Covid -19 has impacted on global culture including Bangladesh just like other cultural waves. Not only has it changed the way we see death, but life as well. Something as insignificant as a virus has had more clout than almost all the politicians of the world. The helplessness is so obvious that it's embarrassing. The only exclamation possible is WTF... much of what we know about human invulnerability is gone. One is only as strong as the virus which swings a bat better and stronger than all of us. Once more with feeling.... WTF...
The new classes and family
The big hit is the family. There have been both loss and gain in this new culture. The idea that it's a class conscious disease has been a shocker. Money can't buy protection anymore. Far too many prominents have died rather unceremoniously. Most data shows that the poor may have been infected but were largely safe. The rich and even that tottering class called the middle were affected much worse, dying at regular intervals. The 10% hospitalization and 1-3 % death rate are largely limited to these two classes.
So we have two broad divisions in society; the symptomatic and the asymptomatic class and this is close to other factors including age. The elderly fall sick more seriously and die, the young do not. The young are now farther away from the old. And this is a significant cultural change marker.
In a society which is grappling to adjust to normal changes, the "new normal" is even more profound. It has exposed some of the indicators of our society that we held as sacred but won't pass the test now. The truth is the elderly are expendable and the crisis has shown their vulnerability. The future will be one of less need for and respect for the elders which we took for granted. So many of our ideas will now be affected including what constitutes the family and how. Perhaps the multi-generational family was ailing for long and Covid just pushed it over. Staying together but not together anymore.
Return of the natives, at least a few
Corona has once more shown that the urban-rural divide exists in almost all the sectors including lifestyle and it's not just about open skies and apartment buildings blocking the same. Corona came with many horses and one was economics, perhaps the main steed. Many were rendered economically marooned and Dhaka city which is often the employment seeking goal of many turned hostile in weeks. While most stuck it out in the hope of better days, some returned home. The poor went temporarily and returned to claim back the city but the middle stayed back.
It's these urban migrants of the middle class who wanted to call Dhaka their home that have emerged as the new returnee the most, able to look at Dhaka with more critical eyes than before. Suddenly, the home away from Dhaka looks nicer.
Masuma was a content writer working in Dhaka for almost a decade but never really liking it. But she thought it was a career that she must follow so she went through all the hassles of an urban migrant life not swimming in a wealthy sea. She had a sublet apartment room and shared kitchen misery, uncertain income, lack of network and inability to enjoy the small luxuries of life because Dhaka doesn't welcome an outsider if you please.
Still she stayed on but one day life itself decided how it would be as her public relations outfit closed and she had no road to travel except go home. A year later she is much more comfortable, running a small business and doing freelance work on the net.
"I don't think I want to return to Dhaka again. Most probably I won't. I didn't know this but I realized I enjoyed the small town pleasures and familiarity which I blinded myself to. Here people know who I am, my family is and there is social respect. In Dhaka, I was a stranger but here I am a name, person and a face. I am earning less than half of what I earned in Dhaka but it's enough here as rent is zero and Dhaka rental eats most of the income. Nothing is expensive here and I am not worried about being suddenly sacked once morning anymore."
And Dhaka rolls on in its own pace swaying to Corona's moves. Slowly all the habits are returning as the Delta declines, vaxxing rises and parties are more and more common. People hate being stuck here so resorting has become a big activity. Of course that also causes positive ratings but in Dhaka fun and parties no matter if one is recovering from a bout with the virus. Delta was not able to dampen their spirits really so Omicron has no hope. The days of PPE, hand washing are gone and masks are now a fashion item. Slowly, the cautious life is saying goodbye as the city streets are turning into pavements not just for walking but is a long ramp to stylishly amble through for the lovely indomitable ladies of Dhaka.
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