3rd issue post Lockdown, I intend to carry the positive outcomes of this New Normal because there is just too much negativity around it. While I am not turning away from the reality, it is time to notice the goodness in people too that is healing all of us. Just as the Earth is healing herself thanks to our forced ‘self-imprisonment’. After several decades, Earth Day has not been limited to only 22nd April – it has spanned the last several weeks when our Mother Earth and her other children have enjoyed freedom from our ‘oppressive ways’. Childish and silly it may seem but I imagine how good Mr.Road must be feeling too? ….no one to stamp on him, walk on him, rough-ride on his chest, bruise and wound him multiple times by multiple teams, dig and carve him out, create craters of death, barricade him mindlessly, give him a shabby and hurried tar-face lift, throw garbage on his painted face irresponsibly, spit and pee on him shamelessly, stress him out for hours with long traffic jams, abandon his parts with half-completed construction rubble…..imagination can run wild……OMG, how peaceful and rested the poor Mr. Road must be feeling now ! With cities never sleeping, vehicular traffic and noise was so high that my heart would always go out to the helpless Mr. Road which was silently bearing all the atrocities along with the plants, trees, birds, insects and animals. True or not, I visualise the much-needed healing all around us, alongside ill-health, death, migration, shutdown, lockin, social distancing, loss of jobs, assets, people etc…..birth of a New Way of Life amidst the Dance of Death !
Watching Ramayana and Mahabharata, I may have got carried away a bit philosophically but surely not distracted from my opening statement about the goodness of people. A few weeks back, when the first of my customers asked me to consider a fee cut, I was taken aback and disturbed about why he should be asking a sacrifice from a small player like me. But then it set me thinking. Why don’t I do this voluntarily when I know the liquidity crunch in the market. And this is what I did – offered reduced fee to the really deserving customers for a few months and existing fee to the rest without the annual increment. It worked. Each one of them appreciated my ‘squirrel seva’ and agreed to continue with our firm. I got appreciative emails about my team’s work as well.
Surprisingly some of the customers were gracious enough to refuse the reduced fee and continue with the full amount itself. One overseas customer assured that without waiting for the due date, he would release the amount ……reciprocating my gesture of support since it would help ease the overall liquidity in the ecosystem. What a beautiful thought ! For the first time I noticed all business emails beginning with a “Hope all of you are fine” and ending with a caring “Stay Safe. Stay Home. Take Care” message. The world is passing through turmoil, going through a churn and the common goal is to emerge stronger, resilient and caring. Unless we deal with issues and people with compassion and empathy, the shared vision will not be achieved.
The seed for my action was sown long back, when I received a surprising email from the Founder of a hugely successful and reputed food company whom we service. A ‘rags to riches’, self-made, entrepreneur and sought-after speaker, he had emailed asking if we needed any financial assistance during these trying times. The self-assured tone of his email that extended a hand of support to his ‘valued partners and family members’ (no, he didn’t say vendors), despite his scaled down production and services touched and inspired me. Only a matured leader who has seen the worst side of life can bring himself to offer support and emphasise the need to stay connected during these unprecedented times. While I didn’t need to take his offer thankfully, I did feel connected and grateful to be part of his value chain. Friends, I know all business transactions cannot be viewed like this through the lens of humanity, but unusual problems require unusual solutions. Wherever possible, can we adopt the philosophy of “I for You. You for Me”. This will undoubtedly result in “We for Earth. We for Future”.
While we are all stay put at home, all types of experiences are out in the open during this lockdown. Some played out in the media as we see thousands of our brethren struggling for food and shelter, despite governmental and societal support. Some heroic deeds of cycling hundreds of kilometres to reach home or double-ride on a cycle to get a chemo treatment done for the wife or drive a scooty to bring home a son. Some appalling accounts of irresponsible celebrities enjoying parties and crashing in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, only to abandon a luxury car and scoot. Of course stories of sacrifice, duty & grit of cops, nurses, doctors, armed forces. Some success stories that showcase how aam admi (common man) has risen above all differences and is making a ‘difference’ in the lives of the less-fortunate through various innovative services – from food packets to grocery packs to delivery of medicines to online sessions to caring for the elderly ! Amidst all this are the creative memes and Corona jokes doing the rounds. Life in a kaleidoscope I would say. What better way to capture than crowd source the Corona-times experience. Two of my colleagues who help me come up with Samhita fortnight after fortnight have shared their personal experience /
Poornima Jayarao from Mumbai has this to say …..”The phone rang. It was my in-laws’ caretaker who told me that my mother-in-law had a fall and had injured herself. He wanted me to rush to their apartment immediately. I told him to give me some time and hung up the call. Lockdown…no transport…how do I reach there?? I kept chanting Hanuman Chalisa and gathered some strength. Packed my bags and waited on the main road for more than half an hour for an auto. Somehow I am always blessed. I finally got an auto and Wahid Bhai, the auto driver drove me to my in-laws apartment very safely.
It was sad to see both my in-laws on bed. Satish, the caretaker who has been nursing both of them caringly for more than a year now had not gone home for 15+ days due to the lockdown. He was on 24 hours duty all alone – nursing, shopping, cooking, cleaning, bathing, feeding two aged adults who are to be cared for as young children. He was at his wits’ end. My mom-in-law needed a lady caretaker. With great difficulty I convinced Satish’s wife to take up the job. The toughest challenge for me was to bring her to my apartment in the lockdown, as she had to travel 56 kms from her place. I spoke to my close family friend who happens to be a doctor by profession and requested him to make some arrangements. He promised me that by end of the day the caretaker would reach my place. I did not question him much. Just trusted. I kept thinking…..Around 6pm in the evening the doorbell rang and there she was…Ruby, the caretaker, our saviour. I welcomed her with a hot cup of tea and asked her curiously “How did you manage to come?”. She replied with a big smile “Madam, mai toh ambulance me aayi and who bhi jaanwaron ka ambulance”? (Madam I came in a veterinary ambulance). The whole room was filled with laughter. Behind the mask I could see Satish blushing, seeing his wife after many days and my toothless in-laws chuckling too?.
Inspite of Corona eclipsing all our lives, there are angels like Wahid Bhai, Satish, Ruby and my doctor friend. Grateful for the help received. Humanity is still alive !!”
Another post is from my youngest team member Krithika Murali, who is part of a joint family in Bangalore. She has another perspective, another take on these strange #Stayhome times. “…….It has taken most of us a pandemic and 21 days lockdown to realise what it feels like to spend time with the people who we adore the most but are also most negligent towards. While most people spend 10-12 hours each day working to make their lives better, they often tend to ignore small moments of joy.
Last week during dinner with my family of 12 members, suddenly one of them said, “I don’t even remember when was the last we all spent so much time together without being tied to our phones and laptops”. At that moment a few questions crossed my mind – Why are we only focussing on being distanced from the outside world when we have an opportunity of focussing on ourselves? On binding with family members by being home-bound ? When was the last time we cooked, painted, read a good long book, sang or danced to a song just because it is our passion?
Do the things you love when you have the time in hand – Smile while you still have teeth!!”