As we all stay at home, we realise that the life we live today has an uncanny resemblance to the life that monks, more commonly the Buddha who preached others to live, lived. No, they didn’t encourage people to always stay indoors and practise social distancing, but subtly they embody the teachings of the Buddha. Much against our wishes and ‘normal’ way of life, we have been compelled to let go of our attachment to material goods, especially those associated with indulgence. Whether it be shopping for extra fancy clothes or unnecessarily shopping online out of boredom — these luxuries are (for a brief period) unavailable to us and have made a life of simplicity and minimalism inevitable.
This leads to a pertinent question that I now ask myself: just like the Buddha, whose first step to enlightenment was the surrendering of all his materialistic possessions, will our ‘unfortunate’ circumstances pave a new path for humanity? Or when Covid-19 eventually meets its end, will we go back to our own shallow, selfish way of life? For the sake of maintaining my sanity amid the world that’s currently struggling for stability, I want to believe that the former school of thought shall prevail.
While the Buddha did provide us with a solution for optimum happiness in life, it is one that is extremely difficult to follow in the profit-driven world of the 21st century. (Photo: Reuters)
In this day and age where watching a movie in a theatre or going out for a meal at a restaurant is commonplace, so that people can meet and derive satisfaction from these experiences, a world without weekly or fortnightly visits to the mall or a restaurant almost seems impossible. I feel that this fear — related to whether things will ever normalise — can be seen through different lenses. While some people ruminate over the number of days they haven’t seen their kitty, others also have a reason to lose sleep over this very matter. Not because they miss the company of that kitty, but because seeing that kitty on a monthly basis is what ensures money in their pockets. In other words, it can be said that the incomes of the people engaged in retail and hospitality services are determined by us, the consumers.
This leads to the thought: can we actually afford to give up this decadent way of life? Has Covid-19 made the task of giving up the sin of materialism so easy that once malls and cinemas re-open with no cases being reported, we will all reduce our frequency of visits to these places? I think not. While the Buddha did provide us with a solution for optimum happiness in life, it is one that is extremely difficult to follow in this profit-driven world of the 21st century.
Will we reduce our frequency of visits to the malls and cinemas once they reopen? I think not. (File photo: Reuters)
The lockdown has provided us time to reflect and carefully assess our level of dependency and how much retail and hospitality services we want because let’s admit it, most of the times the reason we are tempted to make such indulgences is that they’re so easily available to us. The fact that we can book a ticket or make a restaurant reservation at the click of a button perpetuates a cycle of habit that we are unable to quit. Now when that isn’t possible, we have either discovered ways to do without some of them or we have developed an even greater thirst for them. For example, while some people have found that they actually like sitting at home in an improvised movie hall with Act-II popcorn and quite enjoy the feeling, others are tired of getting into family feuds over what movies to watch and cannot wait for movie halls to open where they can watch their choice in solitude. Like with every situation, there are no clear answers. Only time will tell whether consumers have had a change of heart toward their much-loved services.
However, one thing is certain. The global pandemic has laid a new and firmer emphasis on the need to practice social hygiene. In a country like India, which is teeming with people, the retail and hospitality services will now have to be responsible to ensure that everyone abides by their part in making sure that their casualness does not harm the health of another. I believe only that can guarantee their revival. Public and personal hygiene is a lesson that we must remember and follow for the rest of our lives. The virus is not a demon but a teacher which is telling us to learn from our hardships so we do not succumb to it in the future.