The Pandemic has redefined everything: Greater Kashmir

The Pandemic has redefined everything: Greater Kashmir
02/05/2021, by , in Home Page Articles

This story first appeared in Greater Kashmir

There is mayhem of minds and bodies

Pandemic is turning incurable and ultimately fatal. It has changed everything. Our world. Our life. And even our imagination. Dramatically. Covid-19 has permanently altered the concepts. We process images with words that have gathered horrible meanings. The pandemic has exacerbated the whole gamut of connotations that were already full of manifold exposition.

As the viral infection surges, we find ourselves and situations around us to be among the most vulnerable. There is mayhem of minds and bodies. Everything seems scary and sickening. All those things that were taken for granted have suddenly become rare and precious. In a way, the pandemic has thrown up a lethal lexicon that is transforming the mindscape.

Oxygen that we breathe free and unhindered, without ever weighing it up, has turned into expensive manna. Every single breath is becoming pricey. People are fighting for air. The waft of the air we gulp in so casually has brought up a nightmarish realization. An average person breathes around 7 to 8 litres of air in a minute that equals 11000 litres of air per day in which the amount of pure oxygen utilized by the human body is about 660 litres. And going by the price tag of liquid oxygen in the market now, we are consuming free oxygen worth lacs of rupees daily. O2 shortage is a penalty that was due in view of mounting deforestation and acrid air pollution we wrought.  The coronavirus just paced up the scenario and translated the ugly scene for us.

Bed is a simple fixture used in a hospital space to make humans feel secure. Pandemic ruthlessly snatched its role and curved it into a catacomb. With people gasping and dying in moments, the bed became the resting place that lulled people into eternal sleep. And ironically, for many struggling to respire, even the bed went off-limits. The refuge abruptly became a space where doom awaits and all the hopes of healing dwindle fast. The horror shaped by the pandemic shaped a transition in the idea of ‘bed’ and its imprint in the psyche is now permanent.

Death is inescapable and mortality is permanent. But the way we think and see death is changed. The news about death and dying from coronavirus is dominating the front pages for a few weeks now. It is difficult to avoid all this creepy content. The daily death counts have become a disturbing feature all over in television reports, newspapers, and internet dashboards. Seems it’s a wartime situation. The only difference is that we are fighting death, which has arrived in the form of a minuscule virus, and strikes everyone strangely. Death toll is staggering by any measure. The numbers are rising. And sadly, the data doesn’t include the indirect deaths from lack of access to care, overloaded hospitals, and the mental health toll inflicted by the pandemic. People are dying not just from the virus, but from the multiple impacts of the pandemic. Those who have been stable for years have become frail over the last year, coupled with many health concerns including depression. This collateral damage is getting ignored. Death in a pandemic is happening before the physical fatality gobbles up. The life-threatening virus has reinterpreted and reconstructed the notion of mortality.

Cemetery swallows people. Pandemic depicted cemetery as a place where people saw and felt the wretched misery and revulsion besides the slaughter of their loved ones. Be it the mounds of soil or the smoke from burning pyres, the cemetery became a horror sight that converted grief into growl and bereavement into bewilderment. Writing a long read in daily The Guardian about prevailing covid catastrophe in India, Arundhati Roy talks about “the haunting image of the flames rising from the mass funerals in India’s cremation grounds” which are “making the front page of international newspapers,” and feels ironical that “all the kabristans and shamshans….. are working properly, in direct proportion to the populations they cater for, and far beyond their capacities” given the kind of political rhetoric in place. All kabristans and shamshans are telling a story that is full of poignant imagery and frailty. Are they the places where souls receive redemption? Pandemic has murdered the meanings. Ruthlessly reversed the narrative, making the significance of the cemetery so strongly empowered.

Bottomline: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s top pandemic adviser says-“We are still in a very precarious place with regard to viral dynamics.” Meaning we should be ready to witness unthinkable changes in the face of unprecedented doom and disruption. Pandemic has already brought up ugliest obscurity to the forefront and relegated obvious images and concepts to the backside. While we are “doomscrolling”, skimming anxiety-inducing pandemic news on our smartphones, we are fast sliding into the worst forms of negativity and nihilism. Since everything is changing, we are becoming islands unto ourselves, trying to be self-sustaining and maintaining a personal bubble. Perhaps morphing into mechanical, unfeeling creatures; forgetting many of the favors of Almighty that we keep denying and demeaning. Tragic.

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About Syeda Afshana

Gold Medalist in Mass Communication and Journalism, Syeda Afshana is an Associate Professor at Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir. An alumnus of International Academy of Leadership, Germany, and a visiting fellow at Centre of International Studies, Cambridge University, she has extensively written and reported on media, politics, conflict, women, and other aspects of society. Her specialization includes International Relations and International Communication, Conflict Studies and Reporting, Convergent Journalism, Narrative Journalism and Print Media (Editing). She is doing a regular weekly column for local English daily newspaper Greater Kashmir, besides contributing for Indian national news magazines. She has also authored a volume of poems ‘The Fugitive Sunshine’, an anthology of essays titled ‘Freeze Frame, Glimpses from Kashmir’, a collection of narratives named ‘Backyard of Corpses’ and a book of essays on gender issues ‘Gender Gamut’.