While Coronavirus has shaken up the world and its folks, we in India must be thankful for one thing — that old ways of living are back and are gaining currency.
This return to innocence must be cherished.
Ramayan — the serial which had an entire generation acquainted with the epic through the medium of television in the late 1980s for the first time, has yet again managed to break all records after a good 33 years.
The first episode of Ramayan was telecast to the nation on 25 January 1987 at 9am. This time around, giving in to the demands of an audience which had been staying put indoors due to the lockdown, on 28 March, DD National began to air it yet again.
Since then, in a matter of days, it went on to become the most viewed show in the Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) and this week has also had the honour of breaking all viewing records. The number of viewers the serial got is more than the entire population of the United Kingdom.
While it is nostalgia for the generation that watched it with their children back then, those very children are now the ones who are the ones ‘working from home’.
The response, although not unfathomable, was definitely not expected. Given that television viewing had changed in the recent past, the digital medium had taken over, it was about binge watching series on different platforms.
But the success of this re-telecast and the demand for other serials of that era, whose target audiences were different age groups (Shaktiman to Chanakya), can be seen as a result of a multitude of factors.
But one of the key reasons is that this is a tale that is a household one, one that is part of popular psyche and folklore, and one whose characters are not just religious entities but also cultural icons that through oral transmission were conceived of only in imagination for generations together, until for the first time this televised version personified them and brought them into people’s personal spaces.
This is why the Ramleelas have an audience every season, why the epics and their retelling through traditional art forms find takers even to this day, and why the re-telecast has had people glued to their public broadcast channel.
Also, the tale is one of victory over evil, one where an unknown, unseen enemy is to be conquered and one’s most loved one to be rescued from the clutches of that enemy.
Quite similar to what the nation and the world is going through at this hour. Why else would people across the nation come out and light a lamp, even amidst criticism by those that know not else?
An epic battle is being fought on the ground and most of us are thankfully only spectators, doing our bit by staying home and letting those who are out there and entrusted with the task of battling it see us all through.
And unlike what the international media says — that its (Ramayan’s) popularity is being triggered by a ‘captive audience’ — it is not the lockdown but what the lockdown has done that is reflected in people’s choices.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation the first time, he said that ‘if India does not manage the lockdown for these 21 days then India will be pushed back by 21 years’.
Call it fear or faith, the nation followed the lockdown rules and that is one of the reasons our total number of Covid cases are less than the number of deaths in certain countries.
And while India is doing whatever it can to avoid the catastrophe, one observes that life definitely in terms of living has gone back by 21 years.
The pace, the practices, the disposition is back to the pre-IT boom days. When was the last time that three generations of people stayed put in the house for more than a few hours.
When was the last time attention was being paid to every aspect of everyday life, from washing hands to eating right to staying healthy — and all this as a unit, not individually.
Be it the pursuit of hobbies, or detoxing, or ‘connecting’ to people you never otherwise spoke to unless you ‘needed’ to, life looks like it is back to the late 80s and early 90s.
Nature has replenished what it had lost in the last two decades — be it the rivers that are cleaner, or the animals that are on streets or the scenes of a city like Bengaluru with its trees in full bloom.
Economy of need, not of want. E-commerce is a phenomenon on halt — which means people are buying only that which they need, not what they think they want.
Not just because they can’t, but because there also simmers a tiny thought of whether they really need to, what with the economy having come to a standstill.
Local is the way to go. The focus is back on local produce and supply. Even in the most urbanised cities, it is the local kirana store that is the ‘sole provider’ and items on demand are to be procured after a wait.
Migrant labour has been provided options to return, while construction activity can take off with local labour, or those who wish to stay back.
Enterprise and entrepreneurial spirits have been rekindled in traditional spheres of activity with an increased demand for the same.
As the pandemic has also revealed, the lack of attention to tier two cities, be it in the realms of medical infrastructure, connectivity, technological upgrade or public health systems and sanitation, reiterates the need for development that is self-sustaining and sustainable.
While those below the poverty line are being taken care of by the government and their local representatives, the large chunk of population in semi-urban cities is middle class and upper middle class, most of whose youth have had to migrate to metros for employment, leaving behind mainly a retiring population.
But the lockdown has seen a considerable reverse migration of these too. Though temporarily, it is these that have pulled up their socks to come up with tech-backed solutions for the issues that are arising thanks to the lockdown.
Be it home delivery apps, or volunteering for various essential services, the youth of the country has found a new sense of purpose.
There is a change in attitude, as demands like ‘30-minute delivery’ have become a thing of the past.
Luxuries are on the waiting list and ‘demand’ is a word that has slowly been relegated to the pages of history at least for the time being, as the word of the hour is ‘request’.
Uncertainty is a huge variable and one that has affected people at all levels of the economic pyramid — the higher the level the greater the uncertainty, In fact. will schools begin? Will malls open? Will more people die? and the most dreaded one ‘Will Corona knock our doors?’
These questions have flattened the pyramid, to a great extent.
The virus has been a great equaliser. The correction has been painful, but surely one that will ensure better times to come. The economy will need a massive resurrection, but that is once we first ensure we are all alive to earn back our livelihood.
The vanvas shall be over in due time, and ramarajya will be reality, but for now, the sena has been put in place to do the needful, the setu has been built, and with this new graded opening of the economy, and the extension of the lockdown, we shall overcome.