The author of recently released book Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona explores how COVID-19 has changed our minds and hearts
By Dr Mahul Brahma
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. After the French Revolution, these immortal words have found a new meaning in today’s war against the killer Coronavirus. This war is shaping up a whole new world order – new superpowers will emerge, new trends will evolve, the world economy will hardly remain recognisable, and last but not the least, relationships will no longer be the same.
The quarantine is a very unique event in our lives. Even generations who have seen the World Wars confess that it is most dangerous when the real enemy is not visible. The biggest tactical disadvantage that we have in this war against COVID-19 is that you can’t trust anyone. From a stranger to your co-passenger to your next-door-neighbour, just about anyone can transmit the virus to you. It is as if the virus is a shapeshifter and can take any form or shape.
And hence, the suspicion in our daily thoughts!
Social-distancing has become the grand narrative, the only way to fight the war, break the chain of the spread of Corona. Physical distancing has its impact on mental distancing as well. It changes your perspective towards life.
The quarantine has become a norm rather than an exception during this war against the killer virus. And in these extreme times of even extreme measures, the intensity of emotions and feelings are at an extreme too. In a war when the objective is to survive, the mind recalibrates. This recalibration intensifies our emotions and instincts. In our daily lives, we never think of survival as a key objective but crisis such as this makes survival the top priority.
So a key variable that will impact relationships will be the recalibration of our minds with survival as the top priority, topped with suspicion.
In all the stories of my book Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona, I wanted to explore the lives of others who are my co-passengers in this ordeal. I wanted to know when our mechanised lives are forced to become humane and we are forced to break our routines, take a relook at our lives as well as our relationships, and lastly, forced to give time to things and people who really matter, that too unlimited. And what role can love play in these challenging times? For a writer, creativity is your only trusted friend. So I created these characters, these protagonists and put them in the same premise of the quarantine and watch them respond and react to different scenarios that I toyed with as the author. And as they say, the beauty of a short story is that you can travel to the end of the word and can be back before dinner. So I did my share of travel and made it back before dinner, literally.
These characters and the way they responded to their relationships in a crisis, the same crisis you and I are going through, gives an insight into the changing dynamics of relationships during the quarantine and beyond. The survival recalibration leads to a heightened flow of negative emotions including betrayal, hatred, jealousy, and, of course, lack of trust. Given the nature of the crisis, it is bound to stay. As more and more people are getting used to this survival mode, the emotional distancing, as well as the overflow of negative emotions, will continue.
But this is the dark side of the moon.
Let us see the brighter side. My father always told me that you can’t control a situation but you can always make the best out of it. This is a very special time, time to introspect, time to give life a hard look. And when it comes to a question of existence, every equation that defines your life is modified. Just imagine the fact that you will no longer be able to use the justification for not giving adequate time to yourself or to your family by saying, “I just can’t make time from my busy schedule”. Suddenly, you have unlimited time and that too with your loved ones and for yourself. You will hear an oft-repeated complain that people can’t make time for their families, friends, or for themselves to follow their passion or exercise, or meditate, or just sit and do nothing in Zazen. In today’s quarantined state, this excuse no longer works, so you are forced to follow your passion and give time to yourself and your loved ones. The forced availability of time has changed everything. It has liberated our lives, which are locked up in our clockwork.
This extraordinary situation has made us realise to value the relationships that matter the most. With the outbreak of Corona and the quarantine, life and relationships will not remain the same. There will be a time beyond COVID-19 and pray that time comes soon. See you on the other side, with your loved ones.
While the risk of negative emotions engulfing our relationships is very high, love remains our only hope, our silver lining. And remember love has survived World Wars, famines, plagues, great depressions and it surely will survive Corona too.
About the author: Dr Mahul Brahma is a luxury commentator, columnist and an author of four books, including Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona and The Luxe Trilogy – Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and Luxe Inferno. He is an award-winning communications leader and heads CSR, Communications for a Tata group company. His short films have been screened in international arenas such as Cannes Film Festival. He loves to play golf and paint.