DAY 14. COVID-19 LOCKDOWN.
Today I looked at the neighbourhoods on the urgent errand to the grocery store, the houses seemed to look at me and were saying something. What was it that they wanted to say? I cannot say but I imagined what the sombre appearance manifested in light of the silent streets and the sprinkling of people littered across the place. I imagined the houses, apartments and flats were saying to me: “People are living here, there and everywhere.”
Oh! This image brought back the fond memory of a play I loved as a young man at school. The play was, People are Living There, by Athold Fugard. I recall my teacher, the late Mr Inderlal, who took us and how he made us aware of the issues of life that this play would illustrate. When I thought on that play, I recall one line that ignited debate in the class for a long time. Don, is a student who in his cynical style felt he had psychological answers to the world’s problems said: “The aggressive female and the submissive male. The loss of male virility and the woman’s rebellion. This is the neurosis of our time.” It was heated arguments and the class loved the banter between male and Mr Inderlal bringing sanity to everything by telling us that we should learn how to live with each other. So true, this LOCKDOWN which just got extend ed to the end of April 2020 will bear testimony to this reality.
I went on the internet to find a version of People are living there and found this quote of Don which I found thought-provoking for out times. Don said:“Your good time is an illusion, it does not exist.” This is actually true if good times are not given attention or the recognition it deserves. However, this is up for debate but, my discussion is more on what we think when we look outside at the houses, the streets and makeshift shelters. Consider the above in light of this hadith:
The Prophet (s) said: ”Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” (Narrated by Ibn Abbas in the Mustadrak of Hakim & Musnad Imam Ahmad. Sahih)
What we should think is that people are living there and their lives matter. The lives of people have been disrupted and the new normal is disruption. Like Don, Milly and Shorty who were diverse in characters, poles apart in outlooks to life and having different world views, had to understand each other’s idiosyncrasies and live together because, they were people, not robots.Today, I look at social media in the likes of WhatsApp and email content from all circles and there is this underlying message for me is coping, understanding, refining, re-shaping and leveraging interpersonal relationships because the world over, ‘People are Living There’, with each other with little or no social distance.
In Petra there lived a people, mighty and strong and today, what remains is just a colossal superstructure of majestic architecture reminding us of their living there once upon a time. Similarly, years from now, people will look back and say, there were people living there. The legacy of the people of Petra is their trade, their enormous buildings and their destruction too but, there were people living there having the same concerns we have today save that we are with more amenities and extravagance where luxury has also become necessity. What were their lives like? What were their fears? The list is endless but the point made is that today, their ruins attract us in awe to extrapolate their lives because they seemed to have added more mystery to life than we can ever imagine. Our lives! Alas! What would they say if they were to view us from afar? Would they be impressed or would they turn their backs and return to their lives with intense gratitude?
On deeper reflection on the houses that looked at me, I realised the calming effect of their gaze because it spoke of their view of the humanity in humans again. The immense outpouring of support and donations to the poor and needy as a case in point made ignited hope. The government’s stance of assisting the poor, the President’s decision of a percentage of ministers’ salaries donated to the COVID-19 HELP FUND personified compassion and the work of all NGOs sent rays of kindness beyond the horizon. It was as if the windows of the houses were wide-eyed in amazement and the doors expressing the joyous smile of contentment. How much different the world looked now for me. It gave me courage that we will overcome because humanity has come together to help all the People Living There.
Oh! People living there let us use this time to ” Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” because it will give is sanity and give us opportunities to look beyond our living space and ask: “How are those people living there?” This probing question will make us humble, generous and caring. Don’t be like Milly, Don and Shorty in People are Living There who in opinion, still come out more complicated after all they share because they could come out of their delusions and ill-fated conditions they trapped themselves in. Use this time to read. Yes, read biographies and read good fiction too because in it, you will find yourself lurking to be discovered. In your home, don’t forget, People are Living There and they are observing how you are living with them. Live with dignity, patience, virtue, thoughtful action, meditation and prayer. In it the people living there will want to be the saint you are with all the crazy idiosyncrasies you have.
Follow this link and see a day in the life of Prophet Muhammad (s) because in his house too, people were living there.
THE NEXT 21 DAYS BEGINS ANEW WITH THE PEOPLE LIVING THERE.
P.S. Its DAY 15 tomorrow! Tell the People Living There!