From Social-Distancing to stocking up on Toilet Paper

By Prajna Nair

As I write this, people all over India are sitting at home. On March 24th, the Prime Minister announced a 21-day lockdown for all states and union territories. That’s a nation of 1.3 billion people brought to a halt - trains cancelled, malls and movie theatres shut, offices and schools locked up-all because of a virus.

I’m not exactly a social butterfly, but the prospect of total isolation for three weeks is still daunting. It’s been more than three weeks since our classes at school cancelled, and the novelty of sitting around with no homework or assignments to complete has disappeared. I’ve even skimmed through next year’s topics, just to take my mind off the current situation. Not that it helps: every morning, I check the news updates to see how much the number of cases has risen, to see whether my exams in May, which I’ve spent hundreds of hours preparing for, have been cancelled. The thing that worries me the most is that there’s no telling when the pandemic will end. It could take months for the curve to flatten.

Social distancing makes that time seem even longer. Of course, self-isolation in the 21st century is a lot easier than it was a hundred years ago, even fifty years. Thanks to social media and the Internet, we’re able to keep ourselves occupied and stay in touch with our loved ones. But there’s a limit to how productive you can be when you have to stay at home all the time. At least, there is for me. Especially when I cannot stop wondering about what the pandemic means for the future. Will there be a slump in the economy? Will classes and exam schedules for the next school year be affected when I start grade 12?

Will we run out of food? That may seem like a silly question, but is one that plagues a lot of people in India, especially since the lockdown was announced. Everyone’s stocking up, not out of panic, but because “news channel XYZ says that next week, things are going to get much worse!” Everything from packets of instant-noodles to toothpaste is flying off the shelves. My mom bought a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer way back in January-and though I don’t mean to encourage panic buying, that was a  smart move in hindsight because most shops have run out of it by now. Most of our groceries are delivered to the house by local e-commerce services. We’re in for a long wait, though, because they have at least 200 more orders to go through before ours. It looks like I’ll have to stick to the instant noodles.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, I would never have associated the word ‘pandemic’ with the 21st century; it belonged in the Middle Ages, with the Bubonic plague and witch doctors brewing potions in cauldrons. It still sounds like something out of a science fiction novel: a mysterious disease that spreads like wildfire, undeterred despite the efforts of some of the most advanced countries in the world. Only with extremely real consequences: as of March 28th 2020, over 27,000 people have died, and over 595,000 have been infected.

Under the dark, cloudy circumstances, it may be difficult to find that silver lining we need, but we can try anyway. Several rumours and myths about the coronavirus have spread through social media and chat groups, but stories of courage and solidarity have spread even further. Italians playing musical instruments on their balconies, residents of Chicago organizing sing-a-longs...even here in India, where during the nationwide Janata Curfew (People’s Curfew) on March 22nd at 5 pm, we came out of our houses and applauded as a sign of respect to the medical workers who risk their lives to help COVID-19 patients. So there is reason to hope, as long as we remain united. There is reason to be cautious and to take precautions, but there’s no reason to go into full-fledged panic mode. Humanity has survived through worse times, and we’ll pull through this crisis as well. It sounds cliché, but I’ll say it anyway: ‘This too shall pass’.


Prajna Nair is a 16 year-old from Kerala, India. She loves Physics, especially Cosmology, and hopes to pursue a career in this field. Her other interests include debate, reading detective fiction, and writing.


References

  1. BBC News: Coronavirus: India enters ‘total lockdown’ after spike in cases, published 25th March 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52024239 accessed 26th March 2020
  2. Nistula Hebbar: Coronavirus | Narendra Modi calls for determination, patience and a ‘janata curfew’, published 20th March, 2020 in The Hindu https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-narendra-modi-calls-for-determination-patience-and-a-janata-curfew/article31111259.ece  accessed 22nd March 2020
  3. Christopher Mele, Neil Vigdor: Singalongs From Windowsills Lift Spirits During Coronavirus Crisis, published 23rd March 2020 in The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/us/coronavirus-window-singalong.html accessed 26th March 2020  
  4. John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center:https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html accessed 28th March 2020