Wknd Special: Back to school in a different normal
Schools are opening next week. But this September, everything will be different.
'Back to school' read an advert on my Instagram feed this week. I squinted at the words on my screen. Back to school, already? How? I sat there counting and recounting the number of months between March and September. Have six months really gone by since the beginning of the pandemic? Six months? 180 days? 4,320 hours? Impossible. September was supposed to be the 'next year', the 'new beginning'. It can't be here already!
Time seems to have flown by, and yet, I distinctly remember sitting on my balcony watching my clock, at the peak of lockdown in mid-March, wondering how five minutes could feel like five days. What has the pandemic done to us, and our sense of time?
If you had told me in February that I would soon have six months of staying home, working remotely and accessing some of the greatest resources in the world, I would have started making a list. February Malavika would have told you that September Malavika would be a Spanish expert who could play the guitar, had successfully completed 10 Harvard online courses and read every single book on her shelf. Instead, I sit here congratulating myself on not having gone completely insane.
Schools are opening next week, and traditionally, in Dubai, this is marked as the week when malls are full, traffic jams begin to worsen and spending is at its peak. It's when we 'return' to work after our long weekends and summer breaks - with photo albums from holidays and stories to share. But this September, everything will be different.
I sense an anxiety in the air, not just about health concerns, but also about who we are and what we have become over these months. We aren't the same people we were when schools closed in mid-March. Our realities are different. While some of us would do anything to return to 'normalcy', many others are standing at the door, hesitant about saying that we simply don't feel like we want to be out again.
I look back at the calendar. It is, in fact, going to be September soon. Nothing any of us do can add hours to the clock. Or take days away. We may not be the people we were in March, but the world is not the same place either.
This is not poetic wisdom. It is scientific truth. Our bodies, our beings and our position in the universe has changed since one second ago. We are changing, all the time. Change is constant, pandemic or not. The best we can do is be aware, open and accepting of it.
Good luck, UAE. May we all find the wisdom to deal with the changes Covid has thrust upon us, and may we be accepting and empathetic to those changing around us. Happy Back to School!
Malavika Varadan, managing director, The Hive