|Source: Open source Internet|
My sister and I share a love for Mandopop songs since young, such as those from Taiwanese rock band May Day, singers Cheer Chen and Rene Liu. From time to time, she would enthusiastically invite me to 'chase idols' (loosely translated from Mandarin) and attend their concerts together. But each time, I declined the sisterly offers. For I am one to shy away from suffocating crowds and have vowed to her that I will never pay to jostle with people of passion on a weekend just to sing along with my idols, however loved they are in my hearts. "Let me know," I once declared brazenly, "the day when they will hold a private concert just for me. I will watch that concert with you then".
In the present pandemic times when the world has upended and many things once unthinkable now become possible, that has happened. During the past few weeks, musicians and singers from all over the world who knew that music has the power to heal, generously held live-streamed concerts on FaceBook. I can now
watch a concert from the comforts of my home, and for free. Two weeks ago, my sister and I enjoyed our private concert with Rene Liu for 2 hours on Facebook Live together, my sister in her home and me in mine, our hearts brimming with gratitude for a dream that came true.
We are living in a world with a veneer that looks vastly different from the pre-covid times.
It's almost surreal that so much can happen within a span of three to four months. Amidst the tremendous suffering, deaths and anguish that the pandemic has caused alongside the ugly (xenophobia, racism, and mud-slinging of the political types), there are the silver linings too.
For one, with lockdowns happening in so many countries and industries grinding to a halt, the natural ecosystem can finally heal itself. Pollution all over the world has plunged big time. The Yamuna River that flows across several states in India has never seen bluer skies and clearer waters ever before.
|Yamuna River in Delhi (pre-covid and post-covid times)|
In Thailand with tourist numbers to their famed beaches collapsing, wildlife is claiming back what was once their space. A beach in Phanga Nga district saw newly-hatched babies of the rare leatherback sea turtles for the first time after two decades.
|Nests of the rare leatherback turtles discovered in a beach in Thailand|
On the last day before school closed in early April for the one-month long circuit breaker, the mood in class was low as many were not looking forward to school closure. It prompted me to start a topic of discussion with my thirteen-year-olds.
"Is there anything that we can thank Covid-19 for?"
As the question went onto the whiteboard, many gave quizzical looks. "Why should we thank Covid-19?" they asked.
For sure, it doesn't mean the pandemic is a good thing. We would never have wanted so much sufferings and deaths in this world and it would have been better if it hasn't happened.
Yet it is with covid-19 that the world was compelled to collectively hit the pause button. This breather forced upon us allowed us to reflect and rethink the typical ways of doing things, especially those that have been harming the health of the planet and that of the individual.
It is in such times of crisis that we learn to "suffer well", Emily Esfahani Smith puts it, in her New York Times article.
By choosing to focus on the good that comes out of these troubling times, Smith describes, we cultivate resilience as we learn to recognise meaning and hope.
In a perverse way, there is something to thank covid-19 for. For the simple fact that it gives the world the chance to stand united against a common enemy. We can only hope that this remembrance of the power of synergy stays even when the virus is long gone.
World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusm said in a speech captured in a video shared across numerous social media platforms: "Covid-19 is taking away so much from us. But it's also giving us something special -- the opportunity to come together as one humanity to work together, to learn together, to grow together."
Like the ubiquitous bright pink bougainvilleas that dotted many parts of Singapore, wells of kindness sprout out and manifest itself in different forms all over the island during this pandemic. I learnt there are two young hawkers going by the moniker "Beng Who Cooks"
who started cooking for free at their stall at Hong Lim Market and Food Centre. No explanations are needed when you need their food. There are my colleagues who are similarly grappling with how to engage their students in the virtual space in the next 1 month but who spent valuable time teaching me, the techno-dinosaur, how to get a handle on Zoom the video-conferencing tool, the Student Learning Space and a whole host of other technology tools which I have never heard of before the pandemic happened. Like the bougainvilleas which bloom even more aggressively the hotter the weather is, goodwill swells when the going gets tough.
These days with everyone on the street wearing the same look (that of a half-bandaged face), I see less,
having little non-verbal cues such as facial expressions to rely on. It takes a tad longer time now to understand another and forces me to slow down in my interactions with people. Yet it is also in slowing down that I am compelled to look at the other in the eye, and notice that pair of kind, smiling eyes framed by creased folds of skins peeking from above the face-mask. I hope I did an equally fine job smiling back with my eyes.
When life is pared down to the minimal, we notice more. Like that lively eye-catching green in the bushes stretching this side of the road compared to the next road during a walk outside my house -- why haven't I noticed that before?
My students may look back 10 years down the road and remember those extraordinary times when they cannot go to school. I hope they will also remember then that the confines of home bear no limit on the human touch as their teachers fumble to find the ideal methods to reach out and touch base with them, in the way that we know how.
Keep well everyone, and let us continue to learn to smile with our eyes.