The only sound he could hear was the crunching of pebbles under his footsteps. The crowded thoroughfare was eerily quiet and deserted today–– it was a Friday evening, too–– on a normal day, the public would be out and about. Groups of friends and families would be crossing the street, laughing and chatting, as other solitary busybodies went to and from their workplaces and duties, often with a mobile in hand, a serious expression on their face, skillfully ignoring and navigating through the raucous throngs of people.

But today was not one of those usual days. The only population on the streets constituted a few vehicles and workers, faces covered with masks, hands in latex gloves. It was silent, aside from the occasional bark or scuffle of an animal- but the silent air was filled with an oppressive tension and unrest.

It was somewhat interesting to see, how the species which considered itself the strongest, smartest, and most evolved could be reduced to basic animal instinct by a primitive microorganism. The virus did not ask for the host’s nationality and race, it did not consider their religion, it did not care for their gender, attire, or caste and class– it was indifferent to one and all of mankind.

It had succeeded in relentlessly causing death within all those different walks of life. Pain and fear had become a common sight to see across the globe as it gained traction. Yet, there remained a few, no different from others, who considered themselves irrationally invulnerable to it. Yet, there remained those who considered it correct to continue to discriminate— watching, observing as not one life was spared— some even gave their false arguments support from the pandemic.

Yet, there remained those, who, blinded by narrow-minded thought and obstinate ways— refused to even try and feel what was happening in the reality that shrouded them.

Was misery not a trouble well-known to all creatures?

Did death ever choose, who it wanted to take? Was it not a force high above human prejudices?

Did we fail to realise, at some point in the lengthy time we have existed, that when stripped of material belongings, identity, socioeconomic and political power— all we have left is each other?

How was it that we had not learned from the events of the past, which drew close parallels with our own present-day condition?

“A series of unfortunate events”, he recalled. A fitting explanation. Those alive and dead had seen the world burn, watched fires ruin life and nature; ruthless wars and politics tear apart ancient nations and reduce them to rubble. They had seen deep divisions within the people emerge in destructive and despotic ways, and they had seen selfish emotions rule over themselves, grasping their actions and words. The year had been a precarious one— every step taken was no different from walking on eggshells.

But on removing this blanket of ignorance and agitation, one would find that hope and compassion had prevailed. Firefighters who risked their lives to protect and stem fierce infernos, doctors and sanitation workers who worked tirelessly around the clock to treat patients, communities who stood strong, hand in hand, while others very much like them flew at each other with knives in hand.

The difference was not made by nationality, race, religion, gender, sexuality, caste and class— the difference was not made by playing into the hands of those who chose to divide and differentiate, who continued to pursue selfish goals over the greater good. It was made by nothing but the clichéd ideals of humanity in their truest form— love, hope, unity, kindness, and courage. They were ideals that had persisted from the very beginning and would persist until the very end, as powerful as they have always been.

Whether it had been the positive outlook of nature rebuilding itself— emissions reducing and fishes returning to rivers and seas, penguins and elephants exploring an empty aquarium, people on lockdown singing and praying together, supporting each other, people continuing to learn and work without having to leave their homes, they had remained. Whether it was soldiers continuing to guard borders, or organisations, emergency personnel and selfless individuals working hard to keep track of the disease, ensuring provisions of essentials and aid, and doing their best to protect their people–– the ideals had prevailed through the present, and had shed light upon the quick capability of humanity to adapt.

A ghost of a smile crossed his badly bruised face. The expression had become a sight rare to the see in the weeks that were flying by— painstakingly slowly. Walking up the steps of the hospital, he quickly signed himself in at the reception and prepared himself for the next elongated shift of taking care of the sick— they were not allowed to clock in and out very often, without proper procedure so as to contain the spread of the virus. It took its time, but he knew his duty towards his patients and the world.

At the frontline, he and his colleagues were the only hope for a few— for some, the last faces they would see before a long, eternal rest. Putting their lives in danger to save the lives of millions, shouldering the burden of the deaths of thousands who they tried so hard to save. The task was strenuous yet heroic, painful yet necessary. Putting on his gear and picking up his clipboard, the doctor went to serve his patients.

We may not be the first, and we may not be the last, but we must not forget that we are all here, now–– we all can contribute to protecting our planet and its people. Information is available at our fingertips, we know the precautions we should take. Our lives may not be same after. Fear is a natural human emotion, but we can tackle it with each other. So, stay in for a while, enjoy your time with family, and keep track of your friends through your networks. Stay safe, stay brave— spread compassion, not blatant blame, and be thankful for those around you, those working around the clock to ensure your safety. It is a dire time, but never lose hope–– we’ll get through it together.

– Yashasvini Verma, Amity International School, Noida

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