By Tensing Rodrigues
When it all began, I remember having read something like this, ‘I cannot say what harm may come out of this epidemic of COVID-19 or when we will get out of it but I am certain about one thing the world after it will not be what it was before it.’
I have lost track of what we went through taking a day at a time. I have lost count of the conspiracy theories and the dos and don’ts but I am increasingly realizing how prophetic those words were. A couple of months later we are in a different world than what we had left behind. And it does not seem to be easy navigating in this new world.
And I am not talking just about the stock market crash. That could be the least of our worries. The bulls and bears have their own mind and there is little that we can do about them. All that we need is patience and composure not to get on the wrong side of them. Those of us who have tried to outdo them have had the taste of their fury and of our stupidity. If all is well that ends well, definitely our ride on the stock market roller coaster shall end well. I think I went about 35 per cent down; now it should be about 10- 15 per cent down. And I am sure time will take care of the rest.
But there are much more serious after effects of the epidemic and our reactions to it that we need to take care of. The first and foremost is the state of our mind. Many of us are not definitely where we were a couple of months back. I perceive a definite mind altering reaction to two circumstances, the fear of the disease and the level of uncertainty. Both reactions were perfectly natural given the fact that the last generation or the generation before that have not experienced anything of this sort in their lifetime and those of us who belong to the older generation and who might have faced something similar have already been sanitized by the benign forgetfulness.
The WW-II might have been something closer to it but those memories are now the stuff of stories. Others like me who escaped the WW-II but had to go through the growing up pangs of the Indian economy have been spoilt by the cozy life of the last few decades.
Let me begin with the fear. I perceive that many among us are paralyzed by the fear of COVID- 19. Precautions yes but fear? Of what? Fear of being ill? Fear of death? Fear of financial distress to family members- what will they do without me? What if my young kids contract the flu? And so on. I do not know. No one asks these questions. No one answers them.
It is sort of eerie silence whose deafening cries echo in WhatsApp messages like this: “Scary but true- now that lockdown is easing out, there is a greater chance of virus infection, especially from asymptomatic cases. You die due to COVID-19 in isolation centre. Your wife is alone now. Your body also is not handed to your kin and cremated directly. Your relatives do not meet your wife to console her for the fear of infection. Make her aware today of all the current financial conditions. Leave enough cash home. Your children are away out of India and cannot come to their mother nor can they take her to them. This situation remains for next six months. Be prepared! Passwords. share all your passwords, keypad lock pattern or code, leave everything in a note for them in case you die.” … Yes, scary but true. But did you do all this before COVID- 19 appeared?
Even then the possibility of you dying was very much present, perhaps as high as now; say from a heart attack, an accident, etc. So from where does this wisdom come now? Is it not from an overwhelming sense of fear? A fear that corrodes your ability to reason out calmly and to act on it. Such a fear is unjustified. Do everything in your capacity to protect yourself and to protect everybody around you from the disease. But your ability to do that will be highly compromised if you are overwhelmed by fear the fear makes you highly vulnerable. Have you heard the story of the painted tiger?
The author is an investment consultant. Readers can send their comments and queries to