It’s time we stare directly into the upturned world order that has been established. It’s time we taste the bitter reality that has been served to us, sans condiments and sweeteners. It’s time we burst all the bubbles in our head and wrap our comprehension around the demonic destruction that has become concomitant in our lives.
It’s time to reject poetry and write harsh sentences, unmetered and unaligned. It’s time for incisive prose and an acerbically elongated vision sans blinking.
On December 31, 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei province. A novel coronavirus was eventually identified. By July 6, 2020, 116,03,648 coronavirus cases had been reported around the world – of which 5,37,707 individuals had died died.
Statistics seem very bland while describing the horrific plight that every citizen in the world had to go through and are still succumbing to. It has shattered dreams, beliefs, ideologies, fiction, non-fiction and has crushed every established order. It came with an intense velocity and destroyed civilised society, reducing it to ruins. It has often been attributed to a cycle of involuntary cleansing of inexplicable natural orders but the collateral damage has been massive. There is an economic meltdown, social uncertainty and a collective mental breakdown.
The world we had constructed in our minds has been wiped and we have been left at the mercy of trial and error.
The student who had been preparing for his GRE is left calculating the work done in a negative sum game. The office goer who used to slog for 8-10 hours a day in his bland cubicle and came back to solve a five pound book of GRE practice problems is staring at the chapter on ‘Inequality and Absolute Values’. He would have cracked his GRE, gotten admitted to an American university, researched and delved deep into his discipline and would have cut the corporate shackle of servitude.
Instead, he is now grateful to have a paying job that settles his bills. The verdant arcade of opportunity has been snatched from him and compromise has been tied around his neck, which he wears every morning and calls a tie. Of course, it can be argued that he can still get into his dream varsity and in his preferred research field, but the US, with its platter of experiences, cannot be a simulacrum in his living room.
This pandemic has the potential to desiccate the grants given for research in fields of arts, social sciences and gender studies to name a few. Academicians have always embraced the world on foot, physically travelling to gather data and insights. Their world is shrinking, their sample sizes are being compromised drastically.
The mid-level manager, who was expecting a promotion and an increment at the end of the financial year, has been asked to just stare at her appraisal report. For no fault of hers, the glass ceiling seems to enclose upon her again. She had invested significant energy all throughout the year, cutting down on sleep and Mubi marathons to pocket the highest rating for an eventual promotion and a bonus that she would have used to finally travel to Rijksmuseum to stare at ‘The Night Watch’ by Rembrandt which is diametrically opposite to her Calibri font, left-indented appraisal report.
The independent singer songwriter had been working on his new EP. His first EP had been a sleeper hit and due to a decent distribution plan, he had been able to make some money which he invested in the studio sessions for his new songs. He had also been performing at restaurants, singing his songs in front of blithe customers who focused more on the number of meatballs in their spaghetti than the G7 chord he seamlessly used after the G in the chorus. The money from these gigs sustained him.
The gigs have now vanished, the money has dried up and the new EP is on hold. The middle-class audience is clutching on to their disposable income, being prudent and saving as much as he can and in this charter, entertainment takes a lower rung. Their survival is a montage without any background music – so the songwriter has become dispensable.
The Kwality Walls ice cream seller with his little truck is nowhere to be seen. The booksellers who adorned footpaths and sold cheaper copies of hardbound fiction written by Indian authors have vanished. The space crunched fast food outlet which did not boast of dine-in options is staring wistfully at the computer screen waiting for orders to pop up. The spacious restaurant which boasted of dine-in and delivery options is staring at both empty chairs and a computer screen. The burlesque market housing everything from paper tissues to hairbands has been stripped off its colours, being pushed slowly into becoming a market that only follows demand functions and not a market that supplies variegated ephemeras.
The first-generation entrepreneur had saved enough money to start his hot dog truck. He had done his homework spanning a year. He analysed existing competition and similar offerings in the market. He carefully constructed his brand name, pondering over it with immoderate cerebral effort but finally selecting a simple and resounding one. He built his marketing strategy, he decided to go for backward integration of his supplies, formulated a packaging strategy that would set his product apart. He conducted market surveys to zero in on the location of the truck and the varieties of hot dog that his target consumers would like.
Simultaneously, he also succeeded in removing the prejudice in his father’s mind towards the self-funded business as his family had always been government lackeys or mercenaries. He gathered his father’s trust and was ready to serve hot dogs in the streets of his city.
However, his plan of action has been rendered obsolete now. All his efforts to understand the market and work towards building his product have been rendered useless. Markets are changing drastically, perception towards dining out or ordering in are rapidly changing for the worse, supply chain in the market is being disrupted even for purple blood capitalist companies and our first-generation entrepreneur has a steep mountain placed in front of him suddenly.
His belief in the immense possibilities of self-dependence have taken an irreparable shot.
I started writing this article on 6 July 2020 and today is 20 July 2020. There has been an increase in 3070041 cases worldwide and 71896 more people have died.
Tathagata Bhowmik is a independent singer songwriter.
Featured image credit: Marnie Cox/Unsplash