COVID - 19: Notes from Quarantine

By
Siddhartha Chattopadhyay
Posted on
April 12, 2020
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A year ago I had an idea. I hadn’t shared it with anyone because I wasn’t yet comfortable. The few people I had shared it with were surprised. Why? Perhaps they agreed with what I was saying, but weren’t comfortable themselves sharing it with anyone else. 

It was one of those quiet evenings at BoulderBox; the 5 O'clock kids class had just begun and the lights were all turned on. The music playing at the time was either from the 80’s or your archetypal FKJ. A gentleman in his late 30s walked in. He stood calm and composed in one corner. A subtle smile came across his face. While I was busy with other customers, I finally looked at him. “Hi, how is it going?,” he asked. “Good, how can I help you,” I replied. “A climbing pass please?”

The gentlemen had an accent and I asked him if he lived in the States. “About 15 years ago,” he said. “How come you’re here?,” I asked. “Because this is where I need to be!,” he said reassuringly. As soon as he said that, I instantly latched onto that exclamation. Having sensed a bit of familiarity, I asked him if he’d heard of the “Indian Dream”. “Not the one we share with the aspirational middle class since that’s always been there,” I intervened. “But the one that pegged to a fringe society, less risk averse and more thrill-seeking, less theo-centric and more existential, less collective and more individualistic? “Loosely,” he acknowledged. 

After briefly exchanging our thoughts, in a way that seemed to have validated our ideological overlaps, I happily sank back into the pivot desk chair, on which some of you, our patrons, have sat. The gentleman then proceeded to orient himself in the direction of his objective, both mentally and physically, “Climbing”. The winter breeze outside the BB kitchen remained, as usual, a quiet and an unceasingly intense distraction. As to the Indian dream, a notion which was initially a product populated with my own romanticism, it no longer felt as isolating as it had in the beginning. 

The conversation that we had afforded me a perspective within which I felt comfortable enough to take the idea forward. And it was this idea alone that had catapulted me into climbing. A possibility that I had resolutely committed myself to, with nothing but climbing at the helm of it. And then, of course, life would take over…  and I’d soon find myself amidst a small pool of people, who in a way were already living this dream.

A few months ahead in time and everything has come to a standstill. And as I write this from the cottage of a friend whom I have never met, and only spoken to, I ponder over the absurdity of life. The novel Coronavirus has moved our lives. It has brought us a step closer to what some may inspect as doom or even purgatory as many fear this is the end. But I believe it’s not! At best, it’s a reminder of the society we have created and the way we go about living our lives: a society that gauges success on a model that holds “never-ending growth” as its principal objective... 

However, in the face of this pandemic, there lies a sweet spot in acknowledging this uncertainty. It gives way to the idea of re-pivoting our lives. A chance to perhaps redeem ourselves in the best way we can. A chance to perhaps not take this planet for granted, and to think through the severity of our actions. A chance to consciously look into our lives, which is good but could be better. 

“Small is beautiful”

Dear readers, this, to me, seems like the ideal time to reflect on our culture and to carefully digress from regressive norms. And to truly register the meaning of the phrase, “Small is beautiful”. To draw parallels from nature and to understand that, "you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war,” writes Quinn, a cultural critic, in Ishmael.

Which leads me to think that there’s a lot to unlearn and withdraw from. Let’s not take COVID-19 for granted. It should act as a reminder that life is short and what we choose to do with it now will go a long way in shaping our future. 







Posted on
April 12, 2020
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Siddhartha Chattopadhyay