It is the best of times for the environment, it is the worst of times for economic development, it is the age of wisdom for those willing to learn their lessons, it is the age of foolishness for those inclined to just condemn and criticize or forward fake news, it is the epoch of belief for those who turned to their respective faiths or science for a solution, it is the epoch of incredulity for those suddenly stricken with the disease, it is the season of Light for all those who recovered, it is the season of Darkness for those who didn't, it is the spring of hope that Gaia's revenge would eventually bring about a new world order, it is the winter of despair that once we conquered the virus - we would go back to our erring ways, we have everything before us including centuries of accumulated knowledge, we have nothing before us in terms of a concrete solution, we are all going direct to Heaven, we are all going direct the other way – in short, this period is so far a period of ironies and paradoxes.
Irony has always been a part and parcel of my life, right from childhood. I was a voracious reader who was itching to devour books on every subject, but neither did the local libraries stock them nor could I afford to purchase comics or books. I had all the time in the world, but hardly anything to read. Over the years having climbed the greasy pole (at least partly), I can most certainly afford to buy books - paperbacks or digital is immaterial - but unfortunately can neither read them at the same pace as when I was young, neither retain them as I once used to do, nor find the time in the hyper-busy corporate world where we all lose ourselves. There are many other ironical stories but it can wait for another day.
Meanwhile, it suddenly struck me today that this period - the year 2020 so far - has been a period of ironies and paradoxes just like my life. Let us take a look at several of them. Do write to me if you think of many more, you know where to find me on whatsapp, social media or email.
Let us begin with the fact that no employee in India is commuting - saving him an invaluable hour to four hours each day, depending on which city or town he is residing in. It would be interesting to find out just how he is utilizing this extra time on this hands. Unlike many others I do know that this period is not just about 'staying at home' doing whatever the hell you like, but 'working from home' - possibly longer hours than you did on a normal day in 2019. There is so much that can possibly be accomplished like never before in the past and yet - just how many of us can get around to do it? There is so much time on our hands, but can it really be used to fulfill our dreams in a lockdown situation? Seems difficult if not impossible.
The air pollution is at its lowest in the past few decades, many of us especially the millennial is breathing purer air than ever before and yet has to wear a mask. Instead of dragging in lungfulls of pure air devoid of smoke, smog, particulate matter and other trash, we are mandated to cover our nose and mouth with layers of cloth. In countries like India, for people like me who just love road trips, the roads have never been emptier and yet it is impossible to go on a drive - either interstate or intrastate.
For the humongous human ego, a tiny little virus has held the world to ransom. For Gaia, which comes from the Greek work γαια meaning 'Earth' or 'Mother Earth', seems to be teaching us human beings that Planet Earth is not helpless and will stand by and silently witness the destruction that man is wreaking upon it and yet, the same Mother will help the human beings to eventually come up with a solution ensuring their survival - often at the cost of other living beings and Planet Earth itself.
Never have people observed so much hygiene as they do now, washing their hands and every inconceivable opportunity and yet shaking hands which the Western cultures imposed on the rest of the world has been replaced by the humble 'Namaste' - the greeting with folded hands. As an only child whose world revolved around his friends to a largely unsocial adult, I cannot help but think that one now has all the time in the world for friends but unfortunately cannot have a 'get together'.
Women were always more skilled and talented. Over these months, many men are slowly but surely learning to cook and bake (I was fortunate to be taught all those lessons early in my life, by choice or otherwise), but cannot invite their neighbors to their dining table so that they could either applaud or retch. It is also equally ironical that those who have tons of money cannot spend it in this period, whereas those who are struggling to make ends meet with their daily wages cannot earn it, even if they are willing - heart, mind and soul.
Monday morning blues have also become a thing of the past because we cannot now, distinguish from interminable weekends for some who dont work to extended weekdays for those who work from home.
PS: The original opening lines in Charles Dickens book, 'A Tale of Two Cities' from which the opening paragraph has been borrowed and embellished is - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." For this article, I could of nothing more appropriate to adopt and adapt.