MAMATA VENKAT mourns the devastating effect of the virus in New York City, yet is completely moved by the way we are all stepping up and taking care of each other. It is showing us what we take for granted, and how much we value the simple things in life.
I’ll be completely honest. I stared at a blank Word document for a long time as I tried to compose my thoughts to write this. How can anyone even begin to describe the way the world feels right now? The coronavirus has robbed all of us of any semblance of normalcy. The majority of us are now indefinitely locked down in our homes, while our brave healthcare researchers and workers, including my incredible parents and the majority of my family, risk their lives day in and day out to do their normal day jobs and also treat the overwhelming wave of patients battling the coronavirus, and also frantically solidify a cure to end what has to be the most challenging era of fear and uncertainty that most of us have ever faced.
Sometimes I feel like we are living in a dystopian novel, trapped in an alternate universe without an exit route. Each day, the news becomes increasingly darker and ambiguous, not providing us with any relief of when this situation might end as each country takes every measure possible to curb the spread of this virus. Colleges and universities have moved online for the rest of the year; malls and movie theatres are shut down indefinitely. Business after business takes hit after hit. And social distancing has made many of us feel lonelier than ever: friends and family can only see one another over video chat, if at all, increasing anxiety and depression rates as people get the call to self-isolate and work from home.
My beautiful New York City is currently the epicenter of what feels like a bio-war. Doctors and nurses live away from their families as they work themselves to the bone; hospital beds are running out so fast that the lush green lawns of Central Park are now dotted with white medical tents so healthcare facilities can have more treatment centers for patients; and Times Square, with all of its Broadway shows closed indefinitely and its people-less lanes, is the quietest it has ever been. I don’t know when my home is every going to feel like home again.
This virus has been a rude awakening of all of the things I take for granted: the simplicity of going to the grocery store; taking the Subway to visit my best friend; going to concerts; hugging my mom. I recognize my privilege during this time: I am lucky enough to be safely nestled at home with my family, to be able to work from home, and to take walks and get fresh air when I need it. So many of us aren’t so lucky.
Many of our friends, family members, neighbors, acquaintances, and even enemies and strangers are struggling right now. People have lost jobs, lost homes, and heartbreakingly lost loved ones. Self-quarantine and social distancing have literally uprooted so many lives. But in a time when all of us could theoretically only be looking out for ourselves, I am completely moved by the way we are stepping up for one another.
I was scrolling through Twitter the other day when I read a tweet that at first absolutely broke my heart, but then filled me with so much joy and hope. A man was celebrating his 67th birthday, but because of the coronavirus he was forced to isolate and celebrate alone. When he posted on Twitter asking for a few birthday wishes, the world stepped up, not only showering him with well-wishes and happy returns, but also asking him for his address so that they could send him birthday cards and balloons and treats so that he didn’t have to celebrate by himself. I burst into tears when I read the responses to this man’s tweet.
In a time in when the majority of us
cannot be together physically,
the global community has come together
to say that ‘together’ is exactly what we need to be.
There have been so many other wonderful moments of kindness, community, and generosity just like this one. People are sewing masks and personal protective equipment for the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who are risking their lives on the frontline every day to fight the virus. Communities are supporting their local small businesses and restaurants, and those restaurants are turning into grocery stores in order to provide food for people who are struggling financially. CEOs and other business heads are cutting their salaries in half or more to ensure that their employees can keep working.
I have seen people express their grief over losing their job on social media, only to have hundreds of people immediately respond to them with temporary job opportunities to help them pay the bills. Health and wellness businesses have moved their operations online, allowing people to take classes online for free or at discounted rates.
Friends and family members are reaching out to one another to check in so that people feel a little less alone. People are standing out on their balconies applauding our healthcare workers, or singing with one another, creating irrevocable bonds with strangers they probably never thought they’d meet.
We are all directly impacted by the spread of this virus, and yet, we are all stepping up and taking care of one another. These moments of positivity, these sweet acts of kindness, stand out to me more than any grim statistic or news piece. In a time in when the majority of us cannot be together physically, the global community has come together to say that ‘together’ is exactly what we need to be.
Article by MAMATA VENKAT
Illustrations by JASMEE RATHOD