Life Lessons Learnt from the Covid Pandemic

Contributed by Dr. Bhavin Jankharia


Mumbai

Resets in life are rare. Many of us go through our lives without ever drastically changing anything…unless someone near or dear suddenly dies, or we are almost killed or have experienced a near-death experience or have lost our jobs or livelihood… But when a reset does occur, like the forced reset most of us had to go through from late March to June, it gives us time to ponder and reassess our lives…assuming we want to.

We, as doctors, are part of the privileged 5% population of this world, a privilege that grants us the ability to manage adversity better than most other people, especially in times like these.

Lesson 1: The Invisible Are Truly Invisible

When the lockdown was announced, no one in power even realized the impact it would have on the invisibles of India. We barely notice them in our daily lives and it is easy to forget they exist, the way everyone did the day the knee-jerk lockdown was announced with just a 4-hours’ notice. But then we learnt about them and hopefully will not forget them.

Lesson 2: Every Idiot is an Expert

When not much is known, everyone… from bankers, to economists to newscasters to….anyone who is anyone, starts spouting “gyan”.  And if you make the mistake of being part of extended family and friends WhatsApp groups, even your neighborhood “gully” friend and your aunt’s aunt seem to know more than you. A close engineer friend of mine in Bengaluru called me once in June ranting that the hospitals there were not following the standard treatment protocol that he had seen on YouTube from the Univ of West Virginia. Anyone who could pronounce “remdesivir” became a “guru” and those who could remember “tocilizumab” became Gods.

Lesson 3: Power Corrupts

In May, my wife and I were returning from the clinic. She was sitting next to me. That week, an order had been passed, that two people could be in one car provided they sat diagonally opposite each other. An inspector pulled us over. He had no problems with the ID, but he wanted Bijal to move to the backseat…I told him we sleep together every night in the same bed…it made no difference.

Lesson 4: Doctors and Non-Doctors are Two Different Tribes

There is no real meeting ground. They don’t understand us and never will. We just accept each other. The worst of course is when doctors start behaving like non-doctors and start forwarding conspiracy theories about 5G being the cause of Covid or that arsenic builds immunity. I learnt a few things about some of my colleagues…who to trust, who never to.

Lesson 5: Change

I am no longer who I was. I will not be who I used to be.

Lesson 6: Acceptance

Masks are now fine. If you don’t want to attend a function, no one asks more than once. If you don’t want to meet people, that’s alright too. If you want to work from home, no one raises an eyebrow. Introverts rule!

Lesson 7: We are Not Islands

Despite Lesson 6, it is not about being alone. We need people around us. Family. Friends. And the background of “people” (some of whom are part of the invisibles of Lesson 1) whose names we may not know, but are all around us…the car-washers, the milk-deliverers, the security guards, the people we see daily on our walks and runs….these “weak ties” matter.

Lesson 8: Simple Things Matter

We need to “move”. At least for 30 mins a day. Run, walk, yoga, strength training, anything… Eat sensibly. Control our LDL, hypertension and diabetes. Sleep well. Don’t fall. Meditate. Carve out some time for ourselves every day.

Lesson 9: This is It

There is no heaven, no hell. Nothing beyond, no reincarnation, no nirvana. This is it. If we die, we die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  We need to live our lives, “alive”. Make a difference, if possible. But most importantly, without being burdens on those around us.  Hence, Lessons 8 and 7.

Lesson 10: Plus ca Change, Plus C’est la Meme Chose.

More things change, more they remain the same. Lessons 1-9 may remain with us, or may disappear in due course like the New Year resolutions after the 3rd week of Jan. What we do from now on, is up to us. We can make last year count and become better versions of ourselves, or we can revert to being who we used to be. It’s all up to us.