I know we are all tired of hearing about Covid-19, the fake and the real news. And as I write this no one has any idea what will happen between now and the publishing of this column. Meantime, all international flights in and out of Nepal have been cancelled and inter-city buses stopped. It feels like the earthquake, blockade, conflict years, and the curfews of the early 2000s—all rolled into one. And as I write from my self-isolation, the supply of electricity has been patchy. So add the load-shedding era to that list too. But this time we are not alone. This time the whole world is under quarantine and holding its breath. So although I’m tired of talk about this damn virus, there is nothing else on my mind.
There has been plenty of apocalyptic things written—and yes, it certainly is a seriously worrying time. But there are those who are looking on the brighter side. You will have noticed the pollution level in the valley has gone down as the number of vehicles on the road has decreased. You might have seen the pictures of the canals of Venice running crystal clear for the first time in goodness-knows-how-many decades. Wildlife is venturing into the deserted city streets and the environmentalists are taking—we cannot call it a break but let’s call it a pause—from their relentless campaigning.
We see governments and corporations acknowledging that it’s not those in the high- income bracket who are the (so-called) pillars of the economy and society now. It is the dedicated medical staff and self-sacrificing retail and delivery personnel keeping us all going. Yes, indeed, the world has turned on its head. A new order is perhaps beginning. A levelling of society, a redistribution of wealth maybe. And we will have to suck it up and get used to it.
Meantime in Nepal, as I write this, nothing fundamentally has changed in my area. Small teashops are still crowded with chatting men, women are still buying from well-stocked vegetable sellers, and children are still playing in the street. I don’t know if this will still be the same by the time you read this. Right now, however, it seems we have still not accepted the reality of the situation, or we are still depending on whatever deity we believe in to protect us.
While we are in a semi-lockdown, some parts of the world are in complete quarantine. Whether because things have gotten so bad or in order to try and prevent the worst. ‘Levelling the curve’, is a phrase we are perhaps now familiar with. Like ‘social distancing’, these are phrases we did not know until a few weeks ago. My parents are in long-term government recommended quarantine in the UK as they fall into the over 70 and therefore more vulnerable, category. My sister is in lockdown in California along with another 40 million people in that State. My other sister and her family are in self-quarantine. And billions of people have similar stories.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Covid-19, like the Angel of Death who passed over the Israelites, passed over Nepal? But realistically, this is highly unlikely, regardless as to which religion or deity we believe in. So, it’s up to us. Nepal has an amazing capacity to stand on the brink of disaster and somehow pull herself back. Let’s do the same this time. Let’s not fall into the abyss. As many Facebook posts tell us—when else are we going to be able to save the world by simply lying on the couch and watching Netflix? Good luck and stay home.