Someone stole our world when we were sleeping and now we have woken up to a different ecosystem.
As we grapple with an uncertain future, the suspense ahead has turned us sleuths. The whodunit element of the current happenings surpasses all other instincts at this time; we need to know who did this, who unleashed the killer virus, and we need to know it now.
Meanwhile, the five stages of grief are upon us. Someone stole our world when we were sleeping and now we have woken up to a different ecosystem. There’s a different sky above us. So we went through stage one, denial. We partied, kissed friends, drank and acted deaf. If we don’t believe COVID-19 happened then COVID-19 will disappear out of sheer embarrassment. After all, we are so used to having our way. We are homosapiens, naam toh suna hi hoga.
Then came stage two, anger. What the… we went, turning the air blue with expletives. How dare anyone do this to us, to us? We lamented the unfairness of it, the suddenness of it, the utter randomness of it. We had read about it in books, in sci fi, but never thought we’d have to deal with it in our lifetime. And the phrases we learnt! Germ warfare, wet markets, social distancing… And also now we know a city starting with W for prospective word games – Wuhan.
At stage three, bargaining, we fell shamelessly to our knees, begging and praying that we be spared. Take our neighbours, take foreigners, take our enemies, and most of all take strangers, lots of them, but not us, never us. This was also the beginning of caution and wariness. We glared at passers-by, we kept to ourselves in bustling shopping centres and thinning airports. Suspicious, jumpy, we began to develop rituals to combat the growing sense of fatalism.
Stage four, depression, sees us giving in to fear. No god can save us, no leader can save us, the pope and the poojaris are in purdah. No deity is guzzling milk, no statue has real tears rolling down its cheeks. We have been abandoned! Doom and gloom is all there is.
Stage five of acceptance has us scrambling for practical necessities. We stock up our fridge, we calm ourselves down before we attempt to calm others, we ask for more ambulances and by-heart symptoms of the newly born disease. At gut level we know what we have to do – get on with life. We were caught unprepared not only in logistics – imagine the number of masks, hand sanitisers and ventilators being so laughably low – but also empathy. We find we are not alone, everyone is terrified and coping with the terror. Humanity must unlearn selfishness.
The overlap of all these stages marked our lethal walk down the coronavirus road. We don’t know how, so we must know who. Freely pointing fingers, with every accusation blurring the bigger picture, be it in religious terms, national terms or global terms. We flash a torch into dark nooks, as we desperately hope to pin this on anyone. Anyone.