By Sohini Datta
I am trying to remember what normal was. It was an esoteric state of matter, somewhere between liquid, vapor, and solid. It was comfortable and yet we rebelled against and craved it at the same time. From when I learnt to think, I remember running away from ‘normal’.
Normal was a house by 30, children by 40, regrets by 50, and the subject of a Pink Floyd song by 60. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want normal.
And then just like that when I was wishing on fireworks to make this my best year ever, someone in the far Eastern corner of the world was rushing to the hospital with a disease that would change the course of our collective history rushing forth what we are now calling the ‘new normal.’
Like a female character in a Murakami novel, the ‘normal’ got up and vanished one day, and as days rolled by, like the male protagonist I kept looking for her. Since March, I have been looking for the two moons of 1Q84 because we have got to be living in a different reality, right?
I have been using everything I can think of in my search of N; first I looked outwards, into our cyberspace…into our generation’s monster under the bed: Instagram. That too had changed to its own morbid version; desperation was bursting at its seams, live videos were germinating by the second… from the rat race of my travel-plans-are-better-than-yours, it was now my banana-bread-is-better-than-yours. I made banana bread. It’s not normal, I don’t like banana bread; the last slice is rotting in my fridge as we speak. Two months later and my search for N is continuous and diligent and enough to fill a Murakami plot.
Everyone has been saying we are #inthistogether. It reminds me of plane crash victims. Have you ever imagined being in a plane about to crash? I would think we would be gripped with fear of pain, of never seeing our family but get some strange comfort in knowing we are not alone. That 150 others were plunging into death with us. That’s the hope of comfort you would experience, I think. Not that this is a plane crash…well almost.
I tried meditating and reading and making a journey inwards; it’s been the best of my efforts, to be honest. I have found words to write, books to read.
Some days are great and I exclaim like a Dr. Seuss character that the world is amazing and I love the new normal. Then there is a bit of crash and burn, new victims of Covid-19, pay cuts and such. I wish in hindsight I was not so tied to this world.
This is what I understand from sixth-grade physics. Matter changes state — due to high temperature, pressure, etcetera. So, I reckon if N – normal is a state of matter, we are far away from finding the new normal. This is not it. The change is not over. We are in it. We are inside the novel, the movie, however, you are imagining it. And we can’t really tell what the new normal is till the process stops. I know why you want to define it so I stand by all of you, because talking about the ‘new normal’ means we have reached the end of the tunnel haven’t you? The new normal is our light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could tell you that the journey is over, it’s far from it.
It has been good in many ways…
- We now know what Asian mums have known forever, Doctors and nurses’ rule. If you are having kids, can you make sure one of them goes to med school? We need more doctors and nurses.
- We also know we need everyone to play their part, whether you are an artist, a delivery boy, a capitalist clog, we have to pull our role because it is all connected like roots over a big tree underground.
- We learnt that the world beyond our noses — the vast enormity of this lonely planet can thrive without us. This made me happy, when the time comes, I am happy to know that Mother Earth can take over our urban cities in days and erase all traces of us.
- We have also discovered that we are a generation that has tried to bake our way through a world crisis.
- We learnt that 99% of companies don’t care about their employees. But they do write profusely on LinkedIn that they do. We knew this, but now we had to acknowledge it.
- Some of us discovered the joys of banana bread. Not me. Others on Instagram. The same people who like going ‘Live’
Some of us discovered the joys of banana bread. Not me. Others on Instagram. The same people who like going ‘Live’.
These are all the things that happened, the fires that lit our way. But the end of the tunnel is not right now. So, for once, let’s not try to fast forward and define the future. Live now, pay the bills, wash your hands, hope that you can survive the crash with minimal injuries, and keep looking for the ‘new normal.’ Text me when you find it on 056-N-O-R-M-A-L.
Originally published in ctrlaltdubai.com in April 2020.
Sohini Datta lives in Dubai with her two cats, is a digital consultant by day, and moonlights as a culture connoisseur by night for her website Ctrl.Alt.Dxb .
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