Being zen about Zoom

In my back yard is an aging apple tree. Moss cloaked and bare, unlikely again to bear its seasonal crop of the green succulents. The last time my children and I picked a juicy ripe one was before my youngest got married under its shade.

In its time, it has blessed three unions under the sunshine of different summers, accommodated countless encroachments on its branches during birthday barbecues and withstood the assault of harsh winters and the insult of our benign neglect.

Of course, it has grown older and resigned to its fate in the 26 years since we first set eyes on it. The past two weeks, I have looked at it more and more, during my evening ambles around the perimeter of our garden. I have stretched my fingers to touch and pause over its weather beaten bark, for I find something soothing and wise in its silence -- an ancient assurance in its stoop of solitude. I need a lot of that, these days.

Diary of a soul in semi-lockdown, Tashi T Sherpa

Of recent, much as I want to look at the glass as half full, the grim reality of our worsening pandemic forces a damning realisation that we are literally living in the worst of times. There is nowhere to escape to, no Shangrila of safety. The only possible path to our emancipation lies in a retreat to our own corner. And staying there.

In the ensuing weeks since the first numbers trickled in, we have seen our mighty nation state buckling fatally, hopelessly out of sync, and woefully under prepared. With the onslaught in full vicious mode, words like apocalypse and end-of-days have entered our daily discourse. The once vaunted trope of our civic supremacy is being battered by our inability to stem the spread or beat the scourge into submission. Massive death tolls are recorded in most cities across the US. We do not need to believe it because the evidence is being hammered into our consciousness from New York’s daily tally of tragedy.

Meanwhile, hope for better days comes, not from some miracle cure or a vaccine but from examples of wise crisis governance, proactive and efficient response systems elsewhere. The rapid ability to group together in a singular mission, the agile harnessing of technology for the hour and a cohesive unity in approach for solutions come from the tiny Asian country of Taiwan and its neighbours of South Korea and Singapore.

Lessons in saving lives and the strictures implemented, that we could have learnt from and adopted were ignored in the hubris of wilful ignorance and know it all narcissism. We missed our chance and how dearly we are all paying for this. It is intolerable that we missed the signs, but even more galling is that the chaos and self-serving tactics still prevail within the highest levels. But more on that for another day.

The increasing immediacy and painful spike of daily deaths is now numbing our collective minds to read them as statistical blips. The US has already crossed the benchmark of having the highest number of cases and it is growing exponentially by the day. Each day’s announcement portends more ominous days ahead. When will it end? And even more poignantly, how will it end for all of us?

If there are any heroes in this infernal scenario, it has to be the battered health care workers  Without exception, we are filled with unabashed, unbiased admiration and sympathy for all those unsung sentinels of health, the ones in the fearful frontline against the venomous assault of the virus.

While we remain safely but grudgingly ensconced in our self-imposed isolation, someone’s sister, daughter, friend, brother, son, father, mother is in the hospitals and makeshift triages, in a never ending mortal combat against an omnipotent invisible enemy. How do you fight a legion that swoops in like unseen mist?

But enough of morbid talk and more about the new normal. Our three weeks of self-quarantine have now segued into Day 27. Weekdays have lost their primacy, work no longer seems demandingly urgent, and lazy PJ mornings are no longer just the purview of our weekend. My work outfit is the same as my walking gear which is the same as the heather knit sleepwear on which I spilt my breakfast tchampa. For me, sweat pant grey is the new black.

Home work during the lockdown, Saniaa Shah

Time is of the essence they say. And by the way, who is ‘they’? Regardless, I have plenty of that essence now and then some to spare. For someone who once blew a gasket when the office didn’t get populated at the stroke of 8.55am, I’ve become pretty zen about Zoom meetings at 11.30am. It’s must be a revelation to my youthful team of digital diligents that the old man has to be reminded twice via texts that the meeting is to start.

So without further ado, I zoom in. Sorry, that pun was just waiting.

Tashi T Sherpa is Creative Director and CEO of Khangri Sourcing based in Seattle.