Reflections on Pandemic Life

August 10, 2020 | By Muskan Shafat

From a very young age, my parents constantly stressed upon kindling a drive to seek good quality education.

I belong to a modest family in Kashmir, my father is an Engineer who sought his Masters degree from IIT Roorkee and my mother is an Economist who sought hers from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Growing up, they spent hours on nurturing my principles and contributing to my knowledge: from my father quizzing me on world capitals to my mother ensuring I could read and write prolifically in Urdu, Hindi, English and Arabic. However, their parenting went beyond the realms of academics, they highlighted values of being a good human being, which they have always considered to be the true essence of knowledge. During Parent Teacher Meetings, my mother would be one of the firsts to knock on my teachers’ door and the last one to leave, asking questions beyond the grades on my transcript, enquiring about my interests demonstrated in the many speeches and debates that I partook in and my strengths and weaknesses, as reflected in the leadership roles that I sought. Similarly, my father taught me giving by helping me understand the difference between ‘needing’ and ‘wanting’ toys and accessories, all the way back in middle school. My father made it a known practice to spend hours volunteering in non profits and orphanages, understanding the privilege I had to use it to empower the other and be grateful. However, what I cherish the most about their parenting is their contribution to making me take decisions and be independent from an early age. They ensured I was responsible for myself, not just my homework and my room but also my aspirations, dreams and choices.

As a result of such parenting, I delved deep within the bosom of poetry and politics. I enjoyed poetry of the likes of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Mohammad Iqbal but also Abdul Ahad Azad and Habba Khatoon. I outrightly critiqued and vehemently disagreed, respectfully, reasonably and factually when I found systems, leaders and philosophies to be weak or incorrect—and I have been known in school and at home for it.

Now, in my early 20s, when the world is at the behest of a pandemic, claiming thousands of lives every day, I think of social evils as they exist in our world today. I think of racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, islamophobia, injustice, economic and educational inequality. And, I can’t help but think that even though the world has together worked towards advancing in world literacy, we are still staggered because of lack of education. Education isn't just a college degree or two, it is your ideology, your principles, your ideals, your aspiration to think of creating bridges between communities, ethnicities, living beings; Education is listening and understanding; Education is agreeing to disagree, reasonably, factually and respectfully.

At the backdrop of the pandemic, as we are bound to stay at home and as a result spend more time than ever with our families and or friends—in person or over video calls, I hope we learn to reason and disagree more, I hope we engage in literature and experiences that yield true and complete education. As many vaccines are in trials and we might soon have a drug that could protect human beings from COVID-19, I hope we remember the services of those on the front lines who have put their lives on the fence throughout the past few months; I hope we learn, that all human being at our core, aspire for the same things—good health, a roof over our heads, education and love/respect.

I hope we begin appreciating and celebrating our similarities and differences as a species more than anything else.

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