Unlocking Value in Lockdown

Unlocking Value in Lockdown - Cover Photo

Across ages and socio-economic groups, by and large there has been a spirit of positivity in facing the pandemic, writes Nagesh Alai

The pervasive pestilence of the year has snatched the corona of existence from humans and driven them to the confines of their four walls variously called as homes, hovels and huts. The lockdown in our country since March, as all over the world, to move social closeness to social distancing may have at best temporarily stemmed and deferred the spread of the pathogen, but has not stopped it from afflicting millions and tragically ending lakhs of lives. Another tragic fall out has been the plight of stranded migrant workers in Indian metros, forced to plod pack and back penniless to unwelcoming hometowns. The recent truncated reopening of cities and countries has been a Hobson’s choice forced by economic compulsions rather than human concerns or cures.

If ever a leadership was lacking, it was now as many governments were knee-jerk, reactive and insensitive in their responses. The global politics being played out in these dire circumstances is another sordid story altogether. The palpable fear of Covid 19 spread and affliction, with the reopening, notwithstanding the much touted rationalisation of herd-immunity, is sure to keep people in their homes for a long time to come. Hospitals and healthcare resources are woefully inadequate to treat the patients. A potent pathogen mix that!

Having said that, the human spirit rose to the challenge of the century old Spanish flu in 1920 and the same human resilience will see them rising again to the occasion and beating Covid in 2020.

Cooking is a hidden passion that men now find time for
Cooking is a hidden passion that men now find time for

Outlier situations also have a positive impact from a different perspective. Location-neutral was an accommodative corporate jargon in the word of brick and mortar; now it has become a reality with the forced shift to work from home (WFH). Live work conferences have given way to endless business webinars with people Zooming to MS Teaming.

The curtailed commuting has added extra usable time to 24 hours. The din and dust in the cities have come down, families are getting more time with each other to hear and listen to each other, traffic and pollution have come down, animals in land and sea are seen to frolic sans human trespass into their space and so much more. Behavioural changes and consumption shifts have brought about a healthier socio and eco environs and are set to significantly alter the world that we had grown up in and had been used to.

A fundamental aspect of life is the inveterate traverse from birth to death as we keep discovering ourselves. This commute can be wonderful if we can handle the various facets of life with temperance and equanimity. One of ways that we can keep growing as an individual is learning new skills and stoking the creative passion in each of us. This curiosity factor has kept many of us enthused about life and living even when the world around has been locked down.

A professor friend and ex-marketer, who is nudging 70, was worried about how to continue teaching his students when colleges have been shut down, used as he was to the classroom sessions in his college. The college enabled a digital way of conducting classes, but he was not comfortable with the use of technology except for his cellphone. But the passion for teaching drove him to learn the use of digital conferencing and over the past few months has mastered the art of video conferencing with his students, having discussions and debates, slide sharing, etc. without compromising on pedagogy or rigour in any way. All, sitting at home and feeling safe and secure.

Another friend of mine, in his early seventies, has rekindled his childhood passion for fish tanks. He managed to buy a lovely fish tank from a neighborhood and fill it up some exotic fishes. He tends the fishes every day with loving care, feeding it with the right food, planting weeds in the tank and admiringly gazing and watching his pet fishes swim and swarm in the large tank. He has also taken to planting vegetables in his terrace garden and distributing them to his neighbours. His wife, a tech dino, has used the confining times to turn into a tech geek and has happily taken to conducting digital counselling sessions.

A couple of friends in a very active whatsapp group have taken the trouble to scour world news and collate the latest information on the war against Covid, all related statistics of affliction and recovery, the remedies that are under testing, the precautions to be taken, sourcing essentials, etc. A very useful service to keep everyone updated and safety measures to be adopted. They are spending time and efforts to give apt inputs to people in facing the scourge with courage.

Some people have begun growing vegetables in their balconies or even windowsills
Some people have begun growing vegetables in their balconies or even windowsills

Many have taken to collecting as groups and cooking and serving food to the starving migrant families and providing PPE masks to the deprived healthcare workers. Many others have been supportive and cheering them by heartily opening up their purses and contributing their mite to the gargantuan efforts.

Another friend has taken to the digital medium like a duck to water, creating videos of his astrology lessons and predictions and has gone viral. Today, he has a packed schedule consulting with international clientele. As is a daughter of a friend, imparting yoga classes via Zoom to many in Asia. An ex-sailor, 70, is honing his Japanese language skills while another, 62, is sprucing up his Sanskrit. A well-being entrepreneur has taken to digital mediation sessions and doing a wonderful job of it.

Life is spice, if you know how to mix condiments well. Yours truly, who is restless by nature and a gourmand by palate and childhood helper to his mother in the kitchen, learnt cooking and has turned a full time chef at home dishing out Tamilian and Maharashtrian vegetarian fare to his family. And in the bargain realised the extraordinary passion and patience of mothers and cooks that go into making delicious food. Can there be a better service than serving food to the hungry? Remember Sudama serving simple puffed rice to Krishna?

Across ages and socio-economic groups, by and large there has been a spirit of positivity in facing the pandemic. Their enthusiasm in making the most of a situation has been contagious and has helped transform the mindsets of the scared and bored ones too.

In vedantic learning there is a concept of ‘svanubhava’ – this means direct experience – in the spiritual journey. Our life journey is no different – you can discover yourself only if you experiment and experience. Circumstances may veil our métier, but decisions reveal our métier.

It has been a mixed bag of responses to the restrictive lockdown. But many have come out better due to their basic joie de vivre. After all, living is not passing frisson but a steady passion. Live on, shine forth; no virus can unseat your crown!

About Nagesh Alai

Nagesh Alai is a management consultant, an independent director on company boards, and cofounder of a B2B enterprise tech startup. He retired in 2016 as the Group Chairman of FCB Ulka Group and Vice Chairman FCB Worldwide. Elder care and education are causes close to his heart.

View all posts by Nagesh Alai

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