By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
For the past nine months, we have all experienced and even endured life under the shadow of the COVID-19 threat. And, I would say that we have endured it admirably well and have even learnt to carry on with our lives, treating it as a new kind of learning experience. Yes, we have learnt a good many lessons from it.
For instance, we have learnt that it is not absolutely necessary for every one of us to be present at our workplaces except for those doing some kind of physical work. In discovering this, we have also realised that it was perhaps not really necessary to build our gargantuan software parks all over the globe at such astronomical costs. We have seen that more than ninety percent of our software workforce is able to work from home, admirably well.
Many of our software professionals who have to frequently present themselves smartly at many virtual interactions and meetings have come to realise, a little painfully, that all the expensive suits they burnt their money on were not necessary at all. I say this because they could have managed to save almost half the cost of their suits by going in just for the jackets. Yes, that is what is seen of them in at all their virtual meetings now and it does not matter at all what they wear or even do not wear below their waistlines!
I am not joking but the truth is that many of them whom I know very well, have told me that they work in their pyjamas or even shorts after ensuring that they wear a different jacket and tie for every new meeting!
With this being the case, expensive shoes too are now completely out of their shopping baskets. Below the line of sight of their laptop cameras some of them could very well be cutting vegetables or kneading dough to facilitate the running of their households!
We have all learnt that we can enjoy the same restaurant food that we used to relish so much, now far from the maddening crowd, in the safety and tranquillity of our own homes or work places. And, we have come to realise that it can in fact be a more relaxing and enjoyable experience too!
A little bit of the very pleasurable slurping or finger licking too that would be anathema elsewhere becomes completely invisible and thus permissible now!
Coming to the innumerable marriages we used to attend with no excuses to avoid them, COVID-19 I can say has come as a saviour to all of us. Now when I comfortably decline an invitation to a marriage at the invitation stage itself, I feel a wave of relief coming over me and I also see a wave of relief spreading across the faces of all those who come to extend the invitations. Even before I tell them that I might perhaps try to be present, just to bless the couple, without staying for the dinner, they quickly tell me that it would have been better if I could have been there for the whole feast but they can understand my hesitation. Before I can dare to change my mind, they quickly add that I can bless the couple from my home itself which simply means that I really need not come!
But frankly speaking, attending weddings, especially the lavish ones that we see these days and which have become the rule rather than the exception, is a real pain for me. Nothing looks real there except the expense because that is the only thing that cannot be faked. At any wedding, even the most unhappy people have to look happy with fake smiles. Poor people have to look rich, either in fake or even borrowed finery. The envious and even the jealous have to look pleased and mouth fake platitudes. The bride and the groom have to look ecstatic and smile all through the many stages of the event, although they may be deeply anxious deep inside. That is unless the wedding happens to be something that is actually happening despite the strong opposition they initially had from their families!
Keeping humour aside and coming to terms with reality, the COVID-19 crisis which is certainly not over, although it now seems to be much subdued, has made us stronger and more resilient human beings. But I am not very sure whether it has made us any better or more humane. We have all come to understand that most of the precautions that we all took, helped us to avoid getting infected and they also helped all those who did get infected to survive the infection.
Medical personnel discovered that they too learnt many valuable lessons on how to treat the infection best. That is why we saw much better treatment outcomes in all those who caught the bug later as compared to those who caught it when it first came. And, thankfully, despite the absence of a definitive cure, more patients are going home in better shape these days, which suggests that we are continuing to learn with each passing day.
On one hand the mood is upbeat that a few vaccines are on hand while there is also anxiety that a new and more virulent variant of the bug has emerged. While no one, not even the manufacturers, are able to say with certainty whether their vaccines can win the war completely, those fearful of the new strain are unable to say whether it is going to prove to be the vaccine’s undoing.
As a medical professional without my fingers in the pie, what I would like to say is that it is better to keep our fingers crossed still and continue to exercise caution for some more time. And that time can be anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. Let us not lose heart or hope. The significant fall in the number of cases that we are seeing across the globe suggests that the virus is becoming less nasty or our own immunity is gaining greater strength due to sub-clinical infection which is also a kind of natural immunisation, no less potent than any vaccination programme.
But prevention is still the key and the slightest complacence here can be very costly. So, let us be a little more patient and not become overly eager to get back to our pre-COVID era of flocking, congregating and throwing caution to the winds! It is certainly not time for that yet!
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