“They’ll discover the cure soon enough.”

This is what I thought to myself while scrolling through Insta on another mundane evening. To say I was wrong would be an understatement. A massive one at that. . .

Little did I know how much we undermined the problem. Little did any of us know how the world would change. But it did. All of our lives were affected, to unprecedented extents, by a single virus, COVID-19.

For me, it was my prep days. Constantly trying to study during my coaching holidays was an undertaking in its own. Wasting my guilty Insta break while trying to gobble the ‘concepts’ of inorganic on some news about a virus in China wasn’t exactly the most appealing. So, I did what all of us did at first,

ignored it. But soon, it was on YouTube, then on the news channels, something more significant than I could conveniently ignore.

“It won’t reach India…”

I remember calming my worried parents while parts of the world silently shut down. Who knew that our false sense of security, that we’ll never be more than mere spectators to a global pandemic, would be our greatest mistake.

Soon it happened.

FIRST COVID CASE IN KERELA

I remember every news channel beaming the same headline on repeat. But none of those debates were louder than the one in my head. Should I have returned home? What about my JEE prep? Is there still time? Won’t it be unsafe? Thoughts like this bubbled in my mind all day. Being alone didn’t help either. But when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, we had our very first

Lockdown.

The idea seemed ludicrous, being indoors at all times? Kota was in a frenzy. My family, perturbed. My coaching was closed indefinitely. Messes turned into

tiffins. Honestly, it didn’t sink in until a few days later when no amount of social media made up for the lack of social interactions in our lives. People had leisure. Group calls became a daily occurrence. People were afraid. WhatsApp forwards with outlandish claims were enough to prove it.

Social media was unlike what I had ever witnessed.

Parts of it were haunting, showing the death tolls in Italy. Parts of it silly, new trends every day, may it be the (in)famous Dalgona coffee or something else. However silly things seemed, one thing was evident, none of us were prepared for any of it. I spent my newfound leisure distracting myself with my phone.

But being locked in physically, how long can one indulge himself in the world of

memes, unscared of what knocked on his locked door?

Days slowly turned longer.

The Loneliness became unbearable. The silence became haunting. News of surging cases were reduced to nothing more than a deafening cacophony. No matter how I pretended things to be okay, they weren’t. I wanted to return home, but was it even possible with states shutting their borders? Then came the news, Jharkhand calling back its students. And I was sure as hell, ready to return.

Are these the same roads?

A part of me just couldn’t believe the deserted city centers… dry leaves swaying on the once congested roads. This wasn’t the world I shut myself from. The more I tried to acclimate myself with reality, the more I wished the past back. But even apart from the loneliness, something was different. Being surrounded by people, I never felt I belonged. Soon it all started to come

together.

People were Terrified.

Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

They were terrified of each other. The mere meter of social distancing symbolized a lot more. It was a testament to how much the pandemic distanced us. Everyone was on their own, even several policemen, mere bystanders to youngsters pulling luggage. Amidst all this, all I wished was it all to become “good again.”

The loneliness of self-quarantine increased multifold under the constant reverberations of the labor crisis. Seeing them struggle in the same mess I just escaped from somehow wrenched my guts with every headline. My long quarantine soon ended. Days passed. I was with my family, but it felt so out of

Reaching home had more in store for me than I expected.

place. Something just missed, and I missed it too much. Then I realized it. Life

suddenly lacked variety.

It was like being stuck in the same loop. Everyday.

My optimism faded slowly, unnoticeably. Reality weighed in even slower. The rising Covid case chart was a bitter pill to swallow. To think that it won’t be ending soon… To be so uncertain, so powerless against something we were all collectively struggling against, my academics weren’t any better either. The disappearance of deadlines to study towards surely did nothing to help. But I wasn’t struggling alone.

It almost felt as if seeing society suffocate.

With the warmth of proximity with others something long gone in the pandemic, many social values dwindled and faded before our very eyes. Guests were no longer welcome. Emergencies no longer saw people rushing in for help. People feared for their safety, trusted anything that promised them

immunity, promised their loved ones’ “safety.”

Social media was somehow even worse.

Everyone had their struggles, as did I. Would the exams even be held? It was hard to imagine all that effort going into… nothing? With no goal in sight, there was nothing to work for. Where to even look for peace? Popular sites were a mess. Resentment had crept in people’s troubled minds. Society turned

agitated.

The brief period of freedom after the first wave made things even harder. Yes, it was lovely. But not nearly a compensation of getting back into the same loop all over again. The same loneliness. The same fear. The same uncertainty.

But not everything was the same. Almost a yearlong lockdown had strangled my optimism. I, like many others, finally started to accept it all. I, like all others, accepted the pandemic, as the new way of life. Thinking back, I somehow remember little of the rest. It’s all the same, but somehow different. And this somehow makes much sense, looking back at how mundane it has all been. Clearing JEE, getting a college, things this huge somehow lost in all the commotion in my head. Being struck in an online semester even as 2022 rolls

in somehow prevents me from forgetting this reality. That just like before, whether I like it or not, the pandemic still prevails, however better things have gotten.

Even after all that’s happened,

a part of me is still hopeful.

Hopeful that things might turn how they used to be. The pandemic will be like a chapter in history we will soon forget. But a more apprehensive part of me intervenes in that dream. However, I do see the world slowly reverting to normal, or rather, the new normal. What will this normal be, do any of us

really know? As for me, even after all that’s happened, not much has changed.

I’m still hopeful, hopeful of a better future just around the corner.

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