Before we were put into this lockdown here in Malaysia, I imagined us to be like orbiting planets in the vast solar system of our life. My husband, son and myself, revolving around the center of our home on varying paths. It was only on weekends that the gravitational pull of our living room couch would force us to break away from our celestial journeys and behave rather un-planetary. We would find ourselves zigzagging and colliding into each other before eventually being sucked into the depths of our couch.

Now, everyday feels like the weekend. Time has altered, routines have changed and some of our old habits have become inconveniences. Our incessant need of being somewhere out there is now limited to the boundaries of our house. As we dangle from our high-rise apartment in Kuala Lumpur, we are feeling less and less like our former, glorious planetary selves and more and more like astronauts cramped inside their orbital stations. Like them, we seem to be living our whole life’s schedules inside the confines of this vessel. Our lobby has turned into a running track, our dining table is now an office, our kitchen counter serves food and doubles as an art studio with the ability to triple into a ping pong table, when the need arises. The bathtub is now an indoor pool and the bedroom walls are quickly filling up with landscape paintings reminding us of the wonders of our faraway planet.

But apart from the changes to our space, we are watching our lives transform. We feel lucky to be spared by the wrath of this epidemic so far, but the forced quarantine is teaching us some invaluable lessons. We are learning to make do with less and our old habits of consumption now seem unnecessary and excessive. Roles within the household have also transformed, becoming more fluid. The onus of keeping this ship afloat, cannot rest on the shoulders of one member nor can the avenues of growth be awarded only to another. There is huge human potential in each of us beyond the limits of our current job descriptions. Can we challenge ourselves to redefine our roles in the context of our families and also in that of our larger community? Can we begin to lean in more on each other for support and stretch our abilities in ways we never thought possible? Knowing that the solutions to our problems cannot come from someone or something outside of this unit, but from within. It seems that each one of us needs to forge forward with agency to bring about change in our personal, professional and communal lives. How long are we to wait for the world to be better, when we seem to be unchanged for so long.

I hope our quarantine stories are not limited to boredom and temporary inconveniences, but are also about a time for incubating ideas of change. We also have to demand this change from those in power. We need to elect better officials, rework our healthcare systems and our expectations of economic growth. We need to find more creative and sustainable solutions that work even in the face of such epidemics. We have to harshly assess our collective misbehaviors of plundering through our planet with haste and disregard, while putting personal greed above the systematic building of a society. We have to admit to the fragility of our lives and crumbling systems on which they rest. We have to acknowledge that we are in this together, as ONE LARGE human family and that our future actions will decide the continuity of our race on this planet.

Just as we need all hands on deck in the house, we need all of the scientists, engineers, doctors, executives, artists, teachers, mothers, fathers and human beings of this world, to join in this transformation of thought and action. We have to use our respective fields of expertise and positions of influence to innovate and support a better way of life. We have to teach our children through example to give back, to live with purpose, to tolerate, and even to love. We have to above all, resist our urge to regress into greed and hatred. As that is a worse quarantine than the one we are in right now. It is not until our minds are un-quarantined of these harmful ideas that our physical bodies can truly be free.

Each night, as we stare out at the flickering lights of our neighborhood, we wonder if all these fellow travelers around us are also stumbling onto such ideas. Because if they are, then there is hope that the change we have agreed to make in our little spaceships, can one day have an echo so loud, that we as a people, can finally hear the promise of a better tomorrow.

Bon Voyage! Hope we see each other on the other side.

Courtesy: Sukhada Gokhale

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