LABOUR: Already robots are replacing workers in shops as many of our shops are too small to observe the social distance norm of one meter between salesmen or customers
By Rajan Narayan
Our world has already become transformed by a tiny little creature which we can see only under the most powerful microscope. It’s a virus which can travel with the speed of light and stick to any and all surfaces for as long as 72 hours…there’s no cure for this virus attack. If the virus bites and if you prove to be positive you have to live in total and complete isolation……
THREE weeks of lockdown have brought about a dramatic change in the mindset of both native Goans and Goans relocated in Goa. The transformation has been not only on the domestic front. Before the lockdown members of a family had little or no time to even talk to each other. Before lockdown family members did not even know about their likes and dislikes and aptitudes and talents of various members of the family. Lockdown has brought the family together for better or worse.
Even if we do not know what we like about our brothers and sisters we certainly know what we dislike about each other! The lockdowns have has also been a voyage of self-discovery for many of us. We have had a time to cultivate our hobbies and in many cases even convert our hobbies into passions and a source of livelihood.
For the family it is helped Papa and Mama to come closer to understanding their children. They have learned to understand the talents of their children and help them cultivate them. Suddenly during the three-month lockdown period parents have discovered that their children are excellent musicians or fashion designers, photographers or chefs. Not of course till your sister or daughter out of sheer boredom decided to make a mutton biryani and surprised everyone.
OR discovered that the young taciturn young man sulking in a corner of the house is a brilliant guitar player. No doubt many dramatic changes have taken place in every home in the country. Like the story of the legendry MS Dhoni who discovered that he was much better suited to being a world champion cricketer than a ticket checker or a migrant labourer.
Another major fallout of the lockdown is that families were forced to become self-sufficient. A very old couple whom I have known for over 30 years came to visit me during the lockdown. The 79-year-old clinical psychologist who was born with a golden spoon in her mouth was looking extremely tired. I asked her what the problem was and she told me that the Models Millennium housing society had barred maids from coming into their gated colony.
The consequence was that everyone had to do their own domestic chores. Her husband was even older than her and visually blind and in no position to help her. Mercifully after the lifting of the lockdown maids and drivers are now permitted to enter gated colonies — provided their hands are well-sanitized. Abroad of course no one but the very rich have a choice about being self-sufficient. To the extent that even family members paint their own walls in their home and do repairs. This is because hiring any king of household help from maids to electricians to plumbers to baby-sitters is so expensive that it would cost more than your salary. To compensate though there are the washing machine to wash clothes, the dish washer to wash dishes, and every kind of consumer gadget to make life easier.
On a larger scale the lockdown has affected entire communities and societies. During the lockdown all factories big and small were shut down. Naturally the mega multinationals could not keep their factories shut for three months. Moreover there are the continuous process industries which have to keep running all the time. Like for instance a steel rolling machine which makes steel sheets and rods and various forms of steel items. Once the boiler is fired up you cannot put it off and on when you want to. If you have an opportunity of seeing the steel factory it is fascinating to see liquid steel flowing into various moulds and taking different shapes from railway tracks to the entire body of a car. So the lockdown expedited automation and speed end the introduction of artificial intelligence.
Some of us who have the money and brains have already started making video calls across continents and that to for free. I personally witness the better three-quarters talking for hours in the morning to her sisters in the United States and New Zealand and when they are in the mood to share secrets even hold conference calls. During the lockdown because of Covid-19 there was no transport. There was no question of Prime Minister Narendra Modi jumping into his private jet and hopping all over the country. Nor was it necessary because the era of conference calls has arrived. Everyone is conferencing with everyone to save the country thousands of crore in airfares surely.
I am a little concerned whether we will ever fully recover from the lockdowns one after another. The old days of going out late in the night for a long dinner accompanied by a few drinks has gone. In the first place at least in India dinner hours are limited to 9pm. As of now serving of liquor in restaurants is closed. Both you and the waiter have to wear masks and face shields. You and your fellow guests have to maintain a distance of one meter from each other. And make sure you do not give each other a warm hug or even shake hands. The latest variation of shaking hands is the elbow bump.
IN the distance past whenever we wanted to we jumped into a taxi or an aircraft. Now life is much more complicated. Before you get into the car you have to sanitize your hands. The seat on which you sit has to be sanitized too. In advance countries there are putting up these glass walls between driver and passenger and in restaurants between diners. It gets much more complicated if you want to travel by air. And only 1/3rd of passengers can travel in a train. Even while checking in there may be no personal contact between passenger and person on the desk. There are no meals served at least for now and you have to pick up your own soft drink packets. And of course no one can fly if tested positive. Indeed, an entire plane had to return after flying half the distance to Moscow from Mumbai because they discovered a little late that the pilot was positive for Covid-19.
It is clear now that we will have to live with Covid-19 for quite some more time. There is no cure for Covid-19. All the attempts to find a remedy or a vaccine to prevent infection have not succeeded. So the post-Covid-19 world will be very different from the pre-Covid-19 world. The primary problem is that in the Covid-19 world one must forget about touching one another to maintain physical distance of at least one meter. Besides this you have to wash your hands again and again and again because the coronavirus is a Chiny chipko which sticks to surface areas for as long as 72 hours! May be we will have to live not just in different cities and states and countries but different continents and planets if we have to survive Covid-19.