the thought of writing physically repulses me 
my body recoiling at the creative exertion
the thinking, the feeling, the processing of emotions
that are best left untouched. 

I tried writing this editor’s note several times over, each time ending with multiple paragraphs of cynical text that is best left inside the pages of a journal. I’ve always been someone who writes truthfully, letting the words flow by themselves to convey what is on my mind. However, I am abundantly aware that what is on my mind, or rather, what is on everyone else’s mind amidst this unprecedented pandemic that is as stealthy as a wild cat and just as deadly, may not be the right words to share. And so I write, with equal measures of want and reluctance, to offer you words of truth but kinder ones. 

In recent human memory, this is the first big evil bad guy that we’ve had to contend with. There are many reminding us in this time of how our ancestors bravely fought wars, travelled across borders, and witnessed deadly riots, while we are only being asked to stay at home. While the intent of this message is well-meaning, the delivery isn’t. Misfortune isn’t meant to be weighed upon a scale, nor can human grief, the number of lives lost, and collective human suffering be quantified and compared. The task handed out to us may seem simple on the surface, but is easier said than done. Moreover, a virus isn’t a human enemy. Yes, a shot would kill it, but for all the guns in the world, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet and there may not be one even several months from now. So, my first ask from you is to reject this line of thinking––accept the situation we’re going through is unlike what we’ve seen before, that we’re allowed to feel nervous and scared, and that there is nothing we can do but go with the flow. 

my eyes droop (close the news).
books are seas and oceans of text that they 
need hours and hours of deep slumber 
before they can begin to navigate. 

As the number of those infected continues to rise, I realise how messed up the concept of zombies really is. The basic premise of any zombie story says that the infected must be disowned or defeated because they’re not like you and me anymore––they’re one of ‘them’, the monsters with no remorse, the undead with no memories of their past lives. And they’re now coming for us. If you try and care for them, attempt to bring them back to their old selves, you’ll inevitably end up becoming a monster yourself. Real-life, however, is slightly different. In real life, the infected aren’t villains to be ostracised or publicly humiliated, but patients to be cared for and treated back to full health. Of course, we must hold to account those who flout guidelines at the risk of public health, but there is no visible, tangible enemy we can take up arms against––none other than the virus itself. 

While this might sound like common sense to some, it is a far more complex matter. Look at what’s happening around the world: as world leaders either fail to identify the threat of the disease and react in time, or push for (once again) well-meaning but disturbingly hollow and ill-planned gestures of gratitude and unity in place of real action, the public scrambles for targets. Be it racism against Asians and North-East Indians whose only ‘crime’ is ‘looking Chinese’, or rampant hatred against any and all Muslims due to the coronavirus outbreak caused by the Nizamuddin congregation, the targets are the usual suspects with new excuses. Oh, and there’s a new addition to the list––doctors who choose to venture out to hospitals to treat COVID-19 positive patients! In a time of great difficulty, where humanity is asked to stand together even while apart, reflect upon and reconsider our ways, why do we instead choose to divide ourselves into us vs them? The zombies and the humans? 

Perhaps, it’s because we have never been taught how to do anything else. Not by our parents, not by our teachers, and definitely not by our political leaders. 

images bombard me––pleas, cries, calls
for help from a thousand miles away 
and loud whispers right below my balcony
oh, good earth, what day is it, what hellish hour?

The novel coronavirus pandemic isn’t just one crisis, but a wake-up call––should we choose to pay heed to it––to look at the many crises, both big and small, that plague our society. It is a public health crisis and a crisis of governmental inefficacy, showing simply how low the well-being of all people, and disease and disaster-preparedness, are on our list of priorities. It is a crisis of the ever-widening inequalities between the uber-rich, jet-setting around the world and hiding in the shelter of their sprawling mansions, and the chronic poor, who cannot afford social distancing when the physical distance between their homes is barely a few feet. It is a crisis of not just hate, but also of apathy––after all, thousands of people live from one crisis to another on a daily basis and millions die from contagious diseases every year, but we demand action now because this pandemic personally threatens us. 

It is an existential crisis. First, the ribbon enclosing our gift to future generations, two intertwined questions: “What were we doing spending every waking moment of our (pre-corona) lives chasing material success and development by exploiting nature? Why were we stressing over exams and jobs that are so easily branded ‘non-essential’ by exploiting our mind and bodies?” 

Then, the gift itself: extreme temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels. The Climate Crisis. 

The pandemic is exposing fissures at all levels, from individual priorities, to public health-care systems, to administrations the world over, to international organisations meant to keep countries in check.

Whether you are a member of the emotionally numb yet hyper-functional group of people who are cooking, cleaning, exercising, reading, studying, learning languages, filming videos, writing books, setting world records, giving free personal development advice to others on social media, etc, or the emotionally numb group convincing themselves that their lack of motivation amidst a global pandemic is completely justified: these are crises whose presence we all must acknowledge, leading or rallying behind those fighting for an equitable, just, and sustainable future for our world––a vision that must extend far beyond returning to normalcy after this passes. 

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

 

Stay safe and stay home,
Ananya

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