by Anita Mendiratta | Jul 31, 2021
COVID-19 has united us all – one global community bonded through challenge, through fear, through stamina, and through patience. The tireless, tenacious nature of the beast, with its omnipresence, invisibility and increasingly rapid transmissibility, continues to leave our shared world in a state of sustained trauma – everyone, everywhere, even now.
As much as this pandemic should have inspired and unlocked sustained global empathy, compassion, and cooperation, sadly it has reinforced risk of re-entry into a divided world from which we thought, hoped, we had evolved as we entered the roaring (20)20s – a time defined as “a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge”.
That world we hoped we had left behind? A world that is divided between the haves and the have nots.
So much work had been done between nations, between communities, to build a stronger, collective future focused on sustainable growth, development, opportunity, liberty, and wellbeing. The UN SDGs created a framework for moving forward. The plans and policies were in place, call to action was heard, the planet was ready to act.
And then January 2020 happened, the term ‘Coronavirus’ becoming a part of our personal, professional, and social vocabulary, soon to be replaced by ‘COVID-19’.
For a brief time the speed and shock of the first wave of shock and spread united the locally and globally locked-down world. Month after month after month. And then the discoveries were made – record speed development of vaccines. Collectively the world exhaled. Hope was felt by all. Finally!
But then started the other waves: divides, between countries, between communities, between families. Sadly, as with the virus, the divides are only increasing as time passes.
COVID? Have had versus have not.
Long COVID? Have versus have not.
Vaccine access? Have versus have not.
Jab? Have versus have not.
Antibodies? Have versus have not.
Underlying condition? Have versus have not.
New variant? Have versus have not.
Another wave? Have versus have not.
Another lockdown? Have versus have not.
Mask mandate? Have versus have not.
Quarantine requirements? Have versus have not.
Job security? Have versus have not.
A safe place to call ‘home’? Have versus have not.
A good place to WFH? Have versus have not.
Lost weight? Have versus have not.
Lost a loved one? Have versus have not.
Lost control? Have versus have not.
Missed funeral? Have versus have not.
Missed wedding? Have versus have not.
Missed a milestone? Have versus have not.
Indoor socialising? Have versus have not.
Plans for cross-border travel? Have versus have not.
Return to office date? Have versus have not.
Fear of another wave? Have versus have not.
Confidence in the future? Have versus have not.
Hope? Have versus have not.
Compassion? Have versus have not.
This separation of the haves and the have nots in the short- and medium-term is something that is going to shape our shared world in the long-term.
Sadly, we have found that through the pandemic separations are severe in terms of access to healthcare and vaccine supply. Similarly, deep, increasingly fierily audible divides are occurring in terms of demands for freedom of mobility, opportunity, job security, and core ideology.
We live in a world, sadly, that is at a decision point. We either all move together, or we divide and move apart. The haves and the have nots that have been created by COVID-19 are no longer purely about science, health and economics. It’s about humanity.
The question to us all is this: as we move into the latter part of year two of COVID-19, are we committed to the quest to move forward together, or are we willing to accept that some (turning to many) are going to move forward with a feeling of ‘freedom’ without any desire to look back at those locked in new stages of trauma, clearly left behind?
The bottom line is clear: are we willing to accept a new era of deep, painful divide?
The challenge of COVID-19 goes beyond the pandemic. The challenge is a humanitarian one. In many ways it is a mirror being dropped by Mother Nature, asking us to look into our eyes – as individuals, as communities and as nations – and ask: for all the momentum, progress, and opportunity felt in late 2019 on the eve of the roaring twenties, have we honoured that collective hope and strength of roar for all?
Or are we going to find that the lion behind these roaring twenties is going to bite?
A decision must be made to determine the fate of the divide. Confidence we can tame time the lion? Have versus have not?
Have…whispered with a prayer. X
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
by Anita Mendiratta | Jun 30, 2021
‘Long COVID’ is one thing, suffered by some. It is serious, not to be overlooked.
‘Longtime COVID‘ is quite another, suffered by everyone. It too is serious, yet under-explored.
Both are very real. Only one, however, we really hear about.
The term ‘Long COVID’ has become part of our pandemic vernacular. It’s something that is experienced by millions upon millions worldwide who have suffered COVID-19. ‘Long COVID’ represents the lingering after-effects experienced by people who have suffered COVID-19 and feel unable to regain the level of health that they held previously. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics estimates up to 30% of people testing positive for COVID-19 may suffer symptoms for twelve weeks or more. Some are shorter, some longer. Symptoms vary in strength, sustained periods, and parts of the body suffering. Importantly, symptoms have no connection to severity of the actual COVID-19 experience.
‘Long COVID’ is a reflection of the fact that COVID, in whichever variant, is random. How we experience it, the degree to which we suffer, and the ultimate long-term effects, differs person to person, situation to situation. Even if it’s the same variant, how one actually experiences it – asymptomatically or aggressively, as an attack on the respiratory system or neurologically – remains a mystery.
What is less spoken about is the ‘Longtime COVID’ – something from which everyone is suffering, everyone around the world who has been waiting and waiting and waiting for the tragedy of COVID-19 to come to an end. Something that seems, for millions upon millions now entering Wave 3 fuelled by the Delta variant, endless.
‘Longtime COVID’ is not a technical term. It is not an official diagnosis. It is a term that was created, quite honestly, for the purposes of this piece of writing as it was a term that connected comfortably with the words ‘Long COVID’. It may not be a real diagnosis, but we all know it is real.
The way in which COVID-19 entered all our lives in early 2020 stripped us all of any sense of comfort, confidence and control. With unprecedented speed, trauma and terror, COVID-19 took over. Skies, borders, and businesses closed, one after the other, one country after the other, as never seen before in this or any other generation. Through 2020 COVID-19 cost the global community lives, livelihoods and liberties. The longing for freedoms of movement, of connection and of community grew stronger and stronger.
We missed smiles.
We missed hugs.
We missed laughter.
We missed together.
And then, as the seasons changed with leaves turning from green to golden brown in the northern hemisphere, sunrays reaching out wider and warmer in the south, hope grew.
Regulations were easing, bubbles were widening, hearts were strengthening as vaccines were being discovered, curves were being flattened, cases were reducing.
But then our doors were forced shut again. It was too much, too soon, too close.
Months, milestones, marriages, memorials, memories, all passed.
COVID-19 soon became simply endless, with all the complexities associated with personal and professional isolation, physical separation, growing frustration, natural irritation, unnatural virtual world habitation.
And then signs of release and relief start to emerge as seasons continue to change. Hope, as doors open a little wider every few weeks, every shift in the statistics, every jab of vaccine, every sign of something looking like ‘normal’. It had been a long time, a very, very long time.
And then news breaks somewhere in the world of outbreaks of new cases of new variants. Stigmatisation is felt in country after country as discoveries occur of one new variant after the other.
Again, back in. Borders close, bookings are cancelled, plans collapse, hopes are crushed.
‘Longtime COVID’ reflects the intense strain that sets in when, one by one, people feel they are simply ‘done’: Zoomed out, ****ed off, feeling alone, abandoned and angry, tired of waiting, tired of masking, tired of limited living. Done.
Now, one year and many months on, our world continues its waiting and watching wondering what will happen next. Parts of the world excitedly ready to finally travel once more, desperate to get away, get together with loved ones, yet not 100% certain of government regulations going unchanged. At the same time, other parts of the world are being locked down once more, wave after wave threatening national stability, both economically and emotionally. The optimism fatigue is real.
When it comes to ‘Longtime COVID’ there is so much still unknown. The consequence of the world being shut down for over a year and a half will be significant. Maybe not shut down physically, but certainly emotionally. ‘Longtime COVID’ is our next great mystery.
What damage has been done? What healing will be needed? How will we, individually and collectively, deal with all the loss, the prolonged longing, the waiting and waiting and waiting?
Everyone in the world is suffering from ‘Longtime COVID’. No one has been spared, as comfortable in the discomfort zone many may appear. For everyone, everywhere, this has been a long, long, hard time.
The treatment? At least for now?
With immediate effect the following is prescription is strongly recommended. All ingredients are 100% natural, and easily accessible:
- Every morning give oneself a good, strong dose of compassion
- Accompany with kindness and forgiveness
- Repeat in evening before bed
- Double-dose if needed
- For lasting results continue taking daily even if feeling strength restored
- If any signs of discomfort call a loved one, and keep holding on.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
by Anita Mendiratta | May 31, 2021
It was a sound that made the mind’s eye think of a dark, cloud-filled sky cracking open to release heavy, quenching, monsoon raindrops falling onto dry, parched, cracked desert ground.
It was a sound that broke through silence, flowing swiftly, soaking into the ground, feeding the spirit.
From every direction, through every sense, it was a sound so consuming, so desperately sought after, so dearly needed.
Finally, as with the monsoons after a period of intense waiting, it had arrived – a sound that poured down onto the performers on the stage, wave after wave, as though bathing desert flowers thirsty for life.
It was applause, for the first time in such a long, hard, trying time.
London’s Royal Opera House was open once more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-Gau5cVBu0
In late May 2021, with cautious relief and delight, Covent Garden’s centre for the performing arts carefully opened its doors. Returning to its magnificent heart, staring out across the vast, velvety expanse of theatre seating to the Main Stage, one could almost feel:
- the moment when sleeping lights were re-awoken to reveal the grand theatre shaking awake after a lengthy hibernation,
- the moment when the stage was quietly stepped upon with a gentle tap-tap-tap from each touch of the pointe shoes,
- the moment the orchestra pit first filled with fresh, flowing sounds of musical instruments warming up, marking the end to a year of silence,
- the moment hundreds upon hundreds of plush, red velvet seats were lovingly dusted and tied off with ribbons to welcome a 50% capacity limit audience home.
Finally, the lights glowing gold readied to be dimmed, the stage stood tall and proud dressed for the occasion, and the orchestra was anxious to start. The audience looked at each and every detail, taking the ‘here and now’ in with a quiet intensity, an audibly beating heart, a hint of a smile, a feeling of freedom.
Showtime. 21st Century Choreographers was about to begin.
As the curtain rose the feeling of anticipation, excitement, relief, and gratitude of each and every performer was evident as they stepped onto the stage with a distinct sense of purpose. Together, once more.
It was impossible to watch on and not wonder ‘how did they do it?’ How did they manage all these months, unable to be together, to train together, to perform together, to practice together, to laugh together, to bond together, to feel appreciated and adored?
In the early months of the pandemic awe-inspiring videos were shared around the world, our small screens filled with images of professional dancers training in their homes, on their balconies, in empty streets. Videos of hope. Videos of solidarity. Videos of remarkable creativity not only in dance but in determination. But then the music seemed to have stopped. Life in unknown, uncertain times stretched on far longer than the world ever expected, putting lives and livelihoods at risk far more severely than ever imagined.
For those in the performing arts worldwide, COVID19 forced them to find ways to stay fit, to stay focused, to stay hopeful that their careers would return to the stage.
- How does one keep strong and supple when they cannot stretch?
- How can one be creative when there is no reason to create?
- How does one feel inspired when they cannot feel the presence of an audience?
- How does one know when to move when they cannot hear the music?
- How does one take a bow when surrounded by silence and empty space?
- How can one leave the stage when their finest performance is yet to come?
For months and months and months there were questions, very valid questions, around whether or not so many performers would be strong enough, capable enough, willing enough, to put on their ballet shoes and costumes, and stand under the glowing lights. Ultimately, would performing artists worldwide ever again hear those heavy, healing raindrops of applause.
To be in a live audience again, to feel a rebirth taking place, was an absolute gift. A sense of blessing and gratitude was omnipresent – being able to be there, seeing and feeling it all in three dimensions, full of life, full of music, full of grace. With each performance the dancers were showered with applause, and more, and more. The orchestra performed magnificently, each and every piece played with a distinct sense of joy and relief. It was magical to experience months of dry, deafening silence being filled by floods of clapping, to feel the feeding of the starved spirits of the performers. For the audience, it was like rain washing dust off of one’s heart…
The pure magic of the moment brought to the fore a deep sense of release, a reminder of all that we have all been starved of.
We have all endured a year+ of suffering, of loss, of deprivation. While we have found ways to become comfortable in the discomfort zone, this discomfort cannot, must not, become the norm. Nothing about this time, this way of living, is normal.
As our shared world slowly, cautiously re-opens, returning to the stage will require of us all a readjustment to the sound of the music, the brightness of the lights, the presence of an audience, the test of our strength and stamina to continue dancing. It will not be easy, it will not be comfortable, it will often feel unnatural, but we will dance once more – with new steps discovered, new partners found, new purpose in our movements.
And a new sense of gratitude for the healing power of the rain. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
by Anita Mendiratta | Apr 21, 2021
At present there are 40.
At 04:00am on the 23rd of April there will be 41.
UK ‘Red List’ countries – nations worldwide viewed as a risk of COVID-19 importation due to surges and/or strains, making passengers arriving into the UK a domestic threat. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19
Sadly it is our enduring global reality. Over 400 days into COVID-19 still we are seeing cases increasing and new strains mutating all while vaccines are being injected.
It’s not the same everywhere – some places are finding solutions to stopping the spread, flattening the curve, controlling contact. The over-reactions are understandable. Economic and social paralysis cannot continue indefinitely.
Hence the Red List.
And the need official hotel quarantine for people arriving into the country from a Red List country, a regulation imposed in the UK mid-February 2021, already active in other nations across the world.
To be a traveller forced to face hotel quarantine is quite something – and something personally experienced earlier this month when travelling back to the UK from South Africa despite:
- PCR test: negative
- Test for Antibodies: positive (as had COVID-19 end of 2020)
- Household: single person
Travelling during COVID-times is challenging enough: lack of fresh air and smiles due to masks, excessive layers of protective packaging on items, eats and other usually tactile aspects of the airline and airport experience. Readying for a 10-day, government enforced, hotel quarantine introduces a further layer of desensitisation to an industry that has always been highly emotive, highly immersive.
The technicalities are straightforward enough, that is of course only once you land and establish to which hotel you are assigned and how the days ahead will unfold. Up until then the feeling entering into it all is a concerning one as there is little advance detail, especially around exactly where you will be spending your 240 hours on the inside.
The cost of quarantine is significant, and unavoidable:
- 10 full days (starting from the first sleep), and
- GB £1750,
- a room on one’s own (if a solo traveller),
- three meals a day, and
- a small degree of laundry servicing.
On landing at the airport (LHR in this case), one is immediately ushered into Immigration lines that set your pace and feeling of welcome, effectively those free to move as arriving from Green List countries (no quarantine or self-isolation required) or Yellow List countries (self-isolation required) redirected according to usual entry permit classifications (UK, EU, etc.) separated from those feared as arriving from Red List countries requiring hotel quarantine, regardless of entry permit classification.
Red List? Follow the red line.
The red line leads you from one escort to another – yellow vests – straight from passport control through baggage, into waiting areas, into a holding area, onto a coach across several hotels depending on where you’ve been allocated to quarantine. At the hotel entry is through a side entrance, into a briefing room, into a process of completion of forms: consent to stay, menu choices for the next 10 days, indication of timings of PCR tests (days 2 and 8), and then escorted to your room for the next 10 days.
Just keep following the yellow vests. Wait until they make contact.
The hotel experience is stripped away. The opportunity to make a guest feel welcome and enjoy the hotel is all stripped away. Rapidly, easily, it can feel like a human experiment. Pavlov’s dog suddenly makes sense. Three times a day you hear a knock on the door. Meal time. When the door is opened an elevated tray awaits along with, across the hallway, a warden in PPE…and yellow vest. On the tray is a brown paper bag within which are two to three little brown boxes. The little boxes containing the meal you have requested during on the menu sheets on arrival. Meal by meal, knock after knock, day after day, they arrive. Delivered by a yellow vest.
There’s no other human contact.
The hotel room itself is a bedroom. It is a bedroom in a branded hotel. The branding, however, is stripped away. There is no leaving the room unless escorted, and brief: 15 minutes maximum, whether it’s to walk around the parking lot of the hotel to get some exercise or for those who are smokers, to get a nicotine fix. Leaving the room is with a warden. A yellow vest. In the hallways stand monitors, in yellow vests.
The feeling? Especially in the first two days when the yellow vest system of quarantine controls become the routine? Punitive. Yet you have done nothing wrong. You are just there, behind the door, because you have to be, because you flew in from a Red List country.
It is easy for one to look at it and think that it is unnecessarily harsh. It is a psychological adjustment feeling as if people are looking at you as if you are contaminated. As if you are a combustible. As if you are dangerous.
But it’s not personal. It’s a pandemic, and this pandemic needs to be respected. Governments are doing all they can to contain the pandemic, to contain the spread. The loss of lives, the loss of livelihoods and the pressure on medical systems. One cannot fault extreme caution.
And then slowly, slowly, through the 10 days, you find these little glimmers of light,:
- morning light that breaks through as the sun rises, stretching across the room to create a golden glow,
- the light that comes from a cheerful yellow vested warden delivering a brown bag of breakfast with a smile and wish for a good day,
- the lightness of heart that is felt when care packages of fresh flowers, fresh fruit, freshly baked gingerbread biscuits and other fresh thoughts arrive from loved ones hoping to lighten the mood,
- the lightening of workloads and to-do lists as wifi lines and long days make for a period of high productivity,
- the light touch of hotel staff calling to simply check in every 48 hours, making sure you’re okay, letting you know that they are there for those guests struggling being alone, inside, ongoing.
Interestingly, having spoken to the hotel staff the check-in calls are not part of the government protocols and their requirements to be a COVID-19 quarantine hotel in the proximity of an airport. It is just the hotel being humane, simply reaching out to make sure that you’re fine. During Passover they make sure that the menus have no bread. As Ramadan nears they check with the guests to make sure that the meals are being provided at the time of breaking the fast. Little sparks of humanity, of identity, through what initially felt like quite a dehumanising, identity-neutralising process.
COVID-19 has challenged the lives and lifestyles of everyone, everywhere, in different ways. This is just another of those ways. Importantly, no one is happy about the situation – not the government, not the hotel company, not the staff following protocols strictly, not the ‘guest’
It is not ideal. But it is also not hardship. It is just inconvenient. A test of patience. A whisper of humility. First World Problems.
The perspective? Vividly clear, especially in these time of immense loss. For millions upon millions around the developing and developed world, the circumstances equate to luxury: one is falling asleep in a clean bed, in a warm room with hot and cold running water, full plumbing, receiving three meals a day served with care. For 10 days.
The COVID-19 quarantine hotel experience is a unique one because, in addition to having everything stripped away, one is suddenly aware very quickly of all that they actually have. And importantly, the blessing of having a place to go home to once you have left the hotel.
All of this is about being able to work together to ensure that COVID-19 does not bring us all down. None of these regulations, none of these restrictions, none of these requirements and enforcements are what we wish for.
What we all wish for is safety.
What we all wish for is health.
What we all wish for is to be able to hug loved ones, to see the smiles of stranger.
In the short term, as we endure these discomforts and these inconveniences, these are small prices we need to pay for the long-term investment of making sure that once again, we can come together safely, securely, confidently. Whatever challenges we continue to face, whatever each day may bring, we are getting one day closer to all being released from this time.
And if there is one wish one can make that makes all the difference in our COVID-19 world: wish for a window that faces the sunrise.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
by Anita Mendiratta | Mar 31, 2021
They are words of warning recognised the world over, a literary conversation well known. If only Caesar had listened – if only we had listened:
Caesar. Ha! who calls?
Casca. Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
Caesar. Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
Caesar. What man is that?
Brutus. A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Caesar. Set him before me; let me see his face.
Cassius. Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
Caesar. What say’st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer. Beware the ides of March.
Caesar. He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
(Julius Caesar, Act 1 Scene 2 – William Shakespeare)
The first warnings came on December 31, 2019 when the WHO first reported the existence of a novel strain of Coronavirus, COVID-19 to be exact. Then came the next warning on January 30, 2020 when the WHO raised the volume of its warning, declaring the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global health emergency.
By March 11th classification was raised to ‘global pandemic’.
By the Ides of March, the world was shutting down – borders, skies, businesses, schools, centres of faith, our homes – we were told to close in, quickly, before this invisible curse now known as COVID-19 caught us out. Wave 1 had begun….
Now, one year on, echoes of those ominous warnings continue to be heard. March 11th, 2021 marked the end of a year that has been beyond anyone’s expectation and imaginations. Depending on where one was in the world, throughout March 2021, year one markings unfolded of lockdowns first imposed, the first time we got a sense that life as we once knew it was no more. March 23rd for we from the UK. By the final day in March 2021 the WHO’s freshly released report on the origins of COVID-19 is being rigorously reviewed and remarked upon.
In just one year this one virus has taken over 2.8 million lives, denied billions their basic liberties, and cost trillions in livelihoods. New strains are being discovered in tandem newly approved vaccine being rolled out. New waves are threatening. renewed strength is increasingly hard to find. In just one year one truth has emerged that everyone has had to face: there is no escaping the trauma of COVID-19, even if one escapes falling prey to the virus itself. Everyone has lost something, someone, somewhere. Everyone has suffered in some way. No one has been spared.
Unlike any crisis experienced in our generation, this pandemic has completely erased not just borders between nations, but so many lines we used to put in place in our individual lives:
- Office vs home,
- Day vs. night,
- Weekends vs weekdays,
- Business vs. pleasure,
- Professional vs. personal,
- On vs off.
Blur now exists where once there were lines, this blur an operating space that must be bravely navigated – destination unknown, duration unknown, all within a context of immense, intense trauma. Genuine trauma.
The trauma has been real. It has been prolonged. It has been profound. It has been personal. The blur has been accented by deep, undeniable, inescapable, and surprisingly, often very visible ache.
Tears have fallen uncontrollably.
Cracks have been revealed unexpectedly.
Fear has closed us in illogically.
Faith has been tested deeply.
Interestingly, this shared reality, this exposure, has afforded us the opportunity to turn trauma into a lifeline, forcing us all to come closer, to be more real, more human, more understanding and more compassionate with those around us. To encourage, without judgement or hesitation, others to reach out and grab hold.
Why? Simply this: the shared trauma we have all experienced has, while differing in individual situations, circumstances, characteristics and complexities, allowed us to care more – to care more honestly, more deeply and more transparently with those who truly provide us the focus, the purpose, the energy, and the hope we all need.
COVID-19 has been the most democratising challenge our world has ever faced.And uniting.
This pandemic has united us – all of us across the world, across the country, across the room – making vividly clear,:
- WE ARE ALL HUMAN – forced to dig deep each and every day with a stamina we have never demanded of ourselves, and others, before;
- WE ARE ALL HURTING – recognising that everyone is feeling pressure, feeling loss, feeling fear;
- WE ARE ALL EXHAUSTED – respecting that everyone is carrying a heavy load, needing rest, needing to feel safe;
- WE ARE ALL LONGING – knowing how we all ache to touch, to feel, to breathe, once more;
- WE ARE ALL BONDED – united in our refreshed awareness that we all need care, kindness, compassion and courage from one another.
For all of the uncertainty still facing us all, especially the layers of mental health, economic and societal crisis that will emerge, rapidly and painfully from COVID-19, reasons for hope still exist, hope we all need to hold onto, a lifeline pulling us all forward, whispering to us a reminder us that through tragedy can emerge tenderness, through trauma can emerge healing, through darkness can emerge the dawn.
The soothsayer somehow knew. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021