LIFE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC

Mythri Murali

I am sure that ever since the beginning of this pandemic, all of us have collectively heard one phrase the most— “I simply cannot wait to return to pre-pandemic era,” or something of the like. A thought that has been running circles in my mind, though, is what was life actually like before the pandemic hit?

I, for starters, remember only vividly what it felt like to walk outside in public without a mask restricting my breathing. In fact, my fondest memories from 2020 are during quarantine. Sure, if it were not for the pandemic, I would have been in college in 2020, pulling all-nighters at the library for moot court memorial submissions, making real-life memories with my “ride or die’s” of the next five years (and further, hopefully). Quarantine, though, however-so boring it was, leaving feeling unproductive and lethargic, came with its advantages. A long, stable mental health break is what it afforded to a vast majority of us. We made-do with what we had: social media. TikTok was a great source of entertainment, with various dance trends getting popular, along with ‘dalgona coffee’, and numerous other food trends. I felt at peace during quarantine because life finally seemed to come to a halt, and it was a time where just doing nothing is okay, you are doing your best to cope, play some music, relax…. Now, clearly when I say this, I speak from a place of privilege. Nobody expected me to do anything; of course, my mother did, but that was not new or out of the ordinary— nor will it ever be. I was taking quarantine like a breeze precisely because I had the privilege of staying idle. This was, and is not, the case for our essential workers—frontline health care workers or even fast-food employees etc.

My days during quarantine essentially began with me going to bed at 6 AM, waking up at 1PM, eating lunch straight, watching movies until about 6 AM and then repeating the cycle. Very unhealthy, yes. Not a bout of exercise was seen. At the beginning, in fact, I did try working out from 6pm-7pm. I gave up in about four days when I realized that I would spend most of the one hour I did reserve for working out in complaining about it on social media. Life before the pandemic was very different from what it was during it. I had a routine, a structure in the way I progressed with my day-to-day activities, a rigid and healthy sleep schedule. Was I happy though? Not really. Sure, we humans are animals of habit, and the drastic change that came about in my life due to the pandemic did throw me for a loop; but I got over it. I got to enjoying it, enjoying my new “life for now”.

I got to reminiscing about the past one day, as humans often do, and realized that life before the pandemic is not something I remembered, nor something I ideally would want to get back to. The sensational growth I went through during the pandemic as a person is not something I want to trade-off for anything in the world. Quarantine brought with it character development like no other; it taught me how to be comfortable in my own company, develop a routine with absolutely no requirement to have one, develop new skill sets etc., and I doubt I would have managed to do all this if I were not forced to stay at home and isolate.

Moreover, the quarantine taught me the very important and ‘necessary in today’s time’ skill of keeping in touch with people. I was very much of an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of person; and had always preferred, and was quite decent at, talking to people in real life. I was not the biggest fan of “texting”, nor was I any good at it. Replying to text messages is still an activity I fall short in quite often. However, where I am currently is a massive improvement from where I was at the beginning of quarantine, when my friends, unless they called me or vice versa, would only hear from me once in every, say, three days.

For many others, the quarantine was a way to hone skills, learn courses or even just take a time out and get a breather.

This pandemic also instilled in us a sense of collective responsibility. Most of us sanitized and wore our masks not only for our personal well-being, but also to be responsible citizens of the world. There were a few anomalies even here, though. Anti-maskers often went off on their own parallel on social media, talking of the disadvantages of wearing masks, and how it will not truly protect us from this “China virus”. However, though, barring a few exceptions, most of us tried to remain true to our moral principles and work together to eliminate a larger community spread.

I am writing this now, and it has been almost more than a year in full quarantine for me. Life seems quite unpredictable now; just when things were dying down, and circumstances seemed to be getting better, we have taken the plunge yet again, more down south than ever before. This is, as the masses call it, the new norm, unfortunately. It is getting harder to see the positives in life right now with the way it is. I am missing out on so many memories that could have been made. Not only that, but frontline workers are once again facing the brunt of this pandemic, with hospitals crowded and understaffed, with a serious backlog in checking Covid-19 test results. People are slowly returning to their old ways of callousness and this flippant attitude will only create huge setbacks for us as society. Even if eradication of COVID-19 is ultimately feasible, it will likely be extremely challenging. Dedicated effort along with largescale societal cooperation is definitely needed for years before the virus is removed. However, given the uncertainty surrounding the capabilities and technical abilities of eradicating COVID-19, the global community must importantly plan for the possibility that COVID-19 will be in global circulation for the foreseeable future. It is better to be safe than sorry, and protecting the elder population should be in our priority books currently. For life to head back to normal, we must continue practicing COVID protocols sincerely and hope that the world takes away important lessons from the pandemic. The attitude of “giving up” and subconsciously convincing ourselves that we are not living through one of the most historic moments in our lives is not going to do us any good in the long run. We must fight back against the pandemic!

The name of the author is Mythri Murali, a first-year student of National Law University, Jodhpur. She is currently working as a Contributing Author at TBL.

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