The Covid Chronicles : Nature's comeback

8:00 AM

Being on lockdown has some perks, one of the biggest is one people aren't yet thinking about it as affecting them directly (because people are a bit dense).

The biggest perk of taking the planet offline, and forcing people inside their home is that Mother nature is finally able to breathe a little, how long lasting the effect of that break will be is entirely up to us, and I really, really hope people will keep up with some of the changes.

The world over, we have heard reports of pollution levels coming down, with satellite pictures to prove it. A couple of friends shared pictures of their areas and compared them to earlier pictures, showing a drastic reduction in smog levels, and there has been a lot of news pieces about animals venturing in cities, Venice's canals being clear, the immediate impact of stopping excessive human activity is clear enough.

Closer to home, there are a couple of things I noticed since we went in lockdown, which in Mumbai started as a Semi-Lockdown starting March 13. The effects started to be REALLY clear on the 22nd when we were under Janta Curfew, and have kept being noticeable even though right now as I type these words there is cars and two wheelers that can be heard from time to time.

The first thing we all noticed on the 22nd was the sound of silence, or rather the absence of human noise, nature blessed us with a concerto of birds tweets.
To be fair, those birds probably always have been there and singing, it's just that the crazy traffic noise and never ending honking was masking it.
My flat has one side giving on a busy road, pre-lockdown, it was a cacophony of honking and security staff screaming for autos to stop parking in front of the gate, it was impossibly loud and despite the still pleasant mornings, I had to shut the balcony doors just so I could listen to a podcast or hear myself talk to hubby.

The second thing we noticed is a significant drop in Air Quality Index numbers, in Mumbai on a "good day" we usually have an AQI of 180-200 which is still hazardous, on a bad day it goes to and above 300, meaning we all breathe crap 24/7.
Since the Janta curfew we are between 55-68 in my area, I seriously don't remember breathing anything cleaner in years.

The reduced level in air pollution has another brilliant perk (as if breathing clean air wasn't enough), cleaning inside the home takes less time, and last longer.
For years, I've been going through a regimen of sweeping or running the cleaning robot twice a day, and mopping the floor once a day. Despite all this, my feet would turn black in just a few hours of walking indoors, despite shutting all the windows.
These days, we run the robot once a day, and mop on alternate days and our feet stay clean. The amount of dusting on furniture has been reduced drastically too. Not to mention that the dishwasher and washing machine aren't sporting a thick layer of black soot after 2 days of not wiping them clean.

Just this week I have also experienced bliss while walking my dog (one of the few authorised outting  we have), the garden down our building is home to about 15 frangipani trees, all in bloom at the moment. I love frangipani flowers, but to smell them, I usually have to stick my nose directly on them.
Not anymore! I can smell them every morning while walking and standing a solid 10 meters away from the trees because the garden itself is off limits (but the driveway around it isn't).
In the 3 years we've lived in that society, it's the FIRST time I can smell their fragrance in the air, if that tells you how much the smell of pollution masks everything.

Can we keep it up? 

The question is : will the human race be intelligent enough to change and not go back to the old ways once the lockdown is lifted? 

I think we should all now realise how much impact we can have on the environment and it's time to learn a few lessons. 
Do we really need to drive a car everywhere we go? I live in an area that has lots of sidewalks, lots of trees, and yet people tend to take the car to go buy milk to the grocery store down the street. All the basic necessities can be found within a 1 km radius from my home, a totally walkable distance, a distance I cover several times a week (pre-lockdown) to buy basic groceries and medicines on my own two feet. 

Do we really need kids who live 400 meters away from the school to go either with the school bus (I'm not making this shit up) or being dropped to school by their parents by car (again not kidding).

I also wonder how many are now discovering the perks and benefit of working from home and not being stuck in long commutes. 
I have a feeling some companies might realise it's a viable solution in the long run and that their employees can work remotely a few times a week, taking a lot of traffic of the roads. It's not a solution that works for all professions, but all those who crunch numbers behind a computer can benefit greatly from this arrangement.

Those are the steps everyone can and should be taking post lockdown, along with either using public transport whenever they can, or carpooling if they have several colleagues staying in the same area. 
At a higher level, I hope the government will focus on making more efficient public transport network. In Mumbai we are eagerly waiting for several metro lines to reach completion.

I also hope that more and more people will rethink their consumer habits, and put an end to wastage, and single use plastic, which is still far too much of a problem, along with excessive packaging of certain goods in shops. 

All in all, I think this planet wide lockdown is showing us that what we thought was impossible, could be, now it's up to us to affect changes that will lead us back to this level in a sustainable practical way. 

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  1. Many people believe this is Nature's way of restoring the equilibrium which human beings disturbed. Look, plants and animals aren't affected by this virus, they say. Like once-a-century refresh. Apparently the world has been battered by a pandemic flu every 100 odd years. Too much for a coincidence, no?

    1. I am absolutely convinced that nature isn't a passive force, I see what is happening as a way to restore balance, so it's definitely not a coincidence.

      I think a lot of people are scared to see Mother Nature as an active participant, the idea that it was up to us human to save her is far more comforting because it keeps us on top in the hierarchy, but in the end, Nature is a live entity of which we are part of, and having placed her in the role of the damsel in distress was underestimating her power.

      I think it also scares people to think that the planet that is giving us life is also ruthless into deciding who gets to stay alive and who dies. This virus hasn't discriminated on the basis of gender, race, religion or nationality, but it seems to discriminate upon age, and health status, something that people find it hard to make peace with.

  2. The sunshine feels different and the sky seems different. The chirping of birds and bo humans is eerie. The lockdown provided pollution break which Delhi desperately needed. Here we were fretting over pollution and passing the buck, deliberating over whether to reduce the number of cars on roads or stopping construction work, mother nature twisted our arm. Now everything had to stop. We were passing the buck for a long time.

    1. Yeah I imagine the contrast must be huge in Delhi!

      We've been rejecting our responsibilities in climate change and level of pollution for a long time, hopefully we learn a thing or two during this lockdown.
      In Mumbai, despite the fact it's April, we are seeing a much more pleasant weather this year than all the other years before, days are hot, but nights are fairly pleasant, and so are mornings. I think the absence of pollution in the air allows for a better airflow.

      I just hope we can keep this ball rolling post lockdown.

  3. Here in California we have been staying at home since early March. Our shelter in place order was just extended to May 3rd, with schools continuing to be closed for the rest of the school year. You're right that we will have to do some form of social distancing long term. I don't think anywhere in the world is ready to lift their lockdown in April. I hope we extend ours until there is more widespread testing and medical supplies available (in the case of CA hopefully by June). But even if authorities lift lockdowns, we won't be ready to resume regular life for a long time. We've come to terms with the fact that our summer plans will likely not materialize (going to the local beach, hikes and swimming) and we feel safer sheltering in place during this time. I don’t see myself going to restaurants or other public places for fun for a long time.
    The situation in the US is really dire. We have gone from wondering how we will manage staying home with the kids and work, to looking at some of the positives, to being downright terrified of what is to come. It is nice to recognize the positives of a dark situation to keep us motivated, but at the same time it feels like looking for silver linings before really seeing the cloud, so to speak.

    PS, that dirt on the feet being gone in India is really cool. It used to bug me to scrub my kids feet at night in India !

    1. I don't think they can reasonably lift the lockdown on the 14th in India, the State of Maharashtra CM already announced that we might extend it State wise for another 2 weeks regardless of what the Central government decide because we are the worst hit State so far (though other States are catching up to us in term of new cases).

      The lockdown means reduced income for both Hubby and I though, I can't teach my art classes, and I can't ship physical products bought on my Etsy shop, Hubby's company is a start up in logistics, with the goods allowed to transit limited to the bare essentials, a lot of their clients aren't using their services as much. We aren't too worried for now, but yeah we keep wondering what will happen once we come out of lockdown. Life as we knew it has been altered and it's hard to make prediction on what is to come and what it'll mean for all of us.

      I think this pandemic has proven that we are all far more connected than we thought, and that a nationalistic ego has no place in this equation, hopefully people learn from it on that front too and don't see going global as a bad thing.
      I told hubby the other day while we were listening to BBC news that it seems that each country has one piece of the puzzle to solve this mess, and that unless we realise that, we will struggle.

      I hate the dirty feet thing, I have a foot brush in my shower just to go wash them several times a day and it's gross. Right now I only get the garden variety of mud on my feet from spending time on my balconies among my plants, it's the healthy, innocent brown kind that pretty much just wash off with water, soap and no mad scrubbing.

    2. Oh yes, I hear you on the financial strain. I'm trying to carve out time (like we have any to spare) to worry about it, and also to work on the various things we can do to manage our finances better. We are still able to wfh but worry about what it will be like a few months down the road. Also, WFH is difficult since we are still paying for our childcare/nanny but our kids are at home. Anyway I'll take all of the inconvenience if that helps to tackle our main worry about Covid.

      Maybe in your case, you would consider online / Zoom art classes. It may not be a long term solution but at least for now perhaps some of the parents would like to have their kids engaged with an art lesson. And hopefully the lull in the other stuff inspires your creativity even more.

      Nice about the dirt/dirty feet thing! I spend way too much time thinking about it during our visits. Wear socks in warmish weather (and look like a bit of a snob) or not? Besides, the socks also get black. Running after a toddler on slippery floors with flip flops on is a no. Wash on the washing stone at the back for a good scrub, but feet get muddy again by the time we are in bed..I need to have clean feet when I get in bed ;)

  4. We were wondering about the lockdown when we realized that our fridge had broken down. Fortunately, we could get it repaired. It was a close shave phew!!!.

    An unexpected but pleasant fallout of the lockdown was that popular old serials are being retelecast on TV. It was like a trip down the childhood memory lane. Thirty years seemed like just yesterday.

    1. Wow yeah that was a close call! 21 days without a fridge is not even thinkable with all shops having little stock and having to buy and preserve your goods for several days before you can get them again.

      I seriously think that repair services should have been exempted from the lockdown because if an appliance break, it's necessary to fix it, and if an electrical plug fail it could cause a fire.

      Yesterday there was a surge on the line in several flats it seems, and my dishwasher plug fried again, I fixed it again thank god for that, but after several reports from other flats in the building reporting their fuse tripping at random they sent an electrician to the building. He apparently fixed the surge issue, we managed to get a hold of him too, so he checked the plug, said it was fine for now, but that once shops reopen we need to have the entire extention line replaced along with the plug to avoid further surge issues. It's baffling to me that no provisions have been made to have hardware stores stay open so that these repairs can be carried.

      Electrical fires are no jokes, and with all government services short staffed or overworked, it could lead to disasters in emergency responses. With all people working from home, you can bet that the power supply in residential areas have gone up too.

    2. Before that on the day of janata curfew, the submersible motor, which pumps water, of the society got burned. We raised a hue and cry, the electrician was called and it was repaired. It happens often but this time it was scary.

      BTW Ramayana is back on TV. Interestingly, when it was telecasted thity two years ago, people did not go out of their houses. Nobody wanted to miss it any episode.


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