Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Authored by Anonymous!
Hello World! How are you doing today? Hope everyone is safe, healthy and comfortably couched in the warmth of your humble abode! My heart felt wishes to all of you!
Today I wish to pen down my thoughts on the situation at hand, COVID-19. I know, amidst all the other blogs, articles, newsprints that you come across daily, you might not feel interested to indulge yourself in this particular piece and to tell you the truth, I second you! Why would you want to read me? I am just another someone like most of you! What more would I have to add to your already existing ‘palace of information’ that you have so critically curated from all the social media at your disposal? Perhaps nothing! Will I be able to enlighten you with groundbreaking facts or humour you with not-yet-tested theories? Perhaps not! Ideally, I would grade this as, another not-so-useful article, but then, do you have anything better to do apart from enjoying your prime time with Netflix? If no, I would urge you to go ahead and read this!
If I have managed to retain your interest till this point, let me tell you that I am one of those unfortunate individuals who decided to pursue my post-graduation in the field of disaster management. Oh wait, it is not disaster management anymore; it is disaster risk management! Silly me!
I label myself as unfortunate because till date I have not been able to understand what good have I served? Maybe it is my incapability to deliver or maybe I have not yet got a chance to contribute in some way. I really do not know! But what I know, for a fact, is that I am feeling helpless. I am disappointed with myself and consider this as a way of my venting my exasperation.
I will not go into the technicalities of the entire issue of COVID-19 because I am sure, you have already had over-adequate doses of it. What I want to convey through this piece is my sheer disappointment with myself.
You all have heard about the issues with the migrant workers right? Perhaps you have also come across the measures taken by the State (read: nation) in terms of relief schemes and I do not want to add to the ongoing discussion. I would like to put forth a very different picture of how the collective human concern, which acts as stimulant to discussions and debates, is defined by what is popularly shown. At this very moment, everyone, and I mean literally everyone, is concerned about the migrants all over India; how to provide them basic essentials, how to ensure the continuity of their livelihood, how to transfer them to their homes etc. But if you ask me, I am least bothered; yes, as a citizen of the country, of course I am worried and it captures a part of my concern, but a majority of my concern lies with a completely different section of people, who are undoubtedly an integral part of our society. My mom knows a tailor. He is more like a family tailor and over the years we have developed a very close bond with this individual. Around 15 days into the ‘lockdown’, it dawned upon my mom to inquire about his health, which is obviously a very humane thing to do! So she called this guy up and teased him as to why he did not call her up in the first place to ask if she was alive or not; this is a very Indian thing to do and I totally dislike it! This guy playfully avoided the question and the conversation went on. Eventually he exclaimed that he is not fine, he is not doing well. He is worried. He said that he has enough money to pull it through the next week but post that, he has no clue as to how he will feed his baby boy and wife and then it struck me! Imagine how many of such individuals we know, how many of such individuals constitute the population. They are an integral part of our co-dependent society and yet they have not made it to the media; no one is discussing about this section of the society which is suffering in silence and is not a part of any relief scheme. Their woe does not end with the lifting of the lockdown, particularly for this man. He is apprehensive that even when the lockdown is over, it will not be business as usual. People would be reluctant to give their clothes to a tailor, for any reason, because ‘the virus spreads through physical touch and contact’ – this fact has been clearly established. Finally, as the conversation came to an end, the man confessed; he wanted to call but he could not as his pre-paid mobile account was not recharged, spending even a 100 bucks seemed to be a luxury to this man.
My mom relayed this entire conversation to me and I stood disappointed. Did I do anything for this particular section of the society as a so called disaster risk management professional? Absolutely not, but, I did play an active role in fueling the discussion about what is to be done for the migrants, what the government should have done and what they shouldn’t have. The acute situation imposed upon me the worthlessness of my choice. What did I contribute? What good did I do? Agreed that as a single individual I could not have done anything, but did I even bother to start? Why was I swayed by what the media was showcasing? As a professional shouldn’t I have taken stock of these burning issues also? I failed and I am ashamed. I confess.
Today is the first day of a new year in many regions of India and it goes without saying that had it been any other year, the situation would have been gladly different. But I wonder how the owners of the shops in the street markets are coping with this huge, huge blow! I do not know whether the government or the local authority is doing something or not about them but what I know is that as an ‘educated’ professional, a DRM guy, I could not contribute in any way.
I can come up with thousands of excuses of why and how I could not do anything, but I feel that I needed just one strong, motivating reason to do something. Anything. But, I did not. I failed myself.
These were the thoughts that I had in my mind when I stepped out of my house to get some veggies; masks on and mentally determined to follow the physical distancing norms, come what may! Few moments into the market and I realised I have walked into a death trap; either I walk out safe, hoping that no one I come across is a potential carrier, or, I walk out as a ticking time-bomb! I presumed I would be safe and took the death plunge.
I was busy judging the freshness of egg-plants when I thought I saw a familiar face. I couldn’t really make out where I had seen him. He was smiling at me and this is not at all normal because I rarely go to the market and thus the prospect of bonding over the sale of veggies is absolutely a non-existing potential. I am not really good at socializing but then ‘social distancing’ had forced my back already and I decided to go and check out the veggies he had to offer. The moment I walked over to him he got super excited and asked me how I was and when had I returned from my work-place. Hold on! This guy knows that I do not stay here and it is only during holidays that I come & visit, thus, he really knows me. I had to put on my Sherlock cap to think how I knew this man while continuing the pleasantries. Suddenly, it struck me. I know this man from the shop I used to buy flat-bread (roti) from whenever I wanted to have flat-bread for dinner. He used to own the shop and it was a very small, kind of a temporary establishment, run by him and his family. He used to make the rotis, while his wife made a delicious curry and their little boy either packed the parcels when they had overwhelming customers and otherwise, I always found him scribbling in his notebook. Once all this came rushing back to me, I asked him how come he is selling veggies? He had a very victorious smile on his face while his explained his strategy; due to the lockdown he could not continue with his roti and curry shop and no business meant no money and that was not an option for him or his family. Therefore, they decided to change their business temporarily. In a very ‘lean and agile’ fashion, they migrated to selling essential goods; he was selling vegetables while his wife and child had started selling flowers.
I stood there in awe. Isn’t this incredible? We profess that businesses should be agile and lean enough to adapt to changes and we term this as ‘resilience’, don’t we? This decision of a very, very normal man; isn’t this a great example deserving to be promoted? Will the world get to know about this very smart decision taken by this man? Isn’t this a perfect example of a ‘risk-informed’ decision at an individual level? Why can’t this example be used to inspire thousands of others snowballing a domino effect? As these questions kept flooding me, I stood there, once again, ashamed. I will never be able to take this great story of this very normal man to the world and as a ‘learned’ DRM professional I am expected to do the same.
You would be wondering that even scripting the story, in this very casual fashion, is a way of putting the story of this man out in the world, right? But, most of the world did not even read till this point, they left, and those of you who are reading (I am thankful to you, literally), would be wondering why should you take my words seriously? I am just another guy, just like all of you!
True! I am just another guy; in fact, I am just another ‘unfortunate’ guy who chose disaster risk management as a profession and now, in this moment of utter crisis, I feel disappointed as I could not contribute in any way possible. I may have been part of long discussions and debates on different platforms, fueling different agenda(s) & sharing ideas of what could be done and what should have been done, but in retrospection, I feel that I have failed. I did not walk the talk. And, I am ashamed.