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Destination new normal: Life before and after the pandemic

Our lives are now divided into two phases: the pre-Covid and post-Covid era

By Malavika Varadan

Published: Fri 1 Apr 2022, 8:50 PM

It’s been two years since the first Covid lockdown. Two years that feel, simultaneously, like two days and two decades. Earlier this week, I was signing a cheque and, unthinkingly, scribbled March 2020 as the date. “Where did the two years go?” I thought to myself.

Our lives are now divided into two phases: the pre-Covid and post-Covid era. While things seem to be ‘back’ (whatever that means) , it still feels like there is a part of us that has changed for ever.

To me, the most obvious change has been the way we use our words — the way we learnt new ones and rediscovered some of our favourites. Here are some of the words that mean pandemic to me.

Alarms: Do you remember those loud noises our phones would make at curfew time every evening? Having us jump out of our seats wherever we were? The sounds of the ambulances echoing through the streets during the early days?

Boosters: Remember the times we prayed for a vaccine, then got one, then got another, and another?

Deserted: The empty streets of New York, Paris, Mumbai and Dubai.

Efficacy: I didn’t know this word until 2020. And no one I knew had used it.

First wave: I remember hearing this phrase and thinking about how you always think you are the only wave until the first, second waves come along. It’s a bit like being the first at anything.

Groceries: Remember the time that going for a walk to buy groceries was the absolute highpoint of the day, and you had to get permission to do it? Whoever thought buying onions would feel this liberating?

Home: The place we rediscovered during Covid. Who would have thought that home would mean so much?

Isolation: We fantasised about it, but until it happened we didn’t realise how much we actually ‘liked’ social interactions.

Masks: Those strips of blue and black that have now become so commonplace but were once reserved for doctors and stars of medical dramas.

New normal: Is it finally here? Destination New Normal?

Outbreak: Also, the times we imagined what it might be like to break through the walls of the house amid lockdown.

Pandemic. I can’t remember a single time I used this word before 2020.

Sanitise: Sanitise hands, door handle, surface, groceries, then hands again. Wait, did we get that order right?

Teams, Zoom and Google Meets: How did we ever live without you?

Work from home: The greatest lie of the 21st century: a combination of work and home that gives you neither the pleasure of home, nor the productivity of work.

Coronavirus brought with it grief, loss and plenty of time to reflect and realign and two years later, I can safely say I don’t think I’d ever like to see it again. But, to quote an American rockstar “It ain’t over till it’s over.”


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