The Silver Lining in this Cloud

These are difficult times. People are dead. People are dying. More will die. One Country recovered, but not before thousands died. Another country has been completely overwhelmed with no end state in sight. The World’s largest superpower has not been able to cope and is watching the situation spiral out of control.

Those who had no understanding of what ‘exponential’ meant, have seen the curve grow, first in China, then in Italy, followed by Iran, then the USA and finally even India. We are not even counting the deaths due to other illnesses claiming lives because the medical services have been overwhelmed. The stock markets have crashed, wealth eroded, revenue lost, job losses a looming reality.

By the time we are through this, almost everyone on the planet would have been touched by this hand of death, if not biologically, then economically. This could very well be an extinction level event!

However, all is not lost. Unlike other species, we have an infinite capacity for optimism, a collective conscience and a deeply honed instinct for survival. We do not, we never have, we never will, give up without a fight.

We fight. We always do; sometimes with no other weapon but just an indomitable spirit.

We fight. We always do; sometimes for no personal profits except the satisfaction of having tried.

We fight. We always do; sometimes at considerable personal loss.

The fight, without exception, is always worth the losses we suffer.

The fight is for the survival of the species. More importantly, the fight is for all that is right about us; compassion, community, co-existence, conscience.

We survived two world wars, multiple epidemics, nuclear posturing, ethnic and racial discrimination, slavery and our own stupidity. This too shall pass.

A day will come, at the end of it all when we will either stand tall and proud for having done everything for which we deserve to survive, or we will hang our head in shame for having given in to our animal instincts, irrational fears and petty self-interest, in the process losing our right to be called human. There will be no pride in that. Self-preservation is easy; preservation of the soul is the challenge we are being presented with.

Where is the silver lining, one may ask? Some may even ask where is God?

Let me first answer the second question. God does not exist only for us. God exists for all living beings. You cannot rape and pillage and completely subjugate nature and then expect God to be taking your side!

Even if using animals for food, who asked you to forget being benevolent and merciful and kind? Stacking up animals on top of animals, letting them wallow in their own shit, blood and dirt; cutting down forests, burning down nests, poisoning the ocean, sucking the bowels of the earth dry! There is hardly a crime against nature that we have not committed.Objectively speaking, we are actually parasites with brains! If nature has set out trying to exterminate parasites while protecting its more reasonable children, there is hardly anything anyone can find wrong with that. Except, maybe the parasite!

Now, coming to the silver lining.

It’s just been about three months, and Earth is already showing signs of recovery. Skies are blue, oceans are cleaner, birds are chirping, families are together, Dogs are going out for more frequent walks!

We all are working just a tad bit slowly, but perhaps more deliberately. The urgent is giving us sleepless nights (Desktops need to be moved, dormitories need to be created, hospitals need to be set up). The important stuff is still getting done; Clients are being spoken to, brainstorming is at its peak, ideas are flowing thick and fast, great food is being cooked, fruit consumption has increased, friends are being spoken to.

We have all become game designers! New games are being invented, people are playing Tennis, Tabla and Tambola across 10th floor balconies!

Many of us have also displayed great compassion, kindness and community.These are virtues that are almost dead in a fit-into-the-bell-curve environment. They are now being discovered afresh, and our values are being redeemed, hopefully permanently.

Doctors, Nurses, Policemen, Armies, Governments, Patients, the doodhwala, the Sabziwalaand the safaiwali are all stepping up their game, standing up and getting counted.

I am not underplaying anything here. The humanitarian crisis is evident. Most of the sick will recover, but we cannot wish away the dead. Some of those who live will have to live with the guilt that perhaps they were responsible for these deaths, perhaps they could have conducted themselves differently, perhaps commerce should have given way to concern.

The economic fallout will possibly kill even more people than the virus itself. Economic despondency and hopelessness have their own fallouts. Not only hunger, but depression and consequent suicides will also add to the tally. The markets have already eroded wealth, for many temporarily, but for some irrevocably because they could be closer to the life event for which they were investing.The Tourism, Hospitality, Experiences sectors have already seen their business revenues wiped out anywhere between 30% to 60%.

If the world economy was to enter a temporary slowdown, or worse, an extended period of recession, the fallout will be felt far and wide.

However, the indomitable human spirit and our infinite capacity for compassion and to the silver lining in this cloud.

So, what can we do?

A lot actually.

Cautious optimism is the key to our success. We can either add to the clouds by going into the panic mode, or we can spread a little bit of good cheer all around us in the genuine belief that this too shall pass.

First and foremost, much as we value our freedom, this moment is not for that. This moment is all about our responsibilities. Even at the cost of personal freedom.

Don’t step out of home. There is a lot happening out there, but unless you are a policeman, a doctor, a nurse or a water pump station man, or someone getting the electric sub-station going, you don’t belong out there.

Give the next few days off to your Cook, your maid, your driver. You don’t really need to drive right now, as for the rest, you are already capable of doing most of it, or you can acquire the skills now.

Watch out for less fortunate people around you. That watchman who used to get his food from the neighborhood joint, which is currently not open, he deserves to eat too. Put some food on his plate.

Watch out for your teams, give them enough to do. It can be quite frustrating to be sitting at home twiddling one’s thumb. Help them learn new skills. Coach.

This is a great time to get disciplined. Join the 5 am club. Go for a walk. Exercise. Start working to a to-do list.

Here is what you can do at work (from home).

Contribute. Businesses are going to go through a huge turmoil. The least we can do is stand up and be counted. There is a difference between Work from Home and Work for Home. It’s 8 hours of paid time, earn it. While the government is telling corporates, take good care of your people; I am telling people, take good care of your organizations, otherwise some of them may not survive!

Communicate. Sitting at home is not easy. The walls make you claustrophobic. Set up calls, hold meetings, write e-mails. Reach out to clients, set up that interview for that open position, hold appraisal discussions. Talk to friends and check how they are doing. Empathy makes us human.

Create.These are great times to write a blog. These are absolutely amazing times to code in that product. These are wonderful times to stitch together that business strategy or plan. Here is an opportunity to finish that pending project.

Commit. Unlike an office environment, where the environment also disciplines us, in this particular case, all the disciplining is voluntary. That 6 months old, brand new yoga mat will remind you just how disciplined you actually are! Work to a plan. Have a list against which you tick off items; make a promise to someone else (need not be your boss) and confirm to them at the end of the day that you have kept your promise.

Clean and Cook.It does not matter whether other members of your family (Father, Mother, Sister, Wife, Mother-in-Law et al) are working professionals or home bound on normal days. These are not normal days, don’t just sit in front of a laptop waiting to be served, go help. The house would be a mess, too many utensils would be getting used too frequently, and most likely the maid would have been given time off. This is the time to showcase the equality that you keep celebrating, rather loudly, when you talk about your employer brand.

Cheer up. The world has not ended, at least not just yet. In all likelihood, it won’t, if we stay sensible.

Did you notice the 6 C’s up there? Well, that’s what makes us Flipcarbon!


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