From making memes about the Coronavirus in January of 2020 to being on the brink of a third wave here in Mumbai, it has been one hell of a ride and not in the nicest of its connotation. The first impression was this will be over in 21 days, then it’ll take at least 3 months, surviving harsh lockdowns sitting at home during the second wave watching people die without getting the right medical attention and due to something as trivial as lack of oxygen, we have seen it all now, but we do not learn. The same mistakes are being repeated currently but that’s another whole topic I could write on separately at another time.
These 18–24 months were extremely harrowing for us as humankind. People were being laid off from their jobs, being at home all the time gave rise to a lot of mental health issues that people didn’t really see coming. We lost a lot of close people during this pandemic, couldn’t even attend their funerals due to Covid-19 restrictions and weren’t there for them when they needed us the most. This whole picture accompanied by the highs of the scientists inventing the vaccine, working day and night to ensure that we could enter the endemic zone as quick as possible, then the great work done by most of the global powers in administering these vaccines to the public which was a herculean task, especially in India with its poor bureaucracy and often ineffective ground-zero implementation, it is quite commendable that almost 63% of the population have gotten at least one jab.
With all this going on, a lot else was going on in another domain with which I was closely related in these couple of years and that was education. If something has been deeply affected by the pandemic I’d say that sector isn’t the Supply Chain or Manufacturing but the Education sector has lost a lot which will take a lot of time to recover. The effect this will have will not be an immediate but a delayed effect which will surface after another few years.
Kids were told to sit in front of LED and OLED screens on their devices at home as a substitute for their school. Those were testing times but when you really think about it, school or even college isn’t just about learning lessons and giving exams it's so much more than that. It’s an avenue for the holistic development of the students, a domain for them to make mistakes, to learn from the mistakes which teach a lot of those soft skills which turn out to be more important in adult life. No recesses to fool around, no cultural events to try out their talent, no real memories with friends which is really what school should be about.
On the other hand, as a grad student, studying in an Engineering College in India, things seemed pretty chill in the beginning for me. Exams for the semester were cancelled in 2020 as no one knew what was going to happen and everything seemed uncertain. The following semester was held completely online much to my delight again, life was smooth, with no real hassles. My entire life was revolving around a single laptop and I was pretty happy with it at the time being. I would eat while watching something on the device and then attend lectures on the same device after 10 minutes. I worked and played at my desk.
Things came quickly crashing down in 2021 when the second wave hit the entire globe and most importantly the manner in which it hit India. People were dying outside hospitals waiting for oxygen and beds and watching these visuals again and again didn’t do any help to my mental health. I slipped into an extreme bout of existentialism and slowly gave up on even reading the course material because everything was online, right from the internal assessments to the final exam, just everything except my repair was online. I don’t really know how I have passed seven semesters of my college, 4 out of which have gone on while I was sitting on my ass at home doing practically nothing.
I expect a big reality check when my peers and I finally go out into the real world either for jobs or for higher education. The plateau which has been forming for quite some time now is going to be really hard to shake off. The waves of life are going to hit harder than any tsunami which has hit my shore. In the initial phase, it felt extremely amazing, not to have to go to college, copying our way through each semester and having that evil pleasure of knowing that everyone knows what's going on but no one can really call us out on it? It is the closest thing to invincibility or immortality I will ever feel in my life.
All of that has now evolved into extreme guilt about the past and hesitation about the future. It was supposed to be difficult getting through engineering, with 4 years of meticulous work and a lot of practical experiences which made it worth doing, which we have lost out on. It really is a shame but the only saving grace is, speaking in a personal capacity, I grew up a lot and I see the people around me also grew up a lot through this. We didn’t really get to have the memories of college fests or concerts but learnt some valuable lessons sitting on Discord at 1 am at night chatting away about how life is eventually going to come and fuck you no matter what you do.
In hindsight, humans as a species always have salvaged whatever they could out of a bad situation and we will continue to do so until our conscience is in our own hands. While standing on the brink of stricter measures and harder restrictions and quite possibly a soft lockdown, it feels like I am about to lose another year of mine warped into my laptop screen and with my fingers stuck to the keyboard which I am using to type right now.