I came across this poem a few days ago and there’s no known author that I could find to give credit. But this poem is beautifully reflecting on the present situation or crisis that the whole world is experiencing. Some of us have many privileges. We have to understand this and empathize with those who don’t.
I heard that we are all in the same boat.
But it’s not like that.
We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.
Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be.
Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal: a moment of reflection, or reconnection.
Easy in flip flops, with whisky or tea.
For others, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.
For others, it is facing loneliness.
For some, peace, rest time, vacation.
Yet for others, torture: How am I going to pay my bills?
So, friends, we are not in the same boat.
We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
And each one of us will emerge, in their own way, from that storm.
It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance.
Not just looking, more than looking, actually seeing.
Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other.
We are all on different ships during this storm, looking to survive.
Experiencing a very different journey
Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.
Some are earning good money without doing so much and working from home. While others are working more hours for less money, due to pay cuts, loss in commissioned sales, or fear of losing the job.
A large section of our country, about 90%, works in the informal sector. This sector does not provide any kind of benefits to their employees, whether it is social security or health insurance. This is the story of every middle-class house that lives in cities and has a job or runs a small shop. They get the salary or income in the bracket of Rs. 8,000-12,000 more or less a month. Because of the lockdown, several businesses have been damaged, many people have been fired from their jobs, many are going to work but they are not getting their full salaries.
Despite the economic crisis, the middle class is trying to do everything possible to maintain their dignity in the society. Amidst the lockdown, they have to pay for their child’s school fee, the EMI bills, the house rent, etc. Their income has been reduced or stopped but their expenses remain intact. They can survive but for how long, and at what cost.
The situation of farmers in our country was already bad, even before Covid-19 and it has been worsened by this lockdown. For the small farmers, the dilemma is whether to invest the saved money in farming or use it for sustenance of the family. Because it takes time to prepare the crops, along with incurring the cost of cultivation. They have to wait for 4-5 months to see the results during the harvesting season. All this is even more uncertain now.
A lot of people want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and cannot afford it. They are running out of money. And then there are those who have secured jobs as they beat and kill the ones who break the quarantine rules.
The hardworking labourers of the country who earn just enough to eat that day, are counting days because every day is much harder than the previous one. They may have thought that the lockdown is a matter of a few days and then the situation will improve but it has not happened. It has deteriorated abnormally. Hunger has become their primary concern. When they are struggling from meal to meal, they don’t see many options to stay positive but to be with their family. For many, it may mean walking or cycling hundreds of kilometers in this unbearable heat. While some are disgracing those who are helpless, judging their situation is really inhuman.
Many parents at home are spending two to three hours a day to help their child with online schooling while others are doing the same along with a 10-12 hours workday.
Thousands of students are away from their homes but suddenly everything has stopped because of this Covid-19 lockdown. The college and the universities are closed but the fees is being charged. Many of these students have the burden of education loans on their heads. They are worried about getting a job in these uncertain times where millions are losing their jobs. They are concerned about what their future will look like. While others who are working in the government sector feel a bit relaxed because of their secured employment.
Some have had a near-death experience due to the virus, some have already lost someone due to this pandemic and many are anxious whether they and their loved ones are going to make it. There are still people who don’t believe this is a big deal.
What about those who are constantly battling another battle? For example, the LGBTQ+ community. Our society has already deprived them of many rights. How challenging would it be for them to suffer this economic crunch along with finding dignified spaces for themselves? Many queer and transgender people are now forced to live at homes which are not physically and mentally safe for them. The violence and abuse has increased. Some are busy in the social media influence argument to prove their point and even making harsh remarks on others.
“We are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.”
Some of us have faith in God and expect miracles this year. Others say that the worst is yet to come. People are really busy telling other people how they should be experiencing this pandemic. I don’t believe they are stopping to think that not everyone is in the same boat.
Some are dismissing those who don’t come out of the crisis with a new skill, those who don’t have their lives completely organized, or those who aren’t the healthiest they’ve ever been. Some of these people are lonely and helpless, and though they understand the intensity of the storm we’re all facing, they’re doing what needs to be done and counting the days to be better again.
There’s nothing wrong with either set of people. We have to understand that before telling someone what they should or should not be accomplishing during this time of social distancing, we need to take a moment and think that others may be going through a different reality. It’s only with the support and understanding of our fellow human beings, we can all cross to the other side in more kind, gentle, and human ways.