the solidity of the ordinary at a time when the world has been taken over by the extraordinary.
There are some who naively believe that everything will return to the way it was once a vaccine is discovered and becomes widely available. That is not going to be. Lives and livelihoods have been lost. People, countries and their economies, and institutions and organisations, are going to take at least some time to return to where they were before the pandemic. And even when they do, it will not be the same. Toting up the impact on the economy, health (mental and physical), and many of the social rules and constructs that made up pre-pandemic life, it is clear that none of us, individuals, countries, institutions and organisations, are going to snap back into shape like a still-young spring. A few will, just as a few will break, but most will bend, losing a little bit of give (or springiness, to continue with the same metaphor).
Which is why a routine is important. Some people may insist that it always was, even before the pandemic, and that it was the difference between the successful and the not-so. Perhaps it was: a thousand self-help books can’t be wrong; nor can a million people who bought these at airports and highlighted the same passage (before Indian commercial fiction emerged and spectacularly killed the self-help book). But the stakes are altogether different now. A routine, and all the rules (macro and micro) that go into it, could today well mean the difference between life and death, sanity and insanity, or, to be more prosaic, coping well with the pandemic and not coping well.
In my case, the column, and preparing for it (which sometimes means reading scientific papers that mostly always exceed my grasp of science) is one component of my daily routine, and one I enjoy. Which is why I’m on Dispatch 157 today and will likely write Dispatch 158 tomorrow.