Just when everyone has gone into isolation I am emerging from self-imposed hibernation to write this piece.
A week or so before the closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was high drama in our daughter’s household. Their soon-to-be-six (going-on-sixteen) daughter got back from school one afternoon and excitedly told her parents and older sibling about the “Key Man”. It appears a school friend had informed young J and her classmates that a “Key Man” was doing the rounds, hiding keys in neighborhood parks. Another friend vouched for the existence of this “Key Man” as she too had discovered a half-buried key in a flower bed! So, J came home and demanded that the family immediately make a trip to the park to unearth keys waiting to be discovered! Patiently, her parents tried to reason with her even as a “meltdown” unfolded. Why would any one leave keys around? What were the keys for? On a practical note, the park was presently snowed under, so there was no possibility of digging around to locate keys! However, the little girl’s mind was made up and no amount of logic could convince her otherwise.
A 16th century Sufi saint Shah Hussain’s kafi (classical form of Sufi poetry) stated, “Ni saiyyon assi nainaa de aakhe lagge …” (“O my (girl)friends, I am beguiled by my eyes …” He went on to say that our eyes will show us only that we choose to see. Our past experiences provide the narrative that we fall back on, to interpret our view of the world.
The recent torrent of emails and other messages unleashed on the (un-)social media channels indicate that each of us appears to “know” what and who caused the Coronavirus, how it is spreading and what “everyone” (other than ourselves, of course) must do to contain it. Subtle algorithms working behind the scene help to serve us content based on our proclivities and past consumption patterns, reinforcing what we expect to see.
Humans are social creatures and some might find it more difficult than others to completely isolate themselves from family, friends and colleagues. Perhaps, merely to stay connected or to play the part of informed citizens, we rush to share “breaking news” with others, and can even trot out predictions deciphered from self-discovered crystal-balls! There are also a number of caring, well-meaning souls who share their “Guru’s Thought for The Day and gyaan (wisdom)” exhorting “my ten friends to please not break the chain and forward this prayer to ten of your friends and experience the benefits in 10 days” etc. The internet is thus flooded mostly with gibberish, resulting in computer servers having to cope with the processing, transmission and storage of increasing quantities of data. This is no doubt spiking energy consumption and will further detract from our efforts to protect the climate.
Thankfully, there is another set of people who stay calm and appear (at least publicly) to be in control. We may have become aware of the existence of these heroic legions lately but they have always been around, working quietly and efficiently, out of the public eye. It takes a special mindset to put aside self-interest or family concerns and transform themselves into a protective healthcare defence-shield, a food and services supply-chain, a friendly neighbour, community member or volunteer who steps up to provide care to those in need.
Think emotionally or act pragmatically? What do we place our faith in? Perhaps, objects like a “Tooth Fairy”, “Key Man” etc., offer a distraction, even if temporary and help us build collective resolve and put our faith in a greater power that might help us navigate choppy waters.
Out for a walk on Friday afternoon, I stopped to bask in the wintery sun. Sitting atop my favourite rock on the hill I was eyeing the lake beyond the trail, but my mind was preoccupied with the pandemic. A young boy riding a scooter up the trail suddenly jumped off and pointing to the budding dwarf irises that had escaped my attention, shrieked excitedly, “Look, mom! These pretty blue flowers are just like the ones in our yard!” This became my “Key Man” moment. I suddenly became aware of the trees around me and noticed buds starting to appear on a few, birds flitting around and chirping away joyously. All thoughts about the virus disappeared and I returned to nature that nurtures us. The joy of experiencing the onset of spring had been passing by me unnoticed this year!
This too shall pass … I decided.
Spring is back.
Here’s my very own “Key Man” prayer; since I first sang it at school as a child to the present day, it never fails to move and comfort me:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
T’was blind but now I see
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
T’is Grace that brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home
Amazing Grace, How Sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
T’was blind but now I see.”