Questions from a student

To said student, thank you for your email, and your very kind words. I have answered them below.

To anybody who is reading, and has other questions, please send them across. I’ll either answer them myself, to the best of my ability, or pass them on to people who might be better able to answer them.

  1. What according to you should have been our immediate response?
    Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and so it is easy to say now that the we could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.
    But there’s only one real answer to this question: stay home! Don’t step out unless absolutely necessary, wash hands once you’re back, and minimize the number of people you meet. That, if it has not happened already, should happen going forward.
    Social distancing matters!
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  2. Do you think the Prime Minister asking us for a lock-down on Sunday is just a preparatory step for further havoc?
    Havoc is the wrong word to use, and second-guessing intentions is likely to be counter-productive at the best of times, let alone now. That being said, more lockdowns in more parts of the country is a quite reasonable expectation under the circumstances.
    As the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra have said, that doesn’t mean it is time to panic: quite the opposite. But, and I do not care how often I end up saying this:
    Social distancing matters. That’s up to all of us, and it is important that we do it.
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  3. For how many more days can India afford the lockdowns. (Economic Cost) (sic)
    Wrong question, I would say. Can we afford to let up in terms of stopping the lockdown even for a single day, or ending it prematurely? Because the economic costs of doing so will far outweigh whatever so-called economic gains might result as a consequence of allowing people to meet and work. Second, what cost a human life?
    TL;DR? Forget everything else, stay at home, and get as much work done as possible with that constraint in mind.
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  4. Would COVID-19 spread post Summer?
    Who can say? We just don’t know enough about the virus to say anything definitively. We do know that the Spanish flu struck in three different waves over a period of two years, but that does not mean this will be similar. Could be worse, could be better – the immediate danger is to stop its spread in its current form.
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  5. For how many more days do you think colleges and schools should be closed and if they’re closed how can we use technology to make sure education is still going on?
    See the answer to the second question: the answer is “for as long as it takes”. Fortunately, online resources are not only available, they’re very, very good. There’s the Khan Academy, there’s Marginal Revolutions University, there’s Coursera, there’s EdX, there’s MIT OCW, there’s Seeing Theory – and that’s not even all of the starters, forget the main course! That apart, (if you will pardon the self-indulgence) feel free to read all the articles on this very blog! And don’t forget Twitter: here’s just one of many examples possible. Finally, blogs are underrated: read ’em!
    And on a related note, socializing in these times needs to be tweaked. Take online coffee breaks with friends from around the world. A simple Zoom/Skype call to chat is a very good idea. And here’s an example of online co-working spaces: feel free to join.
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  6. Should we try to protect lives or livelihoods? ( In case of quarantine for months).
    I am not trying to be funny when I say this – livelihoods kind of depends on lives being there in the first place, no?
    Or as the Hindi saying has it: jaan hai to jahaan hai! Lives, first and always.
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  7. I’m rephrasing the last question for sake of clarity and brevity: given limited state capacity and given socio-cultural problems such as private hospitals refusing to treat patients, what should we do?
    Do whatever we can to help, and listen to the authorities. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we’re all in this together – trust the people in charge, and extend help wherever possible. That’s the best answer I’ve got.

 

I’d recommended a while ago – way before this crisis started – a book called the Checklist Manifesto to this student. The final question is how one can make use of that book now. To which my answer is very simple: attach a checklist at every room’s door, asking if basic sanitation is being practised. Second, prepare a checklist for your daily routine, and do something useful every day. Third, pick up a new hobby and practise it every single day that you are at home. Fourth, practise online socialization and get good at it! Voila, there’s a meta-checklist, if you will.

Thank you for writing in, and I reiterate: if you think I can help, please don’t hesitate to write in. I’ll try my best!