Wisdom in Calamity

Urmila Chanam
Posted April 18, 2021 from India
A WhatsApp forward (Exercise: Can you find the Wise, Popular and Divine in this picture?) (1/1)

It may have never occurred before that everyone in our life, no matter which part of the world they live in, are being tested by the same situation at the same time opening a window for us to see them in a new light and understand people from how they respond to Covid-19 since it hit India and the world like a storm in 2020. People who we thought we knew very well started doing things which didn’t make sense anymore and we couldn’t help but wonder, how did I even think I know this person?

I have seen three kinds of people since the outbreak and lockdown; the first category (I call them Wise) has people who are alert, well informed, responsible, concerned and most of all, act on that knowledge be it in terms of wearing mask, social distancing or prioritizing their activities outside the four walls of their homes. Others call them by different names; paranoid (they wash milk packs, iron newspapers, shower on returning home, sanitize door knobs, spend time and money in buying the best masks), hoarders (because they keep stock of all essential items at home in preparation of a lockdown, scarcity of commodities or in case someone falls sick), texters (all the information laden messages and WhatsApp forwards come from them) and downright coward for fearing sickness and death.  

The Wise are good for themselves, their families and even their communities but sadly, only very few people make up this group. They are now turning frustrated and helpless because they are unable to convert anyone and lonely because people are avoiding them to escape depressing news. The Wise cannot be completely safe even with all the efforts they make because being responsible personally does not ensure they will not get infected; an accident is not necessarily the fault of the one who gets injured in the mishap.

The second group (I call them Popular) is made up of individuals who are in denial about Covid-19 and its fatal effect on the population even after one year of first- person experience, their focus limited to geopolitics and conspiracy theories involving other countries, believe the pandemic is nothing but a scam that’s designed by authorities in collaboration with pharmacological companies and vaccine manufacturers.

The Popular are the ones who will advocate against wearing masks, social distancing, testing and now vaccination because their understanding of the problem is not the virus but (a) human(s). Popular arguments like, “We cannot stop living because of the pandemic”, has managed to sway the mass in their favour as opposed to the Wise. The hallmark of this group is a strange calm not aligned with the current situation in the world, living their life without any modifications whatsoever, lack of preparedness and interest and above all this, they are surprisingly very persuasive in changing other’s attitude on Covid-19 towards theirs and even succeed.

The third group (Divine) could have easily been a part of the Wise if not for their spiritual belief that the pandemic is a test of people’s spiritual strength, a sign of the “last days” and more than masks, sanitizers and social distancing we need faith in the Almighty to survive the pandemic. So, this group comes across as the Popular in terms of outward manifestations of lack of preparedness for Covid-19.

We will never know which category of individuals bore/will bear the maximum casualty and mortality because the monitoring is not taking into account personality traits and attitudes towards the pandemic but since the pandemic is a living experience and we are all significant partakers of this historical event, I am certain all of us have personal experiences with people described in this article. Some informed us, some confused us, some made us rebellious, some made us lax and then there are others who reminded us of the spiritual void in our lives.

Ps: As I write this piece, India is experiencing the second wave of Covid-19 where Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, the city where I live have reported 64,000, 19300 and 12700 cases in the last 24 hours.


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The author is a print journalist and columnist and recipient of several journalism awards like UNFPA National Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity, World Pulse Story Awards and Youth Ki Awaaz Awards 2019 held in New Delhi. She is a member of Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) Bangalore Chapter.

Comments 4

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Urvashi Shivdasani
Apr 20
Apr 20

Completely agree Urmila. I have encountered all 3 types of people as well. All we can control is our behavior and response and continue to educate. While I write this to you my parents have just tested positive for covid in Delhi. They were "Wise" but unfortunately not immune to their environment. Stay safe and healthy!

Urmila Chanam
Apr 20
Apr 20

Dearest Urvashi,
Sending you and your parents healing and will keep them in my prayers. I have family in New Delhi and I know there is an alarm there but Delhi has an exceptional Chief Minister.
Much love,
Urmila Chanam

Apr 20
Apr 20

Thank you for sharing. You have made a good observation on people's behaviour. The pandemic is a big challenge to everyone in the world. We must keep ourselves alert and keeps high hygienic level to ourselves & the environment.
Hope everyone in India stay safe and overcome the pandemic! May Almighty God bless you all!

Nini Mappo
Apr 21
Apr 21

Hello Urmila,
Yes it boggles my mind that all the three categories persist even after a whole year of Covid with a shocking global death toll. Oh well:/
Your story is informative and entertaining :)