Ben Wilson is studying animation and graphic design at the Sacred Heart College of Communication in Kerala, India.
The first case of coronavirus in India was recorded on 30 January 2020. We heard about it, but paid no attention. After all, things never came to a halt in India. We didn’t think, even for a moment, the world was about to come to a standstill.
As days went by, COVID-19 began to take hold. In the southern Indian state of Kerala, we started to hear of deaths in China, and then Italy. Even then, we paid no heed to it. We weren’t affected, were we?
We have had life disrupted by unprecedented rainfall and flooding in 2018 and 2019. But that was nothing like the situation now. We could help people back then. But coronavirus doesn’t work like that. It makes people hopeless and helpless. Those affected have to be in quarantine and fight it alone. If death comes, there’s no one to hold your hand. There is no cure.
Weeks went by. Slowly but surely, we started to notice the restrictions in our daily lives. On 22 March, a voluntary curfew which lasted about 14 hours took place in the country. This was unheard of. But the curfew was okay since it was a Sunday. We didn’t go to church. That was the worst thing about that day. But we prayed at home.
Two days later, on 24 March, India’s prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown. We would have to stay home for 21 days. The decision was made overnight. No one blamed the prime minister; he did what he had to do.
But even before the 21 days of lockdown were over, another extension was announced — this time for two more weeks! If I’m honest, the lockdown wasn’t too bad. We spent more time together with our families. There was no air or noise pollution from the millions of vehicles on our roads. Nights were clear and starry.
Lockdown came with restrictions — and with restrictions came new rules. We weren’t supposed to take our vehicles out unless it was necessary. The police would question us if we were out. Those who were out on their scooters or motorbikes without a good reason would be charged. We all knew this.
But that didn’t stop me. I got bored sitting at home and decided one afternoon to go out on my motorbike. I was pretty confident that there would be no police. But on my way back home it started raining. Along the way, I saw a group of people in the middle of the road and I thought to myself: “Hey, it’s just some people chatting with their friends.”
It was nearly dark and I couldn’t really see that there was a car parked there, too. Only when I got close did I realize that it was the police. They were talking to another person — someone who, just like me, had decided to go out for an evening ride. I was caught. I didn’t have any convincing reason and I was charged; the police took my bike away for 10 days. That was a great lesson.
The days drifted by slowly. We realized we were short on food supplies. I would never say that no one came to our rescue. But when the whole world is shut down and nobody has a source of income, there are limits on things that can be done. That’s when the Kerala government gave each family 15 kilos of rice for free. Everybody was happy. The lockdown taught us that human beings can always help each other rather than complain.
I come from a religious family and we have a very strong belief in the Lord. But during this time, we couldn’t go to church. Our parish started broadcasting daily Mass on the local television channel. That helped us so much because Easter was coming. Apart from Easter, there were many more important things happening around the world, too. We witnessed Pope Francis in tears because of what was happening in Italy. He gave us a message of hope and faith.
Some may say the devil has control over the world because we can’t go to church like we used to. But if we look on the bright side, there are people who are praying. They do have enormous faith, too. Everybody is praying for a common thing at some point in their day: to wipe the virus off the planet.
It’s not about having what we had before COVID-19. There are people who can’t afford to pay for their children’s tuition fees; single mothers desperately trying to make both ends meet; youngsters who have no jobs. Yes, it’s all that. But it is also much more than that. We all hope that there will be a time when all the things go back to the way they were — but with the addition of the love and care we have experienced at times like these.
There is an undying fear of being a victim of the virus. But we all have learned to face our fears. Wearing masks and gloves helps, and we know that the rules that are in place are to help us, even if they are sometimes hard to accept.
Times like these bring out the good in people. We don’t see many people whining about money or boasting about their possessions.
All they want is for this to end.
The primary aim for the world is now to put a leash on the virus. We must care for everyone.
We continue to wait. And hope.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil 4:6).