Governments around the world are locking down cities, region and even the entire country in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Many friends in and outside India have asked me how Kashmiris have lived through multiple lockdowns over the last three decades. In coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, they want to learn from our experience.
In Kashmir, our lockdowns have not been due to public-health concerns but because of politics and security. We have had social distancing – physical distancing, really – but we have had to cope with restricted or no access to the internet. Adversity brings opportunity. Positive thinking is the way to survive. I wish to share with the whole of humanity whatever we in Kashmir have learned from living in lockdown – what matters and how we should take care of ourselves.
A lockdown has immediate, short-term and long-term effects and people must deal with them accordingly. It is very important to get ready and prepare to deal with the consequences.
Preparations and planning
In a lockdown, a major challenge is healthcare. The availability of doctors and paramedics in neighborhoods, a reliable ambulance service, and a curfew pass are important for those managing sick patients at home. Extra vigilance and preparedness is required for patients who require chemotherapy, oxygen concentrators, dialysis and other special treatments. Over-the-counter drugs for common ailments should be stocked and used according to the instructions of a medical doctor.
Having cash in hand is very important because often ATMs do not work, internet connectivity is low, or there is no money to withdraw. Stock essential foods, cookinggas and other fuels to a limited extent, but avoid panic buying.
During a lockdown, emergency travel may be necessary so the fuel tanks of your vehicle should be adequately filled. Continuous electric supply during a lockdown may be a challenge. Be prepared with backups such as candles, LED lamps, torches, power inverters and generators.
Mobile phones are most important for keeping connected to family and friends. Regularly recharge prepaid SIM cards and have reserve batteries. Audio and video calls and group chats on message apps allow for quality time with relatives and people who are close to us. A lockdown provides a good opportunity to resolve any long-term professional or personal issues or to reach out to family and old acquaintances with whom you have been out of touch or not on speaking terms.
A Covid-19 lockdown also provides the opportunity to take care of your body and soul. Good sleep is very important. It helps us to deal with any crisis in a better and balanced manner. Good sleep re-energizes you, enhances immunity, gives you a positive attitude and builds better mental health.
In a lockdown, one of the biggest challenges is to handle people with mental-health issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. Many people suffer from common anxiety. This can be due to economic, social, family, personal, professional, religious and political problems. Anyone with general anxiety may be prone to excessive worrying leading to irrational behaviour and even a full-on panic attack. Smile, laugh, be positive, share and care.
Communities have to come together to care for and feed those who cannot afford a living. We have been doing this in Kashmir, and that is why we have survived. Reach out to neighbors, friends and those who do not have resources. This can be done by sharing food and daily needs through community or individual initiatives. We can pay laborers, carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, drivers, care givers and other workers in advance. Generate trust and a sense of community bonding with a common goal of healing and helping. I have witnessed this marvelous magic many times in Kashmir.
Another major challenge is to have verified news from trusted sources. Unfortunately, on social media and messaging platforms, fake news is in abundance, which results in panic. Managing anxiety and panic during a crisis requires us to focus on facts and not random bulletins or broadcasts that might shock or cause an emotional reaction. The general public should avoid learning everything about Covid-19 from social media. A lot of the information that gets posted and passed around just adds to the hysteria. Go to reliable news sources about the coronavirus twice or three times a day. Read and share stories, especially positive and inspiring ones, only from credible media outlets.