Maybe all we need is a simple life
Recently saw a web series named “Panchayat”. It was about a young man taking up a village administrator job and struggling to adapt to the ways of life there. It reflected on the myths and misfortunes that surrounded the habitat in a small place, far away from the urban city life (where people don’t have the time to live like this). He fights for basic amenities and essentials of an urban life like electricity, furniture, eating out, night life and socialising. Even alcohol was difficult to find and there was a service charge on top of the MRP (Surprisingly similar to the Corona fee imposed on liquor by our state governments). The series could not be timed more aptly as that life has now become the reality of all of us, no matter where we live.
Just as the boy struggled to love the village and embrace its life, many of us are also quite frustrated sitting at home and living the “essential” life. Every fortnight, we await the PM’s address or the MHA’s order for relaxation of the lockdown but to no avail. Just like the protagonist of the series, we find it hard to live this life, day in and day out, for more than 40 odd days (and minimum for 2 months) yet we really don’t complain out loud, do we? But is this life really bad? Do we really need things that this life has stopped offering? Going out is one thing which is a big miss but with relaxations in lockdown 3.0, we can visit our friends and family in the same city. What we really can’t get our hands on are luxury goods or non essential goods. The discussions have also changed in the house now. They are no longer about the next holiday or birthday gifts or celebratory shopping. Groceries, house cleaning, board games and nowadays liquor are things of interest to us. The Ganga river near Haridwar has become so clean that the water has become drinkable in 30 years (Do we really need water purifiers if the nature is nurtured?). Take streaming services and our laptops away from us and we will be right in the middle of that village life. Eating at home, staying indoors after dark, drinking from a well or a pond (read clean Ganga water) and spending more time with our families/socialising indoors. People are now taking up cooking, reading, practising dance and photography (and some like me are even writing). In our normal lives, we didn’t have time for these but yet everyone wanted time for these. Another striking observation of this lockdown is that only those states or cities (especially in India) are faring much better in the fight with this virus which are less urban and more closer to nature. Where Industrialisation hasn’t bombarded their lives. The fatality of this virus is also quite less in those areas (But is it really surprising?).
Many people accumulated vast sums of wealths, have 2–3 homes, undertake periodic foreign vacations, purchase branded clothing, accessories and luxury cars because they have excess money and it makes them feel good that they can buy things which 90% of our population can’t. Imagine a less unequal India (currently our Gini Coefficient is more than 35, having tripled in the last 3 decades), had job losses and people dying of hunger been this rampant? After all wealth doesn’t get created as much as it gets redistributed. What the current situation has done is that it has stopped the redistribution of wealth and that is why our economy is stuck! Some say that India’s “Below Poverty Line” population will again increase and all those people who were pushed above the poverty line in the last 3 decades will fall back in, post this pandemic. Reason? I think you would know better by now.
Maybe we will turn back to our usual lives where we won’t have time to halt and take a stock of things (until the nature forces us to do that again), once this is over. Though I wonder why a simple series like “Panchayat” became a raging success, if we are actually cravers for consumerism? Is it possible that deep inside we all crave for a simple life like that? That we are compelled to live a life full of things that we don’t need because we are constantly under the scanner from the society? And given the freedom, we would choose a much simple and carefree life? Maybe all of this is too philosophical but I have heard many film analysts who suggest that the cinema of any era is a reflection of the society of that era (There is a reason why we prefer to watch slice of life movies these days and have made Ayushman Khurana so popular). If that is true, maybe all of us do crave a simpler life and maybe that is why this lockdown has not made us chaotic and disturbed as we may seem but we all have found our little joys in this time and if given a chance we would like to lead a life coexisting with nature.