As the year of 2020 just ended, it will be worthwhile to recollect the lessons that the pandemic has taught us. At the outset, it is evident that governments across the globe were simply unprepared to handle a crisis of this magnitude. It almost looked as if nature was taking its own sweet revenge on humans after the latter savagely raped her. This was like another world war but the enemy seemed to be hidden and omnipresent.
For many businesses, this was an opportunity for innovating new products in the health and hygiene space. E-commerce businesses did roaring business with lockdowns and containment zones confining people to their homes. Start-ups emerged in the wellness space with packages for nutritional counseling, yoga and meditation. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be selling masks – medical stores, cobblers, the neighborhood tailor, vegetable vendors etc. FMCG companies used the pandemic to tweak their products and packaging.
The vulnerability of human beings across the world became an opportunity for many to earn a fast buck. After a lull, food delivery service companies started supplying food. For some states like Karnataka, the pandemic was an opportunity to make a quick buck – in the form of institutional quarantine. Exorbitant charges were levied for testing people. Hotels rejoiced at the prospect of revenues flowing in.
Flights began their operations after a while – but their claims of social distancing within the flights proved to be hollow. Many Indians lost their money when the flights were cancelled. The airline companies devised ingenuous ways to avoid paying the ticket fares to the passengers. New terminologies like credit, shell etc. were flashed to hoodwink passengers.
Auto drivers and cab drivers impacted by losses due to the pandemic now want to recoup the losses by overcharging consumers. Whether it was a business establishment or an educational institution, salaries were either delayed and lay-offs became common. Salary cuts became the norm even if the businesses were profitable. Doctors were available for online consultation but did not flinch before charging a bomb. The beauty of online classes waned after a while. Across educational institutions (degree colleges and business schools), faculty development programs, workshops and online counseling became the norm. Some educational institutions demonstrated the highest sense of avarice when they kept hankering for more and more admissions and deployed teachers to solicit admissions from prospective students.
Many celebrities took to twitter to have a spat with someone so that they could earn some cheap publicity. Films were released on OTT platform and reviews of films became indistinguishable with social media trolls. Celebrities also began earning additional revenue by deliberately leaking their vacation pictures and pictures of family vacations to media. The renowned Tirumala temple was more concerned about the loss of revenues during the pandemic and lost no time in throwing open the doors of the shrine to the public – never mind the fact that the end of the pandemic was nowhere in sight. It is also unfortunate that media kept writing about business losses during the pandemic – but the aam aadmi – the Indian middle class and the common man – seemed to have had no succor at all. No one seemed to be carrying a torch for the middle class.
The pharmaceutical companies are in the process of devising strategies to hit pay dirt by launching vaccines and vitamins. Immunity-boosting products have suddenly sprung up from nowhere. Digital marketing was at its crowning glory to entice people staying at home to buy products and avail some exotic services. No amount of stress-busting efforts could create a convivial atmosphere as the paranoia of contracting the deadly virus reached dizzy heights. In some states, the Government’s plea to citizens to exercise restraint and take precautions to protect themselves seemed to have had little impact – matters were exacerbated when politicians did not walk the talk. Bank scams began hitting the headlines with metronomic regularity.
Initially, family members were thrilled to be spending more time with one another – gradually the feelings of elation and ebullience were replaced by a sense of fatigue, monotony and boredom. The pandemic has highlighted the real significance of logistics with “home delivery” becoming the most used search phrase. Brands started espousing values of hope against hope so that they could derive greater mileage. People are now making a killing by launching their own cooking channels. Celebrities, forgotten film stars and actors began their own you tube channel to reveal dark secrets about their colleagues – taking comfort from the fact that the people about whom they were gossiping were not alive to retaliate. The TRP ratings of media like television suddenly became the bone of contention in a state like Maharashtra. Politicians began getting even with media when the latter exposed their weaker bellies. Even Dharmendra’s “Jalakar Raakh Kar Doonga” rhetoric would pale in comparison to the deadly shenanigans of politicians out to take revenge on their opponents.
So, where do we go from here? New strains of the virus are being bandied about. Staying safe and staying healthy seem to be the topmost priorities for the denizens of this earth. If the experiences of each individual during this crisis could be conflated, it could benefit our future generations. With everyone around try to milk the opportunities emerging from the pandemic, the common man can only visualize a future – where he could breathe fresh air, eschew those masks and walk freely in crowded places without the fear of contracting any virus. Let us hope for the best. Amen.