The world is struggling with its minute enemy for quite some time now and it will continue doing so until an effective breakthrough happens. Since the Coronavirus outbreak in our country, we have seen a lot of unusual turn of events, starting from the initial panic and intense lockdown, migrant exodus to the recent casual ignorance by a few to run the wheel of life. Well, we have adapted to the changing dynamics of the new normal. If we delve into our own Google searches, we will see that we have moved on from the intense searches on virus statistics, ways to increase immunity or maybe a very basic, “how to know whether I have coronavirus if I am having no symptoms?” or a “When can I travel to ‘X’ destination” to gradually come to terms with the practicality of the new norm and coming back to the regular Google searches as usual. We have accepted the changes that we still don’t know whether they are reversible.

However, the best thing that the pandemic brought to the table is “empathy”. The privileged lot is getting more aware about their surroundings and is willing to help. The world, which is otherwise very self-engrossed and competitive, today has become more benevolent. A few people rolled the snowball of aggressively reaching out to the needy and hence others followed. Today it has also become a very trendy status quo for that matter to achieve a few minutes of happiness and fame or maybe to impose a tender sense of polarisation on the needy; while for few extending help has become a call of their tickling sensitivity or maybe just to do good following the words of karma. No matter for whatever reason people are going out of their way to help their fellow beings, all that really matters is the result. The ones at the receiving end are indeed getting a certain boost or renewal to their sustainability in these times of crisis.

Being unemployed for almost 5 months now in these unprecedented times, I have realised how the situation has really unknowingly slowly made me more patient, less vulnerable and more robust. The new status of unemployed is making me connect with people at a different level and definitely it is for good. This phase is etching in me new attributes. And this phase is doing the same to everyone around (employed or unemployed). Last week I was out for some grocery shopping and while coming back I took an auto. Being a non-Tamil speaking citizen in Chennai, I find it hard to communicate with the locals but never less surprising. I tried bargaining on the fare and finally we settled for 150 INR and started off. The whole market started elapsing quickly in front of my eyes and with it I just looked in to the plain faces of people doing their regular chores or waiting at the signals in their two-wheelers and four wheelers despite the various transitions that their personal stories must have gone through due to the crumbling economy.

“Madam are you from Chennai,” my auto driver asked and then we started talking about each other and in general we discussed how corona has halted livelihood and made life so difficult. Even though the incoherent voices from the mask and inconsistent English was making it difficult for both of us to understand each other, we kept on putting questions to each other. Finally he asked me a question “Are you working IT ma?” I laughed out loud and said, ”Anna (brother in Tamil) no Job due to corona.” He took a pause and then replied, “Oh, no worry madam God will see”. After the ride I tried to make an app based payment but failed every time. Both of us spent around 2-3 mins struggling with the payment and finally I asked him to wait until my friend came down from the 3rd floor with some cash, but the man finally smiled behind his mask and told me, “leave it ma you give it later if you ride me again”. I felt overwhelmed. In all my 29 years of existence I have never experienced such a gesture by an auto driver. I just waved at him and he left. I did not take his number intentionally because I wanted to live ahead and to remember him as that idol who helped me and somewhere I knew he did it willingly. In depth I hoped to meet him again, smiling at him and asking him about life and making a conversation again with incorrect English words inconsistently.

I believe it is no more a simple “good begets good” equation today. Everyone has awakened to be aware consciously and if someone has not he should follow suit. Undoubtedly, all of us have that instinct instilled inside, it's just a matter of time. The minutes of fame attained by helping someone just for a trend or maybe an agenda of polarisation will definitely make us happy but trying to rediscover that lost instinct and then helping someone will give us satisfaction with a sigh that we are actually alive.

- By Joonak Konwar