• Abhijit Das

Is pushing through the pandemic resetting our sense of nearness?



If your friends, colleagues or relatives thought of you as ‘socially distanced’ before the ‘social distancing’ times and you accepted it, the COVID times might have shown you a different side of you. I for one, did realize that I am not as socially distanced as people would let me believe. As ‘social distancing’ lingered longer than I had expected, I found myself and my near-and-dear ones adapting to the ‘nearness’ behind screens, behind masks, voice and delivery boxes.


Some of us were doing it grudgingly while others, quite sportingly. And as we kept pushing through the pandemic, we continued to find more and more reasons to settle down peacefully with this new found sense of ‘nearness’. In fact most of us did more of it, within a closer circle of people and affairs, getting nearer more often and we got nearer in the way how we even viewed the world and interacted with it. Now we could see what the other could see, despite generation gaps, age gaps, technology hesitation and so many silly, but significant differences.


Convenience of screen shopping and cashless transactions finally appealed to the stubborn. My dad, who couldn’t be convinced that freshness, fairness and immediacy could be faithfully delivered to the doorstep – for anything and everything, viewed the matter reassuringly. He accepts it now and compensates his previous ritual of going out, with a walk on the terrace, a peek from the balcony and windows – for some fresh air, for some me time and most importantly the need to feel the crowd and the community around him. As for my mother though, her prayer outings grudgingly went on from sitting ‘socially distanced’ in a public park instead of gathering in a prayer room to Zoom-in. My sister, a teacher, is now happily running remote classes over GMeet.


The pros outweigh the cons. My mother who actively denied the entry of gadgets into her life, learnt to let her fingers run on the iPad. Now she routinely connects with her long-lost college friends and enjoys ‘whatsapp’ calls, text messages and video greetings and forwards some to me as well. I am so glad. Before COVID, both my parents got over my excitement of installing the home security camera in less than two months of me leaving the shores. They simply weren't motivated to recharge the cameras every few days. But they didn't mind watering the plants, or visiting the market for greens, every day.


I get it. The habit of connecting with the external world with a wave, a word and a walk meant convenience to them, for over six decades, until one day, it didn’t. It became life threatening, irresponsible, indulgent, selfish – the qualities which they do not accept and allow, ever. But what happens next? When things return to normal? I mean really normal – maybe in a year or two? Would they be motivated to move back to their old rituals of convenience or would they view it as unnecessary? I am betting they would move on.


Financial restraints in the context of job losses, pay cuts, price rises and a general gloomy economic outlook for years to come has been a great enabler too. The idea of abundance, leverage and liquidity we lived with suddenly took a turn which sort of led us back to the common sense which we had grown up with, which is the conscious distinction between the essential and the extravagant. COVID has re-has pulled that line out of the blur. The best part is that once again generations came together other over a similar language regarding finances and spending, after decades of getting along with the blur. Surprisingly, even the millennials and the centennials in the family chimed in. For the first time, they were allowed ‘adulting’ - more like a part to play than just an act or play. Here again pros outweighed the cons.


Locality which we meant in the sense of reach and physical distance/periphery is evolving into a sense of 'outreach' and digital distance/periphery. Work, School, College, Training, Coaching, Socializing, Marriages coalesced within the boundaries of our choosing - within, and to grow out from.

Unprecedented doesn’t cut it. Not anymore. Something has turning inside of us all for the better.


Are you experiencing the new co-ordinates of ‘nearness’ too? Do you feel it could transform our sense of the real, relationship, reciprocity, trust and locality?


I could see that the COVID impact has put a lot of us on the same page, more or less, on many matters. It is pushing us constantly towards a diverse world NOT a divided world, unless you choose to view it that way. It is also enabling us to deal with similar tools at our disposal – but with a newfound nearness.


Do you see what we see?


© 2020 Narrativ.Design. All rights reserved. The author is the founder of Narrativ.Design. He has worked in various strategic roles across Asia, on local and global brands for over 15 years. He is fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English. You can reach him at authors@narrativ.design. Image: ©Pathfinderabhi


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