Covid Positive!

March 2020 transformed the world and life as we had known it, and taken for granted. The Coronavirus Pandemic came like a bolt from the blues and fractured our way of being, threatened and paralyzed our very existence, and all the various everyday activities that we went about rather nonchalantly. Much has been written, spoken and debated, mostly focusing on the trauma and tragedy that this global catastrophe has given rise to; and indeed, it has. Having said that, there are, even in the most trying, worst of scenarios, two sides to the story. As we battle the unprecedented atrocities of the second wave of the coronavirus, amidst all the doom & gloom, why not take a moment to seek out the few ‘positives’ that have also emerged from this pandemic?

Familial Bonds

 Perhaps the most palpable positive outcome of the pandemic has been the growing closeness between families – be it an increase of quality time being spent between children and parents, or connections and bonds being enhanced between various relatives sitting in far-flung parts of the country and/or abroad. This human ‘need’ to reach out during a worldwide crisis has manifested in a slew of creative and fun familial outreach ranging from video-conferencing amongst extended families, to Antakshari, Cards and other games and parties being held virtually. In general, people, families, associates, friends, have been more regularly and sincerely in touch with one another, and that by any means, is a great development. That albeit forced by circumstances, we have reacquainted ourselves with our loved ones, and with our own humanity.

Appreciation & Thoughtfulness

 Pre-covid, an overwhelming majority of us took most aspects of our lives for granted. Stepping out for a meal. Taking the kids to school. Hopping on a flight and traveling. Holidaying. Spending hours shopping. We had become so ‘used’ to these ideas and activities that it rarely crossed our minds how lucky, blessed and privileged we were. The pandemic has dramatically put things into perspective. With the amount of planning that is now required for a simple grocery-run, and with all the numerous dangers that loom large whilst each outing is being undertaken, we have rather suddenly and painfully been forced to become immensely appreciative of our pre-corona lives, and of the smallest little pleasures that we mistook as our birthrights. To be able to develop a genuine sense of gratitude and thankfulness has been a wonderful development and one can only hope it outlives the pandemic.

Professional & Personal Care

 The wretched pandemic has also perpetuated a situation where we are a lot more mindful of our personal and professional lives. On the personal front, we are taking better care of ourselves. Eating better, staying fit and active, because God forbid one takes ill, for obvious reasons, one wants to avoid having to visit a medical facility. Similarly, while millions have lost jobs and suffered grave losses at work and business, it has forced us to become more thoughtful, mindful, sensitive, frugal and careful. We are less wasteful and extravagant. We are more restrained and focused. We understand the value of health of self and of work much more maturely and act accordingly now. To have evolved this level of understanding and wisdom is a clearly positive outcome of the pandemic which we will be wise to carry forward even once this ordeal is done and dusted.

Let us remember that a last few months of restraint will be the key to steering ourselves out of this coronavirus pandemic. That a little more patience, till we develop mass-immunity and/or are vaccinated, will ensure that the few covid ‘positives’ that we have discovered, can become our way of life, permanently.

Art – A Higher Purpose!

‘Guernica’, the bold, questioning, war-critiquing, iconic work of art by Picasso, is one among a galaxy of art-expressions, that goes infinitely deeper than providing ‘luxurious set dressing’. Similarly, popular culture too, even in the melodious and often-times ‘commercial’ strains of its many songs, creates ‘A Bad Dream’ by alternative-rock band Keane, that, once again, in a stark, poignant and haunting way, through its amalgam of music & lyric, examines the futility of war!

Film, Literature, Sculpture, Music, the entire gamut of the Arts, has always, been inextricably socio-political. In India too, within the sometimes constraining and myopic boundaries of the entertainment-arts, we have, strong voices that manifest in films such as Mulk, Article 15, Thappad, Lipstick Under My Burkha. Poetic moving images that do much more than entertain. They stir, instigate, make us uncomfortable, make us ask, delve deeper, search for the right QUESTIONS! Art, as has always been the case, is ‘beyond beauty’. Transcending the superficial. Today, as the world grapples with arguably the most paradigm-shifting event in history, the Coronavirus Pandemic, ART and Artists, have a vital role to play. An absolutely indispensable, multifaceted, set of duties.

RECORD & CHRONICLE

While the world, by way of personal experiences, stories, photographs will capture facets of the pandemic, as will the wider, global media-machinery; it is imperative that artists, through song & lyric, poetry and painting, images and imagination, too, record this momentous event. To have with humanity, until posterity, a moving account of the pandemic recorded through the creative lens of an artist, to my mind, seems one fundamental duty of the artist, and of society.

HOPE, RELIEF, RELEASE

Another crucial role of art and artists at this juncture, is to provide relief. Human beings don’t only need ‘physical rescue’. We need relief for body, mind and soul. Many artists, singers, visual artists are already engaged in this, and though their individual medium of expression, have been providing hope. From singers performing in their apartment balconies in Mumbai on the 1st test-quarantine day, to any number of youtubers, performing artists, making videos and putting them out there for us to watch, listen, be entertained by, and ultimately, feel some semblance of normality!

MIRROR, TRUTH, CRITICISE

Arguably the greatest role of the artist during a period such as the world is witnessing, far more important than entertaining and simply-recording, is to seek the truth and capture it. While governments and organizations sugar-coat statistics and the situation, it is the Artist, along with the Journalist, who is that one, dedicated, unwavering truth-seeker, who will, for instance, find that messy hospital-ward with intermingling covid and non-covid patients and manifest this grim reality in a telling yet touching poem. An artist will find the irony in administrative video-conferencing and unmask the veil that is being strung in the form of public-perception through a satirical painting. And ultimately, it is us, citizens, who will watch, observe, interpret, these myriad expressions of our many artists, and find the courage, conviction, and evidence, to question people, decisions, missteps, and emerge a healthier, more honest, more robust society.

Exposing our inherent societal hypocrisy and placing a painful mirror in front of us has been the essential purpose of art and artists. From Manto to Ghalib, Ray to Ritwik, did precisely that. Alas, we are in a world where even artists are becoming increasingly unsure of taking a stance, expressing their ‘real’ opinions for fear of backlash. As a truth-seeking teacher & writer, I can only urge the art-community to be bold, be involved, be invested. That there is no such thing as Apolitical Art. That we need Art and Artists more than ever. That Art, has A Higher Purpose!