Quarantine Reflections: Hope and Fear

Everywhere, everybody says the world has changed. But is it really true that the world is never going to be the same again?

Much before I read what Manu Joseph had to say about this, the seeds of doubt in my mind had grown into saplings — I have a strong feeling that by the time all of this is over, they will have grown into trees. There is a lot on which I disagree with him, except maybe the concluding remark about “everything that people do, they do because they have nothing better to do”. A trite remark. Yet, trite is usually that which is true. 

Does this mean that whatever people do is the best that they can? 

Like the world, people are experiencing change as well. One aspect of this change is that which has been forced upon us. Isolating in a lockdown, forgoing all social activity and for those of us who fall sick, quarantining ourselves. The other aspect is the change in us — our behaviours, our personalities, the ways in which we are reacting to this imposition — which results from the former aspect. 

During the past few weeks since I got better, i.e., the fever and other symptoms subsided — even though I’m still positive with the virus — I have observed a distinct pattern in my thoughts. Of moving between a sense of hope and fear.

As a person of faith, this shouldn’t be surprising. It simply reinforces who I am. This is one of the simplest ways in which faith in the Almighty manifests itself in our thoughts and actions. In all likelihood, this pattern of thinking has always been there. And maybe, during this time of sickness and isolation, I noticed it better. Or maybe, the scale at which this sense operated underwent a change. I’m tempted to believe it’s the latter. 

If I have moved upwards on the scale of faith, as I believe countless others around the world have as well during this challenging time, the test will be if I stay there when this is over and we are back to whatever version of normal is set at that time. 

I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense to some of you. Being sick and in quarantine, without any form of ‘real’ interaction with the outside world, this is all that I know about myself right now. This doesn’t mean that I’ve become a better person. I’ll only know if I have once I’m out of here. Or rather, it will be others who will know if I have.

I have been reading about the actions of so many people — working in their communities, going out of their way to help each other, putting their lives at risk. All of which makes it seem that the world is changing for the better in this time of calamity.

It also makes me think if these are the same people who would have been acting this way during normal times. 

There are still plenty of stories of people acting at their worst (or best, depending on how one sees it). Pinching a few rupees from a poor vegetable seller, basking in the ignorance of privilege, and acting like a superhero messiah for the sake of a few likes on social media. Not to mention all the instances of racism, xenophobia, class entitlement — all of which have probably escalated, not reduced, across the world.

If anything, people have used the pandemic to drive a wedge deeper than before. 

Much of these actions on either side of the spectrum depend on where you are situated on the scale between hope and fear. Fear is important. It is what gives us the instinct to survive. But it doesn’t have to stretch to the extent where it makes you selfish and ignorant. 

Else the world is going to be where it was when we left it for this new world we are in now. And yet, we shouldn’t give up hope. Keeping in mind all along that hope alone is a dangerous thing.

Note: I know that a lot of people are trying to help out of real concern, and some may not know the best way to start. But please please, going out and trying to help directly by distributing money and food in communities you aren’t familiar with isn’t the best way. Look around for credible organisations who have been working with those communities. Take their help, and your hard earned money will go a much longer way.