14 Lessons in the Time of COVID-19

sunanda satwah
10 min readApr 13, 2020

At this hour when the world is shrouded in pain, misery and death; and the light of hope seems to be dimming; it becomes all the more important to clutch at threads of light and hope they will lead us to the end of this tunnel.

Every difficulty is an opportunity to rise above the circumstances, with a little shift in perspective.

Over these past few weeks, while we have been physically isolated & virtually connected with our friends, family and loved ones; over several conversations I have gleaned some lessons that I would like to share with utmost humility.

Hope gives meaning to our existence: the possibility that things will get well; the ability to seek good even in difficult times; the belief that there must be a lesson to be learnt; the desire to be grateful for all that we may still have. The Corona virus Pandemic has brought the world to its knees and in doing so, given us glimpses into ourselves. We have realized that,

1. We Care

Irrespective of where we live, we are pining for our friends in Italy, USA, Spain, Kenya, Israel & everywhere else. We are in this together. We aren’t separated by geographical boundaries anymore. Our hearts are bound by a common fate and emotion. We want to survive and want our world to be disease free. Soon. Together we shall endure.

2. We need to Stay in Touch

In today’s modern era when traditional joint-families have broken down into several nuclear families and youngsters are studying and working in different cities, the pandemic has brought people closer to heart. In these times of lock down and social distancing, even as people struggle where ever they may be, they are reaching out to each other, picking up the phone to connect across screen and streets. Relatives, friends, business contacts, who hadn’t called me in a long time, have been ringing to inquire of my welfare and share their own. A friend of mine says she calls at least 5 new people every day, people she hasn’t talked to in a while, just to say ‘hello’ and convey best wishes. Another friend reaches out to everyone through her daily prayers. People everywhere are praying for the world to be healed and to be rid of this virus soon. They are sending blessings to the front line healthcare workers and all those who are out there, working to keep us safe.

3. There is no substitute for Family Time

Families that have the benefit of having their loved ones under the same roof, are glad for it. While some couples have been struggling with co-inhabitation issues and arguments have become heated, most are glad to be able to hold their spouse, parents and children close. A friend shares, that every night after she’s kissed her son good night and put the clean dishes away, she watches her husband and parents engaged in their respective activities, and says a little ‘thankyou’ prayer. She wouldn’t have it any other way. From time to time there may be some differences and bickering, but there is also the deep sense of gratitude that the family is together, indoors and safe. People are learning more about themselves and each other in their relationship. It is a time to bond, to talk, to appreciate the little things like the comforting touch of a loved one, or simply knowing that they are in the next room.

4. The Way we meet, greet and Design will Change

If social distancing and lock downs have taught us one thing, it is this, that as much as we need each other we also need sunshine, forest bathing, cool breeze and sea waves.

The other day a friend shared an image of a flower that had bloomed in her garden. It felt like an exquisite gift. Until that moment I hadn’t realized how I had missed being cut off from nature to the extent that I was missing spring! The season of new beginnings! As we rue the lack of sunshine and Vitamin D and worry about muscle atrophy in the absence of long walks and physical exercise, it gets me thinking that the houses and places of work that we design henceforth, shall bear a mark of these times. This exercise of physical isolation that has been imprinted on our collective memory, shall influence the way buildings of the future are designed. Windows shall no longer stare into blank walls. Balconies will open into vistas designed for view, people and trees. Buildings shall have terraces sanitized with sunshine, that allow urban farming. Work areas will double up as entertainment zones. Residences will be technologically equipped for remote working opportunities. There shall be lesser parking lots and more playgrounds. It will be a world where we cherish people, the environment and non-polluting machines.

5. Save for a Rainy Day

Several day-wagers have been rendered unemployed. Their pressing concern is not so much about contracting the virus and dying from it, but of hunger and homelessness. Schools have closed and so have mid-day meals. Despite the reduced income, body needs fuel and two square meals. Whereas some governments, NGOs and good Samaritans have come forth to support the needy; it has emphasized upon others the necessity of having an emergency fund.

People are becoming conscious towards the need to conserve, not just money but also food.

The other day, a friend shared, that these days every single tomato feels so precious. She rued that she hasn’t seen a sprig of coriander in 2 weeks. While some, like me, have devised dishes that avoid items currently unavailable, some others have been motivated to put their green thumbs to use. Another friend tells me that she has planted chilies, tomatoes and mustard seeds. She has converted her balcony into a kitchen garden.

6. Value things we don’t have today

We are so used to taking things, events, people for granted, that we don’t miss them till we don’t have access to them anymore. Hugs and kisses; handshakes; fist bumps; that smile across the table (& not across a screen); fresh vegetables and fruits; laughter, family and friends -staying in different parts of the world, city or street. We eagerly await the time, not too far away, when we shall have these again. And we shall share what we have with a generous heart.

7. Value things we won’t have in the future

The pandemic has made us appreciate what we have today and the need to save it, lest a situation comes when we may rue the absence of it. During lock down, we are unable to access the streets, parks, company of our friends or fresh produce. The situation is difficult, but liveable. I cannot bear for a time to come, when the taps will run dry and we will have no access to water. Right now, we don’t venture out, but we still look at the world from our windows and balconies. Imagine if we weren’t allowed to open the windows because the air, we breathe is poisonous? We can bask in the sunlight that filters in. Imagine if the sun were obliterated by a looming shadow in the sky, or worse if sunlight caused disease? There are places across the globe that have experienced these painful realities. The pandemic has more than ever made us realize the fragile balance that we have with our environment.

8. The most important ‘I’

What appears to have given COVID 19 or nCoV the power of near-invincibility, is the fact that it is a novel corona virus. It doesn’t have any known cure or vaccination, yet. The only shield that has been able to withstand the endemic, is the infected individual’s Immunity. Why one man recovered and survived, while another succumbed to the virus, is not due to luck, karma, age, class or financial status, but due to immunity. Immunity! That unseen thing that we almost ignore in our urban scramble to- earn more, party more, eat less wholesome foods, enjoy sweets and junk, sacrifice sleep for more screen time, cheat on exercise regime, avoid heart to heart conversations with our loved ones. We need to invest in our immunity buffers, pump it up to envelope us against the attack of this new virus. I hope that in the post corona period, more people will consciously focus on improving their health, sleep and rest schedules. The pandemic emphasized to us once again the importance of maintaining good health and a high immunity.

9. Egos are not nCoV proof

We’ve witnessed the novel corona virus claim alike- the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the healthy and the immuno-compromised, ministers of state and street sweepers. It has been one hell of a leveller and taught us that the false impressions that we have of ourselves remain in our minds, alone.

10. Cannot go out? Go Within

We are not going out, we are going within, with the help of meditation, quiet introspection, reading, mindfulness and similar activities. We have taken the time to talk to our relatives and friends; virtually reach out to our global family; pray for the pandemic to get over; pray for people we don’t know; felt their pain; and realized that in the face of life and death, politics and wars are petty. We need more love and compassion in our world.

11. Making resolutions

For many 2020 is the year that hasn’t yet arrived. If that were so, we still have time to make resolutions. In light of the current scenario, let’s resolve to love more, to appreciate more, to save more, to keep priorities right, to waste less, to care for ourselves and the environment, to be kind, to get to know our neighbors, to spend more time with parents and children, to smile more, to laugh more, to start eating healthy, to start exercising, to have more joy in our lives, to be better version of ourselves.

12. Self-Learning and Self-Love

Online learning programs have seen a marked growth & user traffic. People are engaging in activities that will improve their skills. Some have taken up reading, creative cooking, writing, old hobbies while they are at home. Suddenly everyone has the time to do things, they ‘always wanted to’. Schools are closed. Offices are closed. Those working from home are saving on travel time. All non-essential departments such as entertainment malls, movie theatres and recreation centres are closed. We realize we don’t have to exist like robots any more, answering the 9 to 5 call of the week. While some are content surfing channels and watching Netflix, there are some who are using this time to recuperate, catch up, upgrade their skills. If this isn’t a sign of hope for a future yet to come. I don’t know what is. People are using this time to emotionally and spiritually detox from what had hitherto turned into a desensitized ‘every day livin’.

13. Importance of One

Ironically, the Corona virus pandemic taught us the importance of each individual. One person is enough to spread the pandemic. One person is enough to stop the pandemic from spreading. The action of one person can determine the fate of many. Each person is an important link in this complex mesh of people that makes societies and countries. Every action has the ability to start a snow balling chain reaction. If we didn’t believe in it earlier, it is now for the world to see. I think this period shall be the one- when every person, starts believing in their individual worth and beauty. Each one of us will realize, that the one person who makes all the difference in your life, is YOU.

14. Nature Heals, We will too

Across the globe, humans are marvelling at the emergence of blue skies. Lesser known birds and small animals are being spotted within cities. Dolphins and whales are sighted closer to the shores. The Air Quality Index of most urban cities is showing a marked improvement. Some fanatics insist this is nature’s revenge: Sapiens encaged in their houses, while animals roam about freely. Whereas, history of the earth informs us about incidences, both natural and man-made, that have from time to time disturbed the balance of the human race on the planet; I would like to believe that nature is not a vengeful child bent on getting even. It is true however that the environment has cleared up. It goes to show that when humans take a step back and withhold use of their carbon spewing machines, it allows nature time to recuperate and recover. Never before have we had the opportunity to witness nature’s recovery in action. This is an important moment in the history of urban environment. We hope we will learn from it, and when we get our old life back from this hideous Coronavirus, we will tread this earth with better care and restraint.

In many ways, this seems like a wake-up call for humanity.

We cannot continue to live in denial. We cannot continue to live in our individual little capsules.

The frog has to leap out of the well & contribute to the pond. We cannot continue to live within the bubble of our egos, neither can we continue to live as if we don’t matter. We do! Each one of us does!

I do not know, for how long these lessons we have learnt will stay with us, once the pandemic is over. Humans have elastic memories and we are notorious for not heeding the lessons of the past. Hopefully some of us will change, for the better. This pandemic has become a part of our collective history and it shall forever cast a spell over 2020 whenever we reminisce about the year that turned the world upside down.

Photo by Sunanda Satwah

I am interested to know your experiences and positive learning in these trying times of the pandemic. Do kindly share them in the comments section below.