In the time of Covid-19: Looking back over 2020

In the time of Covid-19: Looking back over 2020

My heart broke when I watched UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson say that the “Christmas bubble” is cancelled. I had, like many others, plans to travel to India to be with family this week but with London in Tier 4 restrictions, it was best to cancel it. Suddenly, my mind was blank and I couldn’t think of what I would do alone in the grey winters of London. And then my mind wandered to the beginning of this year into the months that followed as the pandemic stalled our lives. We got through and kept spirits high, didn’t we?

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year that redefined us, as people, as community and as society. As we mourn the losses, we also seem to have gained a fresh perspective to life. The losses have been compensated by the gains in the form of additional time saved from mundane travel to and from locations. And time, as we know, is the one thing we never seemed to have. It’s the wealth we never knew we could afford or ever own.

Volunteer forces

Frustrations of being housebound have led to concerns over the emotional and mental well being of individuals, particularly those living on their own. There has also been a reported increase in incidents of domestic violence, conflicts in already difficult interpersonal relationships and the extreme impact on the economy as jobs have been lost and businesses have suffered.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Britons showed a sense of solidarity and community as a volunteer army was built in response to, “Your NHS needs you”, and in no time hundreds of thousands of people signed up to this appeal. A number of community projects mushroomed in order to address the sudden need to provide support to the vulnerable and immobile.

Ravi Bhanot, one of the active volunteers who along with the Sewa Day volunteers in east London, tirelessly delivered groceries for the housebound. The most recent volunteer collection drives, such as the Xmas Shoebox collection to support the homeless and vulnerable in east London, saw other organisations and support groups combine efforts.

Heart-warming tales

Sonal Sher, a resident of Woking is a single mum of two who set up a volunteer group to support the elderly and vulnerable living in isolation through the pandemic. It started as a small initiative borne out of her own concern over others living in isolation and a simple act of reaching out. This effort has grown to becoming a movement of sorts for Woking locals – from providing free art kits to checking in on those living on their own, heart-warming stories have emerged of how valuable this initiative is to those who would experience serious mental health issues owing to isolation, loneliness and confinement.

Amit Sarkar, a software tester in London, decided to utilise the pandemic lockdown to learn and create something new. In his words: “I started with attending a lot of online meetups and joining various Slack channels related to my field of work, ie software testing and learnt test automation tools online. All this made me realise that having a website of your own to showcase your work and to have a public presence in these times is very valuable.

“So I decided to build my own website from scratch using open source software and learning a lot in the process.”

Amit has so far not only developed his own understanding and knowledge but also helped several others in his friends’ circle with their websites and, together with his friends, runs a podcast that talks about technology, making it simple enough for lay people to understand it.

Burning the midnight oil

For Martine Martin, a busy senior parliamentary aide, this year has besides other things been about finally inching closer to the dream of being a published author. She says: “I've been snatching time wherever I could outside of my day job, squeezing my social life down, burning the midnight oil for the past few years to write an epic fantasy novel. The first in a trilogy in fact.”

Most new authors would try to reach out to publishers in the classical way but for Martine her creativity and social media skills will be put to use.

“As I near the finish line for the book, I have decided to create a space to post some small excerpts. I hope that doing this will help a future publisher visualise the scope of the story and why it's worth taking a chance on me as a new author.”

There is no stopping this young promising future bestseller author, so watch out!

Bonus wealth

One has seen several examples of entertaining online videos on social media. I was introduced to Mamata Das a blogger and influencer earlier this year when I launched the #HandMadeInIndia and #PreBuyHandloom campaign jointly with Indian Artizans. Mamata, better known on social media as The BohoBaalika, has a strong follower base as a fashionista. Her pictures are a treat to the eye as they are curated tastefully.

From being a fashion blogger, her tryst with handlooms of India nudged her to question the fundamentals of what products she wore and promoted. In one of my conversations with her she shared with me how this has been a journey of understanding ethical fashion and now she ardently campaigns to support local artistes and artisans.

Healthy living, personal fitness goals and well being related content floods our timelines. This bonus wealth that 2020 has gifted us in the form of time has made us all rediscover ourselves and go back to the basics. The time of leisure and rest was, not so long ago, a luxury we simply couldn’t afford. Long walks, fresh air, fresh home-cooked meals and digital detox are no longer just an aspiration; they are imperative to our being healthy, wholesome individuals and are our response to this dreaded pandemic.

As we restlessly wait for 2020 to be over, let’s not undermine the value it has brought to our lives. Every cloud after all, has a silver lining!

Lakshmi Kaul is the London-based UK Head & Representative at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and an active Indian diaspora campaigner. In this regular Talking Point column for ‘iGlobal’, she will focus on issues that deserve spotlighting within the Global Indian community, referencing her personal experiences.

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