The present times are unique in history because of the almost endless and all-pervading ambiguities the pandemic has generated

No matter how one adulates the ability to face ambiguity and no matter how this capability is seen as the fundamental characteristic of an innovative person, the truth is somewhat removed. Whereas dealing with uncertainty raises resilience, like in everything else, one could well say “thus far and no further.” Equivocacy ensconced in certain clear-cut parameters works. Ambiguity as a constant and dominant feature of life can be corrosive. The present times are unique in human history because of the almost endless and all-pervading ambiguities the pandemic has generated. One does not know where the virus originated from or the logic of its transmutation. One does not know much about its antidote or how it could strike. It is true that much poetry has been woven around the theme of subtle, calculated or not so calculated ambiguity. That kind of romanticised writing is conspicuous by its absence in the present case.

By a rough estimate, there are about 250 million children worldwide who do not have access to schools. For them, staying away from formal education was a no-choice situation. Of the children who have access to schools, 1.6 billion students across 93 countries have faced disruption due to the outbreak. The sheer magnitude of these numbers cannot be comprehended in terms of the impact of an invisible virus that can be so disruptive.

As of now, there is no certitude regarding where it will resurface and how long the contagion will last. The limitations of science and technology stare human existence in the face. It cannot be a subject to be trifled with. Notwithstanding the gravity of the situation for those who understand and for those who try to understand, there is a general sense of gloom in the environment, if not a sense of tentative trepidation. This is bound to have a long-range effect on frames of reference, the ability to understand and interpret interpersonal dynamics and cope with adversity. The whole world is at different levels of lockdown or reopening.

News has just been filtering in of the Coronavirus having reached a remote tribe in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Of this tribe, only about 50 members survive today. Reportedly, nearly a dozen of them are affected. Obviously, there will be any number of hypotheses of how the virus got there. The more relevant part of the story is the enigmatic one: Where else will it travel and how?

In the meanwhile, the vaccine story has its own drama, thrills, hopes and reality checks. The bare truth is, as of now, nobody knows exactly how far away, in time, is this vaccine. If an election has to be won and if one can do it, one obviously invests public money in buying up stocks of a vaccine, the availability of which is an enigma in itself. The media is busy with claims and counter-claims. One particular country is also reported to have the vaccine and has been ostensibly using it for a month at least.

The Indian version of this pandemic has the typical stamp of the Indian way of problem-solving, as some quarters are known to practise. First the lockdown came in less than four hours. That it followed a voluntary curfew and beating of cymbals and so on, was also characteristic, in parts. Literally, an endless stream of people termed “migrants” started trudging back home. The first response was of disbelief, then bewilderment, then an attempt to contain, cope and finally reconcile to the processes. The hardships of this odyssey of wanting to return to the place of one’s origin can only be believed by those who witnessed it. Then came the closing and opening of many kind of borders, picking up the sick from their homes and rushing them to hospitals. And finally, the inevitable clarion call, “Learn to live with Covid-19.”

Characteristically, a few notables offered adulation to some nations for successful handling of the virus and how much Indians had to learn from foreigners. That many such places experienced a second and a third spike was forgotten.The crisis has its crests and troughs. India is in the top three affected regions. The politician and the public figure with glib logic now peddle “cautious normalcy” with masks, sanitisers and, of course, social distancing. One would like to believe this would be a panacea.

In the meanwhile, the Government has rolled out an education policy of unprecedented dimensions, complete with slogans of digitisation, online learning, hybrid education, academic credit banks, digital citizenship and, of course, how a ‘New India’ will be born. Maybe it will! In the meanwhile, the institutions, which will deliver this education policy, are yet to be fashioned. This will be the most critical of all “unlocking” efforts. Resilience would be needed.