Looking back

Posted by Team LV

The year 2020 will go down in the annals of history. It is not just history but every discipline whether it is science or philosophy, psychology or sociology, economics or literature, will have pages and books dedicated to this era.

Along with the pain and suffering that almost every individual went through in 2020, there have been moments of affirmation, hope and altruism, that has renewed our faith in humanity. Lockdown Voices took this opportunity to acknowledge and salute the triumph of the human spirit. Confronted with situations impossible and difficulties unsurmountable, the human mind, body and spirit has displayed unprecedented grit, courage and ingenuity. This is evident in the invention of a wide range of approved COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year since the disease first originated in China, while vaccines historically have taken decades of research.

All through last year, Lockdown Voices shared diverse lived-in experiences from across India. With the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, many lost their livelihood, became roofless and food-less overnight. It was then that the human will power, and enduring capacity of the physical body was put to test. We received stories and short films (April 2020 , The girl in pink frock) documenting the migration of the invisible masses, the largest one since partition. While the apathy of the government stared on the face as gaping wounds, it opened hearts of many an unknown, good Samaritan who distributed food and even gave shelter to these helpless migrants.

The feeling and bond of togetherness grew stronger beyond family and friends during the pandemic. Lockdown Voices shared instances during Amphan in Sunderbans and the floods in the North East, when local communities and organisations consolidated their resources and energies to brave the challenges and roadblocks that natural calamity along with lockdown posed for them.

The kind and kindred spirit of humanity shone brightly through the dark hours of the pandemic. Women stood by women. Together, they strived, supported each other, making masks for the rural community in our last post A hundred thousand masks and the entire city of Bhopal in a much earlier Sisters for safety.

With lockdown, everyone was at home with little choice. The routine went for a toss for almost everyone across society. While some families united happily, for many it was tormenting. In Winds of change, one learnt of the mental health and domestic violence issues that cropped up for large families stuck in tiny homes in slums like Dharavi in Mumbai. Here too, the youth stepped out of these dark, cramped, impoverished spaces to don the role of change-makers, contributing to the welfare of their family and community. Again, it was in Dharavi with shutdown of liquor shops that an alcoholic father confined at home sobers with efforts of his son in Spring in monsoon. Rays of hope streamed in through smallest chinks in most unlikely homes.

The urban middle class with secure roofs over their heads missed going to gyms, shopping malls, cinema halls, restaurants, parties and every other place. With multiple devices, they went online for work, pleasure, entertainment, education and everything. Yet online did not come easy for everyone. The children were impacted as schools entered homes, classes became screens and playgrounds were spaces of the past. Education made the rich- poor divide more prominent. The children with easy access to online, lone devices faced challenges of isolation, anxiety and screen addiction in contrast to the less fortunate who had poor connectivity and a single device to share with the entire family. This compelled in many homes a single child to continue with education while other siblings naturally remained deprived. But all is not grim as evident in Back to school. In five districts of Bihar- Vaishali, Jamui, East Champaran, Rohtas and Sheohar- many school dropouts and child labour got the opportunity to learn through MV Foundation’s remedial classes.

Similarly, the ability stories in Lockdown Voices reveal that all is not lost in education and training of children and adults with disabilities. With closing of institutions, the parents and their children with disabilities were initially left in a lurch. Together, they struggled, coped with the situation and later with the help of  therapists and special educators, their lives and routines were streamlined. A beacon of light shines through in A child in Blessing! where the entire family lost all means of livelihood and survived on disability pension of their son with cerebral palsy.

Over the months, at Lockdown Voices, we have realised that penning down one’s own story has been cathartic for a caregiver, a cancer survivor, someone who has lost a dear one and even a person with mental health issues. It helps the writer find comfort and solace in the thought that there is a distant reader who silently empathises with his or her challenges. A quiet bond of camaraderie develops between the writer and reader. We have learnt that helping people need not always be in cash or kind. It can simply be an act of reading or listening to their challenges and needs.

On 24th April 2020, a month into lockdown, we went live with our first post. For the first two months, we posted a story every day. Now, we continue with weekly posts and are close to one hundred stories. In the months gone, we broadly covered stories from Kashmir in the North to Kerala in the South, Gujrat in the West to Nagaland in the East. Today, we are fortunate to have readers from more than 70 countries across the globe. We will strive to share unique experiences with our readers as long as there are willing contributors.

We express our deepest gratitude to our contributors as well readers and wish everyone a happy and fulfilling 2021.

Cover image: Junto

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