It’s many weeks since we have been locked down in our homes. There’s a lot that is happening on the outside and inside. Social media is inundated with news and people’s expressions of their perceptions and experiences of the current situation. While some are trying to bring cheer to themselves and others by dressing up in fancy attires, others are busy joining them or condemning them for indulging in vanity when people are dying and the migrant workers are suffering with homelessness and hunger. There are those who are sharing joy and humour, and those who are calling them out for daring to trivialise the intensity of the large-scale suffering by doing this. Many are occupied with the blame game, for there must be something wrong done by someone who can be made responsible in one way or the other for what we as a human race have brought upon ourselves. And then there are those who in subtle ways, in trying to inspire others to be sensitive to the needs of the have-nots, mention their own big and small acts of service. Some are intellectualising the situation and arguing about the numbers, rationales and predictions, while others are inspiring fellow humans with spiritual inputs. 

Everyone has something to say and a helpless need to express it instantly, more so in the wake of physical social distancing which has restricted human interaction to the virtual space mostly. Many times during these weeks, I have had something to say too, but felt the need to hold the thoughts and feelings within for a little longer. For what we are going through is a novel experience for the human race. We can try and grasp certain aspects of this phenomenon and attempt to make sense of it with our thinking, but it’s more than a sum of the parts. I allowed myself to lie low, for when something so huge hits us, it needs its due respect, almost in that we give ourselves the time and space to watch what it’s doing to us before we start putting it in compartments of predisposed knowledge. The shift from one ‘normal’ to a drastically different and uncertain ‘normal’ cannot be a sudden one. The world as we have known it has elapsed and we who felt are in control have been rendered minuscule and powerless, literally put in our place. This shift requires delving deep within our core and to then perceive the outside in a renewed light. This has to be a transition, which may for most of us be coloured with moments of taking charge of what still remains in our control—essentially us. So it’s wonderful to see how people are more religiously focussing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. 

Then there are moments where the realisation of our helplessness along the many dimensions of our personal life and as citizens of the world remains outside the immediate purview of our will. And we may feel restless and low and resign to solitude or bury ourselves in the alternate reality of films or simply drift into slumber. 

Our personal financial strains have become more real, and those who depend on us, especially the domestic helps and employees whose survival depends on the earnings they make through our initiatives, seem like an overwhelming responsibility. Then there is the suffering of those who were  barely making ends meet pre-Covid-19. It reaches us and pierces us through and through. We draw upon our will and in true human spirit rise again for ourselves and those on the streets who need support. We do our tiny bits and feel some satisfaction through our actions. 

The most nourishing moments are the ones of gratitude. Where we become aware of our blessings and shift to finding happiness in what life has offered to us, rather than look for what feels empty and lacking. We receive with graciousness and hold dearly what we have—the luxury to be safe under a roof with our loved ones. We begin to relish and taste the different spices that the dish of each relationship brings. A cup of tea shared with a loved one while watching the colours in the sky change, it adds the missing flavour to conversations. For those of us who have children, we begin to cherish their every conversation and see the minute details of their growing-up. Their very presence is reason to be grateful. The fact that they are safe is a bonus that demands ever-more gratefulness.  

In feeling gratitude, sometimes we are inspired to strive to no longer mindlessly and mechanically move through the days. While we want to make the best of this time, hoping that something positive results from it, in so desiring we may push ourselves too hard — we burn out. We then realise the need to be kind to ourselves while empathising with the miseries of those less fortunate. It is okay for us to steal moments of joy for ourselves. As we breathe in the world, we need to remember to breathe out, replenish our inner being, to create within us the space to be there for those who need us in a more wholesome and meaningful way.

At a time when the sense of tomorrow has been snatched from us and yesterday begins to fade, children with their natural gift of living in the moment stare at us as our guides, while life remains the master teacher of course. There is much to assimilate and even more to express and breathe out. And the enormity of the exhaling without assimilation was overwhelming for me, which is why I chose not to write all this time. 

Today when I overheard my younger child wondering aloud to his father about how little yet large the difference is between the questions “who are you” and “how are you”, I was stumped at the profoundness of it. It stayed with me, working on the inside all day; by dusk it dawned upon me that this is what it is. Who we are as human beings determines how we meet life and its different colours, what we do with the realities we face and therefore how we are! The wisdom of these little people can be revealing of the deeper truths of life. Who are you? And hence, how are you?

– Saloni is co-founder, Ukti–The Delhi Waldorf School, and co-curator, Ukti Winter Fair, a platform for–and a celebration of–all things organic, natural, eco-friendly, and handmade