The way that the corona virus has been dealt with in Pakistan has been, to say the very least, anxiety inducing and angering. I remember reading Arundhati Roy a while back, and she eloquently phrased it when she said that the pandemic is a portal. Rightfully so, because it has diversified my understanding of how people react to such situations: whether it was the scores of people roaming outside on Eid, or just how people around us have not stayed at home and followed guidelines. It’s unbelievable how the solution of staying at home is so simple, yet so easily denied (here, I am not referring to daily wage workers, frontline medical workers or those who cannot work from home).
I think the premise regarding corona virus can best be understood if implications behind being labelled “paranoid” or “overreacting”, as so many people have called it, are understood. In what has been a 3 months strict lockdown at home by my family and I, I have witnessed the following scenario which can possibly help explain the kind of mindset that is so harmful in these times.
If the number of corona virus cases recently alarmed you, I think it is important that we educate ourselves so we can ensure we are not a part of causing this rise too. On the 16th of May, a relative of my family travelled cities and barged into our house unannounced. She also hugged me, and I could not do much because I was caught off guard. When my traumatised parents explained the situation to her, she said she showers daily. What was even more disturbing was the fact that my family and I had been successfully self-isolating since more than two months by then, and I felt as if someone had unfairly brushed away all that hard work. I also realised that, at times, we are very helpless against other people’s actions. I remember a friend saying to me then that it was pointless for someone to ask me to stay safe, when I’m surrounded by such a mindset. In all fairness, I agreed.
Surprisingly, the reactions around me haven’t been stagnant. I’ve experienced a mix of reactions, and a criticism/appraisal of each. I’ve witnessed extremely cautious people. People who couldn’t care less. People who’d much rather enjoy that takeout. Those meet-ups with friends. People like my parents too, who go out for work only, but are anxious all the time. It has made me realise that community is important – people around you safeguard your interests, and you safeguard theirs. Everyone plays their own unique part in the larger scheme of things.
While I may not be an expert on this debate, I can say one thing with absolute certainty – this situation is a testament to the fact that health does not work in binaries, that thinking long term and being on guard is a choice – albeit, one that we must make. Being in quarantine (if you can be) is a civic duty. It should be taken as such. It has shown me which companies care about profits, and which care about the health of their employees – in a way, it has given an insight into capitalist priorities. The way we do things is not permanent. It is as much subject to change as we are. Habits can be forgotten or modified. But, change works without restriction. Let us be kinder to change. Let us aim to endorse it better. Let us be more aware of its inevitability.
Lastly, no you are not overreacting. And yes, it is okay to be paranoid. You should be.
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