In my previous column, I had talked about how we can cope with the pandemic situation and how we have only ourselves to depend on to deal with this crisis. Due to the word limit of the column, I had only covered a part of what I wanted to convey. Since many had written to me, agreeing with some of my views, I feel the subject warrants a few more words. Somehow, the incorrigible optimist in me is telling me that we are going to be far better off in the long run. There will be severe short-term pain and tragic loss of lives and livelihood for sure. But humanity as a whole and Indians, in particular, will emerge out of this stronger.
The crisis has helped many of the middle class to understand their priorities in life more clearly. A typical office-goer’s day was taken by the horrible commute, endless meetings where everyone was desperate to impress the superiors, office gossip, and very little work done at the end of the day and much little time to live in the rush to make a living. Now, we find that one can do more in far lesser time from home and have time to spare to pursue other meaningful pursuits of life.
The behavioral changes the pandemic is triggering in the families is mindboggling. For the first time since modern office society evolved, so many people are working from home. Men are beginning to appreciate how much undervalued is the contribution of women. More men taking up household work and attaching more value to the unpaid work done by women is the greatest positive development in these gloomy times. The leadership style of how the business will be managed in the future will change as a result, with more emphasis on soft skills like compassion and empathy.
Different societies reacted to the pandemic in different ways, but one thing that stood out across the world is the success of women leaders in handling the situation. While autocratic, alpha male leaders with puffed-up chest sizes proved to be just gasbags of sound and fury signifying nothing when it came to handling a real crisis, the societies led by women handled the crisis in a much more effective fashion. Savvy investors would not miss the point, leading to the breaking of the glass ceiling in many corporates. We will find women in leadership positions in more corporates and governments in the next decade.
The reverse migration would bring many necessary skill sets back to villages. Many companies are decentralizing, and this would lead to reverse migration, decongesting our cities. If the educated elite move back to villages, the pressure on the political class to provide comparable infrastructure in the rural areas would increase, leading to a positive cycle of wealth distribution. Many companies have found that it is economical to allow employees to work from home instead of maintaining huge offices inexpensive real estate of cities. Technology penetration has deepened during this crisis period.
The sheer uncertainty about the future and the primeval fear of mortality had paralyzed us with fear when the pandemic stuck. But as the pandemic shows no signs of retreating, resilient human nature is asserting itself. When every support system that humanity had enjoyed so far, from religion to government, is collapsing, man is finding a much deeper faith in himself. Just look around and we can see heroes everywhere. A thousand little business ventures are sprouting up, despite the indifferent banking systems and obstructive bureaucracy. Desperate people, with a never-say-die attitude, are fighting back for survival instead of waiting for the government doles.
Many, who had never thought about entrepreneurship in their lives, have been forced to venture out, thanks to the job loss. Most of these are led by women. Some of these may die out eventually, but a few will become huge, developing into the engine of growth. Innovation has become like oxygen, a survival necessity rather than a luxury. Such a crisis in human history wipes out many redundant systems and gives birth to new and better ones.
We cannot be indefinitely sitting at home, hoping that this would go away. The minimum action that people would need from the government is the strict implementation of the COVID Protocol. Ensure everyone wears masks, maintain social distancing, and sanitize public transport and places frequently. Strict fines and imprisonment need to be imposed on violators. Also, the implementation of strict work from home for all non-essential services is a must.
Ensure this much and allow normal lives with the resumption of the public transport system, and we would bounce back sooner. If we find the authorities failing in this too, which is more probable, given the track record since Independence, we will bounce back still, but with more casualties and pain. We are used to such disappointments. This is a country that won freedom on empty stomachs. This is a country that has survived many foreign invasions and colonization, not to say about sweeping famines, natural disasters, and pandemics. We survived every disaster and built a nation, flawed yet glorious. As usual, we will survive this too and come stronger out of it, with or without the support of the politicians. Just do not stand in our way.
Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)