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Vishal Talreja, Co-founder and Trustee of Dream a Dream, India shares his reflections on the current Covid19 lockdown beyond education, for the earth and humanity.

Life has thrown an interesting curve ball at us with the CoronaVirus Pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of the country. I am sure each one of us are processing this unprecedented time differently and trying to understand what is happening to each of us and to the world around us. My partner recently shared this interesting article which can help each one of us understand how we are feeling —. Naming the feeling helps us understand and deal with it better.

As for me, I am currently at Acceptance and here are some of my reflections…

The Power of Art and Play  

In this time of the lockdown, as families are forced to spend more time together and learn to be with each other again, we are beginning to see the power of art and play in engagement, healing, connection and belonging. Let’s not forget that Art and Play are helping millions of families get through each day with joy and love and the power of Art and Play in our lives is further validated. Books, Movies, Board Games, Cooking, Gardening, Music, etc are all forms of Art/Play that are helping us get through our days.

Is Essential also Valued

A lot of announcements from the government have been around assuring all of us, citizens, that essential services will continue to operate. These include departmental stores, hospitals, pharmacies, groceries, milk and other dairy products, delivery services, domestic help, basic public transport, water supply, electricity supply, garbage collection, etc. People working to provide these essential services are also at high risk of contracting the virus and yet we find them work day and night to ensure regular life is not disrupted for us. I wonder if these are the valuable, critical and essential services then why are they not given the same importance during regular life. Why are they not paid higher salaries, accorded the dignity that they deserve for the critical role they play in our lives. Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong in the way our pay and income structures are designed? Can the new normal be that we learn to value providers of essential services and provide them the income that they truly deserve?

Nature Heals

This worldwide lockdown has also been a blessing in disguise for Nature. Over the last few weeks, we have learned that Nature is resilient and has the ability to quickly heal itself. The number of people who are sharing that the air quality in our cities has improved, we can now see the bright blue sky, we can smell and feel the fresh air, we can hear the chirping of hundreds of birds and we can see the night sky with its million stars. We are learning that when we, as humans, can slow down, be still, rest for a while — nature gets an opportunity to also rest and heal. Isn’t this the most amazing realization? Imagine, if all of us work only 4-days a week and the remaining 3-days we stay at home (like a lockdown) and give that time for Nature to bloom again, to rest, to heal. Or, what if all of us work only for 11-months and then for 1-month, we all become still. We go under a self-imposed lockdown. No holidays, no vacations, no malls, no buying — just learning to be still!

I Can Heal Too

As it is with Nature healing during this time. Can we see this time as healing for ourselves too? I personally am finding this time deeply valuable. My body has been abused with extensive travel and has become an always-on anxiety-driven mode. Now, It is really enjoying this time of rest and healing for itself. I am getting a lot more restful sleep, I am waking up early and getting some quiet time to myself. I am cooking healthy breakfast and meals for myself and my family. I am reading books. Calling family and friends that I haven’t called in years. Watching movies and catching my afternoon sleep without feeling guilty. I am beginning to understand and value life — To Be, To Live. I am learning to express deep gratitude for having a beautiful home, food on my plate, family and friends to share my life with and my healthy body that has endured all the abuse I have subjected to it over the years. This time of stillness and slowing down has also helped me manage my depression, my anxiety and my palpitations. I know and understand I speak here from a deeply privileged place. I hope if the new normal, as we come out of this period, can be that each of us learn to value this for ourselves and for everyone else, irrespective of backgrounds of class, creed, caste, religion, etc. Nature is teaching us to slow down and be still. Are we ready to accept this as the new normal in our world which will help each of us heal and also help nature heal?

Can Kids Be Still Too

Another interesting observation has been how communities, well-wishers, educators, NGOs have responded to ensure kids don’t lose out on learning during this period of the lockdown. Every day, I receive emails of resources that are now available online for parents and kids to continue learning, teachers who are running online classes, volunteers offering their time for online sessions. Tremendous resources to help parents schedule learning and playtime for kids, toolkits, pedagogies, etc. I have been deeply inspired by the generosity and resourcefulness that we all have shown to support our kids at this time. However, I see this differently. How about this becomes a time for kids to also learn to be still. How about embracing unstructured play, embracing boredom, embracing our children’s ability to find their own creativity, invite imagination into their lives and learn to be with themselves, their thoughts, their dreams, and their imagination. When our kids learn to let go of busyness and embrace stillness, they will learn to also be still with Nature.

We Chose Love

It has also been amazing to watch how individuals and community groups have come forward to support each other in these difficult times. Neighbours reaching out to support each other, local volunteer groups supporting the vulnerable — elderly, children, those living alone — through grocery, medicine supplies, helping out with cleaning at home, emergencies, to connect with their children and loved ones, to spend time with them and to listen to their stories, etc. It has been amazing to see that the majority of the people have chosen not to hoard supplies and really ensure that all of us survive and thrive together. Also, observing people feeding stray dogs and cats on their streets has been deeply heartening and offering to foster animals. It continues to show that we have tremendous power for kindness and love and we can always, always choose love over hatred. Nothing like a good crisis to bring out the best of being human in us.

As I am having these reflections, I am also thinking about what newer and fresher narratives can we bring into the world so that we come back different from this crisis. How do we ensure that we don’t go back to the old world, old us when this crisis is over? It will be an absolute disaster if we choose to go back to our busyness, our apathy, our self-centered lives, our stresses and anxieties. It would be such a waste of this amazing deeply transformative experience that life has thrown our way.

Can the Newer, Fresher Narratives be…

  • Around Care, Belonging and Community
  • Around Stillness
  • Around Slowing Down
  • Around Being
  • Around Kindness and Love
  • Around Lockdown as a cool thing to do to help us and nature to heal
  • Around the power of Art and Play in our lives, in learning, in connections
  • Around Regeneration beyond growth and sustainability

This post has been taken with permission from Vishal's personal blog. For more articles, innovations & resources, head to our Coronavirus Toolkit especially designed to support educators & parents during this COVID-19 outbreak.