Today morning, as I heard my father's gifted voice in a melodious song he had sung on New Year's eve, I became very emotional. A month back, our family went through a rough time when my dad fell and suffered a bad head injury. It was totally unexpected as dad has always been this healthy, hearty and happy person living his life to the fullest.
I frantically started looking for the next flight to Kerala (India) from Singapore. I just wanted to get to my dad and mom as soon as I could. But then a thought occurred to me. Would it be right to visit my dad in ICU as I could be a virus carrier? (with so many unknowns about the virus, there's always some risk, including the risk of catching the virus on the flight). Plus there was the risk of getting quarantined in either India or Singapore. With two little kids, that was definitely something to consider.
My family back in India, especially my brother and mom, reassured it to me that dad is under good care and that the best decision from my end would be to not travel at that point. With a heavy heart, I decided to not fly.
It was a tough call, but I did it thinking of the long term impacts of a seemingly simple decision to fly, ignoring the global spread of the virus. Today I know of atleast two people in my close-knit circle, who couldn't attend their own parent's funeral because of the lockdown. An unthinkable, painful situation!!!
Despite the fact that each one of us is facing the consequences of this crisis, fighting our own battles, it is surprising to see the lack of seriousness on compliance in staying at home, not meeting others, and wearing masks when stepping out.
How do we become more united globally in fighting this global crisis?
The crisis is being dealt with essentially at two levels: 1) Governments 2) Individuals. For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing on individuals because governments are nothing but a body of individuals and this whole crisis is ultimately humans vs virus.
This crisis is indeed bringing out our strengths and weaknesses as individuals, families, societies, communities and countries. In order to understand what we need to do, it is important to clearly reflect upon our strengths and weaknesses.
Sharing a few thoughts below on what could be causing lack of compliance in the fight against Covid-19:
1) Being in Denial: To be in denial is to refuse to accept that something is wrong. In psychology denial is defined as a coping mechanism to adjust to distressing or traumatic situations. As per an article from Mayo Clinic, when in denial, a person a) Won't acknowledge a difficult situation b) Try not to face the facts of a problem c) Downplay possible consequences of the issue. Therefore being in denial for long can prove harmful.
In the Covid-19 situation especially people exhibit denial by refusing to accept that one is equally vulnerable, and to understand that being healthy doesn't mean you are not a virus carrier. Such denial coupled with a deep desperation to feel normal can make people break rules, potentially harming themselves and unfortunately many other innocent people.
We display denial in varying forms and degrees. I recall, when faced with the 2018 Kerala floods, my family refused to believe
that our house will be affected. So did our neighbors and scores of other people. Even as water started flowing into our house we were in a state of denial.
Getting out of denial is extremely important to take the right action. Though you can find many articles on how to, in my experience, accepting the reality of the situation and expressing emotions openly, be it fear, anxiety or helplessness is the first step. I was the first one to do it in our family and the first to take action to move our family towards safety. Read more about our Kerala Flood experience in this blog piece titled 'Flooded with Perspectives'.
2) Being misinformed: Its overwhelming to see the number of false remedies and cures being circulated on social media. I really want everyone to know that it's great to eat healthy, eat immune boosters etc, but those are not fool proof mechanisms to protect oneself from the virus.
The only effective way to not get the virus is to not come in contact with it. So stay home, limit interactions to only your household, wear masks, practice safe distancing when fetching essentials, and rigorously inculcate personal hygiene habits.
It's even more alarming to see global leaders making hasty claims on the effectiveness of certain drugs in treating the disease. I do recall reading the scientific paper on hydroxychloroquine myself when it was first published. I had also found it s 'promising'. But there are so many regulatory aspects to re- purposing a drug, especially to ensure its safety and efficacy through clinical trials. I do wish that it is effective, but leaders need to take utmost caution before making any claims as our present world is full of panic stricken people and issues such as drug overdosing can pose dangerous challenges.
Whether crisis or not, science should and will strive to meet excellent research and ethical standards.
3) Disruption to means of livelihood: This is clearly one of the very challenging reasons why people are finding it torturous to stay home. For many a daily wage workers, poor or low income people around the globe, putting food on the table for their family has become impossible. The inequalities that always existed seem heightened now. Perhaps this is where governments can put a stronger focus and individuals who still have the financial means can play their part. I know of friends and family in India involved in distributing food packets to the poor. Here in Singapore too there are many citizen-led and government led initiatives. How can we support them?
This is the hidden opportunity to feel fulfilled in challenging times through charitable actions.
4) The role of God: I have grown up hearing this 'Do your best, God will do the rest'. Please pay attention to the first part- 'Do your best'! I have heard many people tell me that I am so lucky because I always get the things I want. Very few have seen the pain I go through to get where I want or what I want. 'Luck favours the brave'. Similarly God can only help those who do their part even if it is painful or tough.
Having faith, being optimistic, having hope - all this is much needed today than ever before. But continue to do your part first through compliance of global rules in this global crisis.
Follow the rules set by our governments. Remember that they are also people, they too can only be successful if we can extend a compassionate and cooperating attitude rather than a complaining one. if at all you need to give a feedback, provide a well-thought out solution or alternative.
In cases where you don't feel you can't trust anything else, trust yourself. Practice 'defensive driving' in this context. That is you remain sensible, prudent and cautious amidst other reckless drivers. This road is your life and the journey is yours, you are it's driver and the controls are largely in your hands.
Lakshmi Ramachandran, PhD
RESEARCHER, SPEAKER, COACH, AUTHOR, MOTHER, WIFE
I'm curious about Life.
At a scientific and spiritual level.
The former took me through a broad career path in science.
The latter enabled me to tide through challenges and experience meaningful changes.
The combination of scientific and spiritual exploration has led me to found the concept of 'A productive life'- One that is defined by clarity, consistency, and contentment at all times. Read my story HERE