Dead bodies abandoned along the country’s holiest river; funeral pyres seared in a nation’s collective memory; and a medical community that was forced to take time out from independent India’s worst health crisis to worry about why the government is not safeguarding the future of allopathy.
As we lurched from crisis to crisis, starting March 2020, citizens filled in for the absent state like never before. The biggest reward, as one Covid warrior, a 26-year-old doctor who started a free teleconsultation initiative said, was that “every call and message ends with a May-God-Bless-You or You-are-a-Hero”. After years of spiralling hate, a kind deed became our safest ticket to survive the pandemic. As experts warn of a third wave, here are some more handy hints to ensure you stay strong.
Stop Whining, But No Need To Be Positive
I tell myself this every day as I peer into my rapidly depleting bar. But seriously, these days I can’t stop thinking of “We are the 99%”, the 2011 slogan of the Occupy movement in the United States. It was meant to highlight the concentration of wealth among the top 1% income earners in that country.
These days I occupy that exalted space. I’m one of only 3% of Indians who has received both vaccinations. If you’re over 40 and reading this, you have probably received both your doses too.
People wait to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, in New Delhi, on May 21, 2021. (Photographer: Sumit Dayal/Bloomberg)
While it’s important to acknowledge privilege, it’s okay to cry and accept that you’re going through a rough time. Avoid people who make you feel worse by constantly highlighting all that they’ve achieved in the pandemic. As my friend Gayatri says, it’s perfectly fine to show your “quivering lower lip instead of your stiff upper lip”.
Block Out Reality, Briefly
No, please don’t post beach pictures but do have a Covid-free day—or a few Covid-free hours every day. Step away from all news about the pandemic. Deep clean your house, watch Sameera Reddy jam with her mother-in-law, eat bacon and sausages, binge on The Dodo’s animal videos or pick up a few tricks from rich people for whom escaping the pandemic seems to come naturally. Ultra-high net worth Indians—who haven’t left the country on a jet plane—are “comfort buying” and “revenge buying” diamonds, according to Shobhaa De.
Build Startup Founder Resilience
There are enough examples of startup founders pivoting and innovating during the pandemic. They always seem to know how to rescue a hopeless situation. “Look at it like a marathon,” says Siddharth Mangharam, country manager at plant protein company LIVEKINDLY Collective India and a startup founder for many years. “You’ve got to know that you’re going to get out of this and you have to know that you’ll have something meaningful to do at the end of it.” Mangharam says he picked up these lessons from Viktor E Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and his readings about the Stockdale Paradox.
His other tips: leverage your community (family, building, Twitter); understand that the uncertainty will eventually end but don’t set a deadline for its end, you’ll only be disappointed; take care of your health, relationships, and money (in fact plan a pandemic budget); sleep and meditate.
Mangharam uses the analogy of a marathon and that’s exactly what it is. Don’t deplete your reserves of resilience (or alcohol) at the speed of a sprinter. And as Olympic marathoner Alyson Dixon says, “Respect the distance but don’t fear it.”
Telling your story to a community can be cathartic. It could make you and others going through the same loss feel less alone.
It’s also a way to keep a record of those we lost; and a small rage marker of how the state failed Indians. One online tribute company says it has waived fees for families who have lost a relative and seen a big jump in users of its service.
Relatives of a Covid-19 fatality console each other, in New Delhi on April 19, 2021. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)
Learn A New Skill Or Relearn An Old One
This is easy if you have a hyperactive 11-year-old who skips from activity to activity, not hitting pause until her bedtime. We’ve all upped our badminton game thanks to vigorous shuttlecock sessions every evening. My daughter is also an active online chess player now. According to a Karnataka government survey, many children in rural and urban areas learned new extracurricular skills. The dark shadow in this picture, though, is that some 28% of children surveyed “were also engaged in activities that their families depended on for their livelihood”.
Fall In Love
There’s no better distraction and nothing like an endorphin rush to propel you through the pandemic. And if you do manage to find someone in these complicated times, they’re likely to be a keeper.
Now’s the perfect time to apologise for being the most vocal bigot on the family WhatsApp group. You’ve reevaluated the choices you made as a voter. Now revaluate what we really need to build a strong, united nation. Hint: It’s not a new central secretariat.
Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of Article-14.com.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.