March 11: As the clock strikes 10 in India, Meera knows her father will be out for grocery shopping. She has put on an alarm for 6:30 in the morning to wake herself up in Denmark, to watch her father over video call and remind him to avoid the crowded markets. Martin, living in the UK, must call his mother every day in the US to assure her of his fine health. Sam from Germany is turning 19 soon but he is stuck in Singapore. How will he celebrate his special day?
Welcome to the era of global lockdown where families are beating this crisis by staying connected despite being separated, far or near.
The virus and us
As the dawn broke over 2020, it brought with it something unknown. The game of survival began – between a virus and human beings. By now, the world knows all about being locked down, maintaining social distancing, staying at home and flattening the damn curve.
The virus has trotted the globe and countries are fighting their best to bring it under control. Amidst everything, we began to learn, unlearn and re-learn the many basics of life. Perhaps we have realized the worth of family and how insignificant we are in the hands of time. Hence spending time at home with the precious people in our lives is the brighter side of this pandemic, which is but epic and dictating.
Our virtual existence
But, what about the families who are not together in this crisis? What about those who cannot embrace their loved ones in these challenging times? Some say coronavirus is giving us moments to fill the treasure trove, but to some, it’s counting the hours of loneliness. The pandemic has caged humans in their homes while the other breeds of nature fondly explore the world we’ve left behind. But human beings exist – in the virtual world of the internet. Families are holding on there; via skype chats, on social media and phone calls. While being miles apart, they are breathing through the smiles and faces of their loved ones.
Suddenly the letter ‘e’ is in demand like never before; e-meets, e-birthdays and e-friendship. Friends and families from far-flung corners of the world are catching up on things they had left far behind. Everyone seems to have overcome the shrinkage of ‘time’, why not? The human rat race has slowed down, and the heartbeats are now profound.
Elderly parents are receiving warmth in e-cards while flowers and groceries ordered online speak the words of love and care. E-birthdays are bringing everyone into a single digital frame for birthday songs and cutting cakes. At times, delays on the internet are making celebrations fun: as Sam blew out the candles his parents started singing ‘Happy Birthday’; his aunt Freda started clapping five seconds later and his brother John tuned in ten seconds after that. Pandemonium indeed!
Love from a distance
Although the human touch of care is missing online, the loving moments from afar are keeping many alive and going. While families have put up clocks of the world to match the times of their children and family living abroad, there are many who cannot touch their loved ones despite living in the same time zone.
In homes for the elderly, it’s a common sight for families to bid farewell to their loved ones from windows. In residential areas, neighbours are meeting over balconies for singing and clapping for those on the front lines of hospitals. Guitars and keyboards are playing loudly in apartments. Neighbours, who rarely see each other, are coming together at balcony parties. Partying from a distance has never been an ideal thought – but the noblest one for now!
A silver lining
Although the virus has taken over a hundred thousand lives worldwide and impacted millions more, the stories of triumph, love and kindness are rays of hope. People are indulging in healthier habits and human bonds are only getting closer. Many are taking up long lost hobbies and people are following their passions for arts and more.
While the Earth is rebooting, it seems to be cleansing every possible virus from our minds, body and relationships.