Shyam A. Krishna
Home is where the heart is. Now homes have become our world too. About one-third of the world is in some form of lockdown. You and me included. So the world has come to our homes. Homes are no longer what it used to be. It has ceased to be a place for rest and relaxation. A place to enjoy the company of our loved ones. A place to pursue our hobbies. A place where we can be ourselves.
What has changed? What’s responsible for the change? Oh, don’t blame the coronavirus for everything. The microbe merely accelerated the changes that have been taking place over a period of time.
Look back. When did it all start?
To me, it started with television. The radio may have brought entertainment to our homes, but it was more of songs and other audio stuff. It wasn’t as fulfilling as the television. Well, seeing is believing. And television facilitated that. It was a game-changer.
Movies came into our home. Football matches and Test cricket were beamed live into our living rooms. New bulletins brought the world into our homes.
That was the start. That was when the world and home converged. We became witnesses to the Bosnian war, Italia 90, Los Angeles Olympics, LiveAid concerts in Wembley, London, and Philadelphia. Many, many more events that changed the world. We watched them all from the comfort of our sofas.
How internet changed our lives
If television became our window to the world, the internet brought information to our fingertips. Everything was a click away. The internet changed the way we live.
Everything is online. We shop online; we bank online: we chat online. Social interactions too have gone online. The rise of social media was merely the sign of times, empowering every person as disseminators of news.
The internet put our lives on steroids. It brought us streaming television; we no longer have to go to movie halls. High definition telecast (now it’s 4K and 5K) became a possibility as bandwidths grew.
While high-speed internet brought more comforts, little did we know that classrooms and offices too began to come home with us. Remember how we used to thump through the messages on BlackBerrys. It was convenient yet inconvenient. It ate into our family time. We dismissed them as minor aberrations.
When stress came home
That was the beginning of work from home. Teachers kept students updated through WhatsApp. Wasn’t it intrusive? It was, but we refused to acknowledge it. The coronavirus pandemic merely formalised what we have been doing. What we’ve been doing part-time has become full time.
We start work from home in our pyjamas. The work never ends. The stress never ends. Finally, when we tear ourselves off the computer screen, another screen awaits us. The television. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, all beckon us with their offerings.
Our children too aren’t spared. Schools, colleges and universities might be closed, but remote learning keeps the education going. Their social interactions might be suffering, but the learning process continues.
Will we return to our normal lives?
We may miss eating out: the restaurants with its ambience and camaraderie of friends make dining an experience in itself. So if we can’t go to restaurants, the apps on our phones bring the menus to us. And the food is delivered at our door.
Groceries, laundry, everything comes home. Telemedicine takes care of the consultations with the doctor. There’s no need to step out. The world has come home.
What happens when the pandemic fades? Will we return to our normal lives? Will we want to return to life as we knew it? Will some of these coping mechanisms stay with us? Will we continue to work from home? What about the remote learning of our children?
My guess is most of this will stay with us. Maybe over time, we may return to our familiar ways. But a stagnant economy will force employers and companies to continue to use the work from home mode.
It makes perfect business sense. Work from home will reduce the overheads of companies. And that would make the balance sheets and bottom lines look healthier.
We would have got used to the convenience of online shopping. It would have become a habit. So the bricks and mortar shops will be in jeopardy.
Schools should return to what it was. Or else, it will adversely affect children’s mental development. Remote learning could supplement classroom teaching. There could be better integration.
Our hospital visits will be drastically reduced. We will stop running to doctors for every ailment, opting for teleconsultations for non-emergencies. I hope social distancing goes away. We can do without that. What’s a world without friends? Enemies too. We need them all. After all, we are social animals.
What won’t change is television. It’s no longer an idiot box, they call it Smart TV and it comes with apps. When the world comes home, apps take over our lives.
The virus crisis brought out the best in humanity. People rose above the barriers of race, caste, creed and nationality to bring relief to the most wanted. That should stay with us. It will make us a better version of ourselves.
Shyam A. Krishna is senior associate editor, Gulfnews