I used to live in an old village near the river, in a beautiful coastal state in India. The state of Goa; the state of plenty: Plenty of greenery, plenty of sunshine, and plenty of sea and sand. This plenty morphed, in a little over three years, into plenty of construction, plenty of concrete, and plenty of plastic waste—still a state of plenty, but of a different kind. The kind that builds walls between us, and that blocks us from seeing the fine strings that connect us.
In Goa, we have torrential rains that make mankind halt, and that slowdown economic activity. It is when what we take for granted becomes a rarity, such as electricity, phone and wireless networks, and food supplies. And what we ignore comes alive: leaves are refreshed and they glisten in shades of green, and tiny creatures no longer burrow and hide in the soil.
Solitude takes precedence over social contact, and stillness over busyness. Nature wouldn’t have it any other way, it’s her cycle and we are part of it—we follow.
We no longer get all that our hungry mind craves, all we have is that which feeds our stomach: A thought unimaginable for a city dweller. We no longer pretend that we can keep pace, and we do not feel ashamed to slow down. Again, unimaginable for a city dweller. Yet, here we are today, teaching our hungry minds to rest and our bodies to slow down.
It’s not easy, especially when there’s no access to electricity and the Internet, but there’s little we can do. Therefore, we do little, we pause and watch the rains, we write, we sketch, we cook, we read, we feed stray animals—and we feel our insignificance. It is when the centre of our narratives moves from us to nature.
Insecurity surfaces, whether it is of food or of loss of control over well-formed habits and over our habitat. The insecurity is real. There’s no escape. Just like there is no escape for the homeless, or for those ravaged by war and disease in Syria and Sierra Leone. It is real.
However, it is only temporary—it is seasonal. We know it will pass and there’s plenty of beauty around, reassuring us that not all is desolate. Nature may be ferocious but it is cyclical, unlike mankind’s limitless atrocities that we inflict on ourselves and on other beings.
The Covid-19 virus made its way into our lives, when we killed its natural host. The virus too sought survival, the way we are seeking it now. Who is the enemy? We multiplied and crossed from 1 billion to 7 billion (in a span of 200 years), the virus too is multiplying. Who is the enemy? The instincts are common; the only difference is that human consciousness allows us to make choices. (Viruses may be considered to lead a “borrowed life”, on the spectrum between what is certainly living and what is not: read in Scientific American) How will we choose to move forward from here, from this experience?
Will we turn on our taps a little more gently, so that we wash under a trickle of water, rather than under a waterfall? Will we harvest rainwater? Will we consume food sensibly and waste less, so that even the hungry get their meals? Will we care about lives of all sentient beings, so that we do not breed and eat for taste and preference, but we hunt them for hunger only? Will we acknowledge our vulnerability? Will we travel only if needed, and not travel to build our own personal narratives (needed travel is that which doctors make to save lives or scientists and environmentalists make to save endangered beings, including trees)? Will we buy and source local, and stop looking at the world as a marketplace? Will we choose trees, the soil, and the planet, over buildings, roads, and convenience? The list is endless and the choices are ours. You and I make them.