The best we can do is help others
In a country amassing 160 million, “social distancing” quickly took shape in the form of enabling home office, shutting down establishments and making major changes to prohibit gatherings. With the numbers of the infected ones rising, the anxiety increased manifold. The only outdoor time spent for many was quick runs to the grocery stores or the nearby pharmacy. That too with a ritual of cleaning up right after, along with panic-stricken hand-washes.
In one of those short, speedy hours of errands, I left towards my home with an unsurmountable unease at the back of my head. With a bundle of items rationed for the next month, I asked, what happens to the ones who are outdoors, hanging from the poverty line?
Would giving them any amount of money suffice to alleviate the confusing, lost, and anxiety-induced emotions they feel at the moment? Or we feel today as a collective? How can we possibly make-do with the scenarios caused by a pandemic for the ones most affected by the socio-economic divide, the gap, or however the term describes it best as?
We are not unaware of the fact that the disparity between the privileged and less privileged prevails at length in a country like Bangladesh. But the fact of the matter is that a pandemic like the Covid-19, which is enlarging in ravenous rigour, only shows the massive differences of experiences people of privilege and the “others” have.
The ones with a roof above their heads, Savlon disinfectant sprays, wipes to rub their groceries down, sanitizers and masks, see such a different reality than the ones who are bystanders on the roads, walking around in a zombie-like empty city, waiting for food to be rationed to them.
In a world where virtual conferences on Zoom get news headlines, there lie families unsure of their health, income, and safety on the sides of the road. Wondering what the future looks like becomes a redundant question, as the present looks more than worrisome.
This only shows the anxiety the world feels regarding what the future looks like, and produces a dichotomous reality for the ones living on the margins. While everyone is worried about the aftermath, which is unprecedented and uncertain, a whole lot of different worries are there for the less-privileged. The ones on the margins face the brunt of it all, as history shows.
As heart-breaking as that is, we must address the scattered experiences of people of different classes as we face this pandemic and its ramifications at a time like this. The disparity between people who take all internationally fact-checked measures to fight the pandemic, and the ones who live their lives not knowing what their fate looks like the next day. The realities are dichotomous, nuanced.
We are anxious -- that is a given. However, the severity of the collective anxiety paints quite an asymmetrical picture for the ones who have the basic tools of life, and the ones who do not.
The best we can do is contribute our energy in helping others, while investing the necessary time to caution ourselves about continuing to help them after this crucial time ends.
Lamia Saiyara Mela is a former public health researcher and currently a Communications Executive and an anthropology graduate.