~ Tiatoshi Longkümer, Kohima
Coronavirus is “revolutionary.” Revolutionary in the sense that it not only kills, but it also forcefully and violently demolishes most of our normal life styles and habitual thinking patterns and compels us to adopt the so-called “New Normal life styles. We are very fond of shaking hands, especially in the church and friends circle, but now shaking hand is a taboo. We are not at all “mask-friendly” people. Even though our streets and roads are full of dust, we prefer to close our eyes and breathe. But now covering our mouth and nose with a mask is a requirement, even inside your own house. Most of us used to clean our littered hands by simply rubbing against one’s pants or mekhala . But now we need to wash our hands with soap or clean with sanitizer even if we come from the church prayer meeting. We judged the spirituality of a believer based on his or her church attendance. But now we are forced to close the church and encouraged to worship personally at home. Not attending the regular school and college was considered uncivilized. But now opening the school will attract legal action against the school authority. So students attend the school at home online. One of the best ways to regulate government employee’s daily office attendance was through biometric fingerprint reading system. And recently it has been gaining ground in most of the government offices. But now government itself forces its employees not to come to office and give them the option to work from home. And now a small percentage of the workers should go to office on rotation. Most of our Naga men and women were heavily engaged in various society-based activities. In fact, societal duties are heavier than our office and family work. But now we feel like we are living all alone in an island. All these things look very paradoxical, but these have become the reality and are becoming the new lifestyles, which we may call, the new normal lifestyles.
All these new restrictions imposed on us, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced us to stay home, so that we may be safe from the virus infection. People all over the world are forced to return home and made to stay home. An extra ordinary time has come for the Nagas too, to stay home together, disengaged from all social and religious activities outside of your home. I have talked with several people about their new stay-home habits and many of them responded very positive. From a Christian point of view, many of them are discovering the value of home life, which was completely missed before. Some respondents told me that during this lock down period, the spiritual life of both the family and individual has been progressing. Family members are getting serious about conducting family prayer meeting ever day, developed regular reading of the bible and prayers, and also watch sermons in YouTube together, which had hardly happened before. One of the most interesting things about the home life issue during this lock down is the discovery of each other’s talents and weakness and also getting to knowing each other better. Thus, it leads to both love and affection and conflicts and complaints. Perhaps, the revolutionary impact of COVID-19 is that we Nagas are realising the value of home life or family than ever before.
Then, how can we keep this momentum of healthy home life going, even in the post-COVID-19 pandemic. Based on my personal observations of the state of affairs for the last three months of lock down, I want to share some suggestions in three concerned areas – social, religious and government. These suggestions can be critically think over, and improvised by other members also, and then make some action plans in order to strengthening our home life, because home life matters.
Apparently, we Nagas are over-burdened by the activities of tribal unions or organizations. Like the old maxim which says, “Too many cooks spoil the food”, our families’ health are spoiled by the mushrooming of too many societies and local bodies. Once a local union is formed our social obligation to it is overwhelming. We cannot relieve ourselves from its involvement. The village or clan or tribe based society becomes a duty-bound activities. And consequently, the burden is bore by family and it costs the home life dearly.
From now on, we must think of minimizing the social organizations in our land. The more tribe based unions or societies is formed the issue of tribalism is intensified in our land. The more our people involved in social organizations, the deeper declination of the value of family. Thus, we must muster our collective wisdom to get rid off of most of our social organizations, particularly tribe-based ones. In my opinion, when our people are freed from the bondage of social obligations then they will become better citizens of our land. Our post-COVID-19 objective should be to start a “new normal” social life, a home life.