Awaiting the future with bated breath

by April 27, 2020 0 comments

For those who will survive the Covid-19 era, it will be another chance to look at the fundamentals of a civilised life

One of the biggest industries currently is forecasting the future of a post-Coronavirus world. Various themes are being touted — “Revival to survival”, “Covid-19: A learning opportunity for higher education”, “Coping with uncertainty” and many more. The online world has seldom been so vibrant. Everyone has something to say. Right from psychiatrists, public opinion leaders, journalists, statisticians, industrial lobbyists and of course public speakers. The world is teeming with futurologists, forecasters and many more breeds yet to be named. The danger of anyone being proved wrong is very little because the future is not here yet.

However, one thing is certain, the passing away of the Coronavirus is not in doubt. One doesn’t have to be blessed with psychic powers to realise that like everything else “this too shall pass.”

The question therefore is not, if this shall pass, the question is when? And at what cost? It is the uncertainty of it all that is gripping, worrying and more. Since a large number of the vectors are asymptomatic and possible solutions are still in the works, one doesn’t know where it will strike, who it will strike and indeed when. As one prepares to go to the press, much is being made of the “silent carriers.” Anyone can be a vector, as the act of living requires human interaction. Some news channels will have us believe that wholesale vegetable markets are one of the major centres of virus exchange. Life cannot go on without vegetables, certainly not for as long a period as the present lockdown seems to be headed for. The moment vegetables are washed (an obvious wash is through food grade hydrogen peroxide), somebody promptly reminds us of the ill-effects of chemicals. And there another anxiety race starts.

Summer is almost upon us. Some might even argue that it has already arrived. In certain segments, a debate has been generated over the use of air conditioners. Apparently, the Central Public Works Department has even developed guidelines regarding the proper use of air conditioning and ventilation. It has thoughts on “how to operate air conditioning and ventilation systems to control the spread of the Coronavirus in residences, work spaces and healthcare facilities.” Social media is full of forwards on how a family in China got infected by the virus due to the use of air conditioners. Notwithstanding this, air conditioner servicing firms are swamped by calls as people want their cooling systems in working condition. In some residences/offices air conditioners are already being used. However, this is not the space to resolve these dilemmas over the use of air conditioners, visits to wholesale vegetable markets  and so on. But it is safe to say that there is no written record available of such uncertainty and anxiety affecting almost every part of the globe in the past. Even the animal kingdom has not been spared and there have been reports coming in of even felines, big cats in zoos and the ubiquitous alley kind, being affected by the Coronavirus.

Clearly, it is also a field day for fake news. This, again, may not be the best place for such a discussion and moreover, many news channels are already doing their bit to spread/dispel it. Be that as it may, a few things are gradually taking shape. As and when Covid-19 passes away, there will be an opportunity to rebuild the world. The contours of that world are currently confined to populist images of clear river waters, blue skies and pollution-free air (but the powers that be are recommending masks even at home going forward). The “power” of the prescription is rooted in the authority of the signatory. Some find it confusing but that would only be if they are looking for consistent “reason.” It is important to realise that there are many things in life which happen without an obvious “reason”, the way we understand the word.

Yet, given the prevailing environment, one would like to hazard a guess towards certain directions of growth in the near future. For one, the areas of dominance in the world of science will undergo some recalibration. The world of information technology will have strong competition from the field of pharmacology. In the coming few years, vaccines and medical devices will draw high talent. The nature of shipping itself may undergo a change. A possible reduction in ship-port calls may emerge. Warehousing as a business may experience a boom. Capacities of shipping through land, sea or air may need a serious review. Some of this may happen; some of this may get refracted.

As of now, certain things stare us in the face. Refineries are slowing down; there is a worldwide oil production cut. In certain cases, prices are down by nearly 90 per cent. Almost overnight, the thirst for oil has vanished as the world stays locked down.

Capital may not necessarily flow to large “sizes of canvas” but to the less-battered economies. For those who will survive the Covid-19 era, (and clearly many will), it will be another chance to look at the fundamentals of civilised life again. Till then patience cannot be an overrated virtue.

(Writer: Vinayshil Gautam; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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