Never before as a humanity have we been reminded of our interdependence & inter connectedness. A virus, of all things, has successfully done this. Covid19 has traveled the world, rapidly and mercilessly, leaving city after city and country after country scarred and scathed. My entire country India is under lockdown, with many of our states and cities placed under curfew. Since the last week, in varying intensities, most people in many parts of the world have been forced to remain indoors and work from home. Universities and schools have closed campuses, with classrooms shifting from benches and blackboards to zoom and skype.
The last few weeks has reshaped and re-caliberated the way we live, work, communicate and celebrate. After the initial turmoil and anxiety, we seem to be settling into a state of equilibrium, comfortable with different rooms and table tops at home getting converted to classrooms and boardrooms. With overall scarcity of goods and resources available in the market, people seem to be tempering down their needs, consuming just as much as needed and leaving some for others. People are becoming more conscious of their health- more than ever before.
Exceptional gestures of kindness and generosity are springing everywhere in the world. Countries are helping each other. Heads of states are sharing strategies and resources. Businesses, hospitals, Government agencies are all working beyond the call of duty to support communities.
Traffic in cities is down to almost zero. People in cities are sharing on social media how they are hearing chirping of birds for the first time in their lives. In my city Mumbai, dolphins have been spotted for the very first time ever, close to the ocean shoreline. Pollution levels have dropped, skies are looking bluer and clearer.
An unanticipated attack on our health has forced us to turn our life on our heads. Human beings are very resilient. We adapt fast and reorient our habits to suit the needs of the time. Going by how we are settling down to a new way of living, I reckon that the future holds for us some defining global trends redefining life as we know it.
1) Virtual not Physical
As more and more people are working remotely, they are realising that it is quite possible to do so. A friend of mine shared that he was wondering why he went to office after all ! He was getting a lot more done from home with much lesser loss of productivity.While this may be an extreme thought, companies may start realising the benefits of working from home- lesser infrastructure cost, lesser manpower management cost, lower attrition and many other such. Cities are already incapable of handling the bursting traffic on roads. Spending 2-3 hours in commuting is the norm in many large cities of the world. How sustainable will it be? Schools and University’s all classes are happening virtually with students back at home and campus closed. Yes it does distance the teacher from the student and definitely doesn’t create the atmosphere of a classroom, but it has exploded the possibilities of roping in more experts.
I foresee that the experience of this lockdown, will propel more workplaces to become virtual, with a once a week physical meet up. This will drive down capital costs, enabling organisations to use the money available for more employee welfare, innovation and research.
2) Health not Wealth
For the first time in my life, I am seeing people so universally concerned about health. I don’t think we as a world have washed our hands any more than we have in these past weeks and months. All conversations are about being proactively healthy and prioritising well being. Not just physical health, but mental health is also getting the attention it has never got before. People are reaching out virtually to support colleagues, friends and family members to stay cheerful and upbeat. I have not heard anyone talking about their latest possession or their next holiday. One tiny virus has equalised the whole world. The real wealthy today are truly the ones who are the most healthy.
This trend will continue. Well being will become the new religion and a healthy lifestyle will become the new wealth.
3) Contribution not Consumption
COVID19 has truly taught us to reach out. Everyone is doing online sessions to share their skills, teach something, discuss books and even entertain. Being grounded at home, is strengthening the desire to reach out. The call given by the Indian Prime Minister to clap for 5 minutes on 22nd March at 5 pm, united 1300 million Indians in a roar of cheer. Videos of people singing with each other from their balconies in Italy have gone viral in the world. Everyone is asking each other how they can help. Volunteer groups are coming together to help elders, supermarkets are earmarking shopping timings for elders, medical staff, students. There is a heightened sense of acceptance and accommodation. People are actually buying as much as they need. Mahatma Gandhi had said, that there is enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. This is the first time I am experiencing this. I feel this trend will continue.
The natural resources of the world are incapable of serving the accelerating needs of our planet. We are awakening to the reality that we need to save ourselves from the perils of climate change and the depletion of our resources. How much we contribute to the planet will become the new cool, not how much we consume from it.
4) Solitude not Socialising
I am used to solitude. As a teacher of the Art of This little virus has made this happen. Today “Stay Home” is the mantra. I believe this solitude is helping us calm down and cool down. It is slowing us down and making us smell the air. It is freeing us from the need for continuous chatter and the need for social contact. It is bringing families together. Many friends are sharing how much they are enjoying this. In the ancient Indian texts, it is said “Antarmukhi sada sukhi, bahirmukhi sada dukhi” ( The one who is inward focussed is always happy, the one whose focus is outward is always unhappy). Going inward, makes us realise the true strength and beauty of our spirit, liberating us from fears of loneliness and anxieties of being better than others. COVID 19 made us go inward.
I feel this will be a defining trend of the coming times. Where we as humans are content, satisfied and happy with ourselves and being with ourselves.
5) United not Divided
We are united as a world today. Countries and Governments are helping each other, sharing resources, medical supplies and military capacities. Though countries have closed their boundaries, they have opened their hearts. I have never seen the world come together, as we have now. We are learning that the problems we face are no longer limited to one nation but to all of us as people. So if we need to fight them, we cannot but come together as a one world family. Gurudev has always been emphasising that we are Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ( a one world family). We are seeing that in action today. This incident is teaching us that if we need to solve the problems of the world – climate change, terrorism, poverty, we need to come together as one united force. Of course, there are some world leaders who are still playing the blame game, but we know how we are responding to it. We will be more united as a world than divided, and this will see us overcoming many global challenges together.
These trends are my outlook of a beautiful and joyful world. Call this my optimistic outlook or a leap of faith. I hope that this wake up call, does indeed make us review and reshape the way we live. If we want to leave back a livable planet for our children, we need to.
Dr. Hari Krishna Maram
Digital Brand Ambassador & Chairman
Vision Digital India