The post corona-virus world norm

By Vijaya Pushkarna


When will we go back to the pre novel corona virus world? After the number of new covid positive cases comes to zero, and we suddenly find we have millions of ventilators in  our hospitals? Or after a miracle of a vaccine becomes available in such abundance that it becomes both, affordable and accessible to all? After scientists and others in the health field stop telling us that the virus will come back,that  we have developed “herd immunity” and so on?

We must remain optimistic and positive that all the above  are possible, and we shall overcome. 

Yet a voice one heard  from a seasoned and senior doctor who has spent long hours in the ICU monitoring COVID positive patients on ventilators, sounded realistic. “ From now on we must presume that anyone standing in front of us is a covid positive case, and our behavior must be guided by that” she said.

 So, even long after things seem normal, the best way to greet a dear friend or a family member we are meeting after a long time would be  “Namaste” instead of a warm hug or a tight handshake.

That will  not be the only change in the post-novel corona virus world .

We may become less polarized, more spiritual, have greater faith in the power of prayers, and even more compassionate as human beings—we have, as a state, realised the value of the migrant labour . Given the environmental cleansing that has happened, and the spectacular  return of animals and birds as we remain caged in a lockdown, we may even want such an exercise from time to time, albeit for short spells.We would all have become better human beings in varying degrees.

Society and social behavior will change. As will  the way we consume, the way we live. The mask will be the most fashionable accessory, and it will be gender fluid!

Deborah Tannen , a professor of linguistics in Georgetown , USA, writes, “The comfort of being in the presence of others might be replaced by a greater comfort with absence, especially with those we don’t know intimately. Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we’ll be asking, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”—and might need to be reminded and convinced that there is” 


People are unlikely to go out much, and not unless it is absolutely necessary. So, possibly very few people  will be watching movies at the cinemas, shopping at the malls, and  having lunch or dinner at the restaurants . “Ma ke haath ka khana” , and even “apne haath ka khana” it will be, with social media content being so full of photos of  food that even non-foodies made. “I thought cooking was both a drudgery and tedious, now I find it is creative and therapeutic” remarked a young mother whose meals would generally come from her mother’s home . And the kitchen will no more be  controlled  exclusively by women.

Senior citizens may become a rare sight on roads. An eminent economist on one television channel explained why more old people died due to Covid19  in Europe and the USA, compared to India thus: the demographic fact of India being “younger” , and the cultural fact of more senior Indians  generally staying at home.In the developed world they tend to live in senior citizen homes . So when the younger family members went out to work or study, the grand folks were keeping good social distance in India. In the senior citizens’ homes or condominiums, the activities bring them in close proximity. A doctor advised that it will be safe for those above 60 to consider not moving out  even after the covid threat is behind us.

Many offices may find that getting people to work from home makes for better money-sense, so the home may become the office for many.Of course that will bring its own challenges.

Less will indeed be more.And minimalists will zoom in numbers. People are unlikely to buy anything other than essential food and beverage, even in that sticking to local, and avoiding imported ingredients, ready-to-eat or packaged stuff. Of course they may replace the old refrigerator that has packed up more than twice, or the  cell phone that does not function, but cars and fancy motor cycles, latest fashion ware and fancy stuff? Reports suggest that will not be a priority. Toilet soaps, hand sanitisers and household cleaning agents will of course fly off the shelfs.

Whatever be the reduction in interest rate on EMIs on housing loan, there will be a drop in  people investing in a new house, or buying a commercial property.

In its exhaustive and incisive April 2020 paper titled “Potential impact of COVID 19 on the Indian economy,” KPMG, confirms that “a severe demand  shock is underway across discretionary spends”.

 On April 3, the Reserve Bank of India released its Consumer Confidence Survey,conducted between Feb 27 and March 7, 2020, in 13 major cities. While 20.4% of the surveyed people in March 2019 said their spending on non-essentials had decreased, over 30 % said so now.

 “Consumer confidence, as measured by the current situation index, in early March 2020, remained broadly close to the all-time low, which was recorded in the previous survey round….Households perceived some easing in the inflation pressure; however sentiments on discretionary spending remained in the contraction zone.” 

And  let us not forget, it was only after March 7 that the virus scare exploded all over the country, first leading to people with travel history being traced and quarantined initially, and the one day Janata Curfew of March 22 being telescoped into a three week national lockdown on March 25.

Less or no  “non-essential” spending implies holidays will be at home, in town; and if at all, domestic will be preferred to international destinations. Though the metro and the buses are not going to be empty, people will think many times before stepping into a public transport –cab,bus, train or flight or cruise. Social distancing could reduce the maximum number of passengers in any air craft to about 15 % of what it is, and make flying prohibitive.

The panic in the tourism and hospitality sector is such that they have been advised to promote the idea of “postpone travel, don’t cancel”. Equally, they want the government to give wide publicity to hygiene standards at tourist destinations.

And many may avoid congregating to pray or participate in rituals involving lots of people, weddings and other celebrations may naturally be guest-controlled.

 Apart from food,the most consumed thing,  would be the internet data and digital everything.

A “foreign phobia” may also result in fewer students travelling to foreign universities for higher education. While a Harvard or Stanford or the London School of Economics will continue to have applicants from India, it may not be the same across the board. Within the country, a sizeable section may opt for online education and skilling.

The world as any 40-year old Indian has known will not be the same. Rebuilding the economy in the new world, will be extremely challenging. Yet, it will come with one bright silver band –not just a lining. There will be unabashed protectionism, which will lead to Indians attempting to make everything they need in India.


Tailpiece

There are some disclaimers to the above though.
  • Public memory is very short, though psychologists say otherwise in respect of events like the corona scare.
  •  We are by and large a fatalist lot, believe in karma.
  • We are a bold people, who will continue to be battle ready to take on the corona virus whenever and wherever it raises its spiky head.
  • We are like this only!

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