From Kashmir to Italy- How Family Stories Bind Nations

Sovana is a small town in southern Tuscany, Italy

Global lockdown is providing a rare opportunity to reflect

Dr. Afroz Ahmad Shah

The story you are reading is about a small family that lives in rural Italy also under Covid-19 lockdown these days. Both parents are working in the government sector with father a cardiologist and mother a school teacher. Their two children are studying at a university. The elder son Marco is pursuing masters in archeology and is in his final year and Sofia, his younger sister is in 2nd year of her chemistry degree course.

The house where they are staying is located in a serene rural area with a very sparse population. The nearby mountains are standing tall with lush green forests in the background, and the village is a world-famous location for tourists that normally come to see the gushing rivers and a variety of flower gardens that are distributed all over the place.

Before the lockdown, the place was buzzing with global tourists but now the place is quiet as tourists had to leave due to restrictions. But amazingly in their absence, new guests are here: wildlife has started to replace the tourists, and that is amazing to watch. Rivers are cleaner with an abundance of birds and animals thriving on it. These scenes have completely changed this little town for good, and people are celebrating this new phase amidst all the sadness that virus disease has imposed on them.

The lockdown has forced offices and institutions to go online, and that is why children are now e-learning, and have few days per week of engagements with teachers where they have to furnish assignments and other related work of the week.

Dad is working as usual but mom is also working from home. However, Marco, who usually helps his family in home chores, is now spending more time on online games and chats with his friends, and that is what is annoying his parents. They are trying to counsel him that he needs to concentrate on his studies but nothing bothers him. The condition gets worst when his sister discovers that he sleeps very late and is mostly doing everything except studying! And now at home, he is not helping his family either as he spends most of his time online. Parents are now unable to understand what to do and are not in a position to send him to some other place because of lockdown.

Something strange happened and suddenly the internet stopped working. Now, Macro finds himself isolated and frustrated because he was addicted to the new routine of online interaction with friends and playing games. Suddenly everything has stalled. Now, there is nothing to do and his world has compressed to the four walls and three members of his family. Now he sleeps early and wakes up early. And slowly he has started to realise there is a lot to do and discover in this small world. He plays with his sister and helps his mother in the kitchen. He has started to turn pages of books that have accumulated dust in the cabinet. His dad reads history, philosophy apart from his medical literature. Mom is more into literature, and the sister is inclined to history and sociology. The books amazed him, and quickly he has discovered a new friend, his love for religious literature, philosophy, and history. Now, his interactions are revolving around the topics he reads, and his companions are his family members. Now the entire discourse in home language has changed and centered on topics that he discovers every day. The best friends are now in the family, and daily chores are shared. Meals are taken together, and coffee sessions have turned into education and knowledge sharing occasions.

This is a huge transition and parents are extremely happy to see how Macro has rediscovered himself. His sister is extremely mesmerised to find that her only brother can be so friendly, helpful, and responsible. Now, the whole family seems to have discovered a new world. However, the question remains about the sustainability of this phase when the internet is resumed. When a lockdown is revoked, will the world change for good? This remains to be discovered but the lessons learned during the lockdown are many. It clearly shows that overburden of people at tourist places should be completely avoided to restore the imbalance, created by an overflow of tourists, with the environment and ecosystem. The second lesson could be about the rare opportunity that has allowed people to efficiently socialise with family and become a responsible family member by helping each other. And it also tells us how to discover the world even in the loneliness of your house, and be the change.

If you find the four walls of your house limiting your interaction with the world try switching off your internet and see what happens. It may transform you for good. There are so many things that we usually take for granted in our life and then discover them only when something bad happens. It is possible that the present crisis is a harsh reminder for humankind to look deeper within and around. To reflect on what we have achieved so far in this world, and whether we have made it a better place than what it was. If not we should work on our deficiencies and create a world of peace, prosperity, security, welfare, and love. The emergence of coronavirus pandemic portrays the entire world as a family unit on the planet Earth, and even if we have created huge walls in the shape of borders we are unable to isolate ourselves. So local, national and international borders have become irrelevant overnight. A virus that originated in China has traversed man made borders far and beyond and forced us to reflect on our reality.

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Dr Afroz Ahmad Shah

Author is Assistant Professor in Structural Geology, Physical & Geological Sciences at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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