COLUMNS

Column: Our adaption holds promise for a post-pandemic world

Staff Writer
The Columbus Dispatch
Padma Sastry, Guest columnist

“Social distancing,” “Socially isolated,” “Unprecedented times,” “Alone but together,” “Stay home; stay safe,” “Socially connected,” “New normal.”

Just a few of many sound bytes that are currently streaming across our conscious world for the past several weeks that will warrant their places in our dictionary in the future, rightfully. As of a few months ago, it was a normal world. That is, a world where most of us went about our regular lives — at work, at home and in between.

Until a tiny little virus got into our society, our human society. The coronavirus, known for causing the disease COVID-19, has brought about a change like nothing we seemingly have ever experienced before, in a world that over 6 billion human beings call home. Here we are in the wake of the 21st century amid a pandemic that has sickened millions coupled with many thousands of fatalities. Until we show the virus a suitable and permanent egress, mere numbers of human mortality tell us it is here to stay for an undetermined time.

The adage “necessity is the mother of invention” has never proved more true than now, as changes beyond anyone’s imagination have sprung up. When the critically necessary masks for medical personnel ran out of supply, reinventing sterilization of the masks proved a clear win, fast. Vaccines that traditionally consumed years to develop are rushing at an unfathomable speed of promise to effectively destroy the virus. Medical care through virtual telemedicine is burgeoning in the hope of coupling timeliness with attention. Medicines morphing out of existing ones for other known ailments are offering more promise for the near future.

In order to abide by the rightfully mandated physical distancing, work has become more portable than ever. Digital channels have innovated to an extent that workplaces seem closer together in virtual spaces. Food, an innate human need, has filled the lack of traditional restaurants during this isolated time into innovative delivery straits.

Learning in a traditional sense of a brick and mortar university and school campuses is now abuzz with digital channels running full. In homes, dining tables are claiming their right beyond holding food with lessons on laptops. Libraries are ever more piling up on reading material in bytes rather than paper. One who could not imagine a physical workout without being in a gym or studio is now training as much or perhaps more in the virtual universe.

Times could not seem harder and more exhausting for the world now. Despair appears to have settled into its home in this world. There has been no other time when hope, the sole elixir, has been so relied upon. That a pandemic seemingly wants us to believe that it is holding us hostage has only made our own human efforts much stronger in eradicating it.

Perhaps our work at home becomes no more a privilege but a more productive option for many trades. Perhaps we as a citizenry will strike the right balance between individual liberties and collective responsibility toward a path to survival. Perhaps we will relearn to enjoy the calm environment and actually hear the bird songs. Perhaps we think twice about clean air before planning that next airline trip. Perhaps we think about our “needs” before we feed our “wants.” Perhaps this universal reset was inevitable and we react responsibly, transcending the feelings of anger, cynicism and divided opinions on solutions.

Many years ago, Charles Dickens penned: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” and now is the time for us to believe that the worst will not only be over, but we win as a human world.

Padma Sastry, a native of Dublin, started her career at Bell Labs, developing innovative wireless telecommunications products, including 3G wireless systems. She also serves as adjunct faculty at Ohio State and Franklin universities. Her views here are her own.