On the eve of April Fools’ Day, 2020 this is my take on how things will change when the business of the Chinese Virus get’s over – let’s call it that, after all we do have Delhi-belly, German Measles and Spanish Flu.
I included, many of us men will emerge with first-time beards and hands that now know how to deal with soap, water and dirty dishes. The art of forced smiles and equally forced family conviviality will be another great acquisition of these weeks of quarantine. We have also had long and deep chats with the Man (or Woman) Upstairs. However, the cacophonies of birds that inhabit each individual’s attic have not really helped and we are sure our god will save us, while the other’s is dragging us on the path of doom.
Well, all this is nothing new.
When the two world wars ended, they taught us one basic thing about world affairs. That no matter how strong your military might, at the end of the day, the stronger economy would win the war, if not the occasional battle. This virus has taught us another thing, if the country’s health goes awry several other things do too and this is an insidious enemy. It creeps up stealthily and can drag you under.
In our country, this is what I think will happen:
In the short term –
The obvious: many businesses will take ages to recover and many will simply go under. The leisure industry (tourism, event, hospitality) will be among the worst hit.
Not so obvious: Polarities in the country will sharpen. Minorities will be further isolated and the rich-poor, urban-rural divide will accentuate.
Hardly looked at: It will give rise to a new movement in the arts. Theatre, film, poetry, painting will find a fairly distinct genre.
In the longer term –
The economy will recover, but the polarities that have developed, will remain. The migration that made thousands and thousands leave cities, will see a return migration. Their villages cannot feed them, which is why they had left in the first place. They will continue having to depend on those who care nothing for them except the services that they provide and yet, on whom they are dependent for their livelihoods and existence.
The nineteenth century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli had spoken of the two nations of England – the rich and the poor. He said: “Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.”
This, more than ever, is applicable to our country – or should I say, the several nations that make our country.
Across the world – this may well mark the end of physical globalisation as we have known over the past couple of decades. Countries will tighten their borders and turn more inwards. And as for China, it shall bash on regardless – the economy is too big, centralised and they couldn’t care less.
As I said, this is written on the 31st March, 2020. It is April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day tomorrow. We still don’t know of its origin. Among the many stories told of its basis, most place this to the time when the Julian calendar that started the year on the 1st April, around the time of the Spring Equinox, moved to the Gregorian calendar that began the year on the 1st January.
This left quite a few celebrating a ‘new year’ when there was none.
Author, historian and journalist. He has published seven books on the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and its capital Shimla and is a recognised authority on both. He has handled assignments for television, including for the BBC, and for the Indian Institute of Advanced Study and various departments of the Indian Government. He writes regularly for magazines and papers in India and elsewhere. He is the state Co-convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.