Being Humane: Exhibiting compassion in hour of the virus

It is one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in recent times. To be the only one without a mask in a Bombardier aircraft flying me back to Chennai from Bengaluru. Everyone looks at me testily and warily, a look I haven’t received since I first lugged a piano onto the Carnatic stage. At one point, I adjusted my throat and I found my co-passenger jump in alarm.
Being Humane: Exhibiting compassion in hour of the virus

Chennai

So prevalent has been the panic over COVID-19. The advent of social media, fuelled by bulletins from experts, doctors, social commentators and the last resort for Indians – astrologers – has meant we are bombarded with statistics. Schools and colleges are shutting down, workplaces have followed suit accompanied by work-from-home orders. Given an economy that was plummeting, this is going to be a tough place to shoot back from in thenear future.

I started putting down a few important lessons from the coronavirus pandemic. This is an opportunity for self-reflection, and course correction:

Cultivate a helpful outlook

If you are healthy, it is time you took the trouble of keeping close watch over your near and dear ones and offer any assistance to those in need. An outbreak is contained only by an umbrella of compassion. This means not panicking, not buying up everyone else’s share of resources, medicines and supplies. It also means an immediate cessation of whining over the phone or the internet about life’s inevitable disruptions. A lot of people are in situations farworse, and it is tremendously self-serving to be using up data and time bemoaning our relatively lesser problems.

Up the knowledge quotient

This is a time that could be used productively by those of us involved in design thinking, especially designing for change. It is also a time to reflect on whether technology should be human-centric in usage and application, such as using even lower-grade database systems to keep ourselves both occupied and useful at the same time, in keeping track of symptoms and needs for those we are immediately responsible for. During the Chennai floods of 2015, I found this to be a useful thing to do, and it’s effective during crisis situations for faster dissemination of information.

Empathy is key

During the Chennai floods of 2015, I was involved in rescue, relief and in subsequent rehabilitation when colleagues and I helped build a school for the children displaced by floods. The experience opened me to several people who were willing to help the community get back on its feet. Use this time to think of the multitudes of people who cannot afford simple necessities, and act with compassion. Be flexible on time and sharing of resources; or offer support financially or in supplies. Offer time and a helpful shoulder for those plagued by fear. Attend to the elderly.

Use the Arts to re-connect

As a performing artist, this is a disastrous time. But could we use our creativity and our ability to provide hope and connectivity through our art to a greater purpose? Can we use our Art to create more awareness about prevention, therapies and good practices? Could we use this Art to bring the community together towards a common understanding?

Contemplate, consolidate

Unity is perhaps the greatest weapon that we have in our capacity to fight any disaster. Let us use every human, capital and technological resource towards consolidatingour learnings and make this a time for healing.
— The author is a musician and Associate Professor of Practice at KREA University

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