Thousands of aircraft are patiently parked along the periphery of unused runways as flights worldwide are grounded by the pandemic, machinery moth-balled and travellers confined to home. The vast skies above South Asia are devoid of air traffic, all borders sealed, domestic flights forbidden, and not even citizens permitted to return home. The airline industry is suffering its worst ever crisis, and when planes do take off on the other side of this disaster, aviation will never look the same again.
Global tourism is realising how its tentacles extend far beyond the obvious frontline of hospitality – airlines, transport, hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, tours and attractions – into less obvious areas of the arts, theatre, design, banking, education conservation, and of course agriculture and food production.
Businesses that have taken a lifetime to build are crumbling day by day. Touts and beggars are jobless, working horses, donkeys, elephants and camels are having a holiday, wild nature is flourishing in the respite, but the roaming street dogs and stupa monkeys are hungry. The world is at a standstill, the suffering stark.
Back to the future of farming, Editorial
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Sporting events are cancelled, competition abandoned, arenas empty, stadiums forsaken, games aborted, scoreboards blank, ladders and league tables on hold. The massive preparations for race meets, world cups and Olympics evaporate in the face of the most destructive viral onslaught of our lifetimes.
Footballers have hung up their boots, racehorses remain in their stables, and the green lawns of Wimbledon see no tennis served with Pimms and strawberries. In bizarre efforts to keep audiences engaged, matches are played in vacant venues, and Formula One and sailing regattas have resorted to virtual events online. There is no fear of missing out, as the sporting world is on ‘pause’.
Desperate people queue around the block, snaking for hours through socially distanced circles, for free meals or access to food banks – and not just daily wage earners deprived of employment in emerging nations, but white-collar workers in the world’s major capitals of London, Paris and New York.
Public parks are enjoyed only by ducks on the ponds, solitary trees and insects in the flowers, blushing unseen in the deserted gardens. Jobs are being lost, companies collapsing, rents unpaid, loans and mortgages reneged.
In Nepal we are familiar with political shutdowns closing the roads and shuttering the shops, strikes that never lasted more than a day or two. The strict curfew that accompanied the king agreeing to lift the ban on political parties in April 1990 was only suffered for three days.
“Survive 2020, revive in 2021 and thrive in 2022”, Alisha Sijapati
Feeding 1,000 a day in Kathmandu, Lisa Choegyal
We are exhorted to stay safe and shelter in place, as the walls close in and perimeters shrink, moulded by the relentless confines of our homes. Rooms contract and expand, depending on our state of mind and time of day. Vivid night dreams infiltrate beyond sleep to penetrate the waking hours. Is that a dent on the sofa cushion where I have been sitting glued to my laptop day after day, week after week?
Tenzin paces the driveway, wearing out his prayer beads, the tyres of his unused car softening on the flagstones. The cuckoos have arrived and the whistling thrush has nested. The roses have budded, bloomed and died, the extravagant white petals of the magnolia have exploded before wilting waxy brown, and the cherry tree has carpeted the ground with crimson blossom and is now clad in hopeful fresh green.
Within the relentless rhythm of the lockdown the formless days unfold, measured in perpetual birdsong and sheets of vitamin pills, all plans in suspension, all projects on hold. In theory, now is the chance to read, watch movies, wallow in Netflix, listen to music sort photos, fix the house, and call friends but in reality I struggle with the focus and motivation to do any of it.
I have learned to value every cup of coffee, waste no food, and prize the fresh vegetables bought from the end of the lane. How sweet is that first mango of the season, and with what difficulties must it have travelled to arrive whole and perfect green and gold on our kitchen table.
None of us has seen anything on this scale before and emerging the other side of it will have its own unknown shocks and challenges. But when we do, and when we are asked in some future virus-free era: ‘What was it like during the time of Covid-19, the great pandemic of 2020?’, these are the moments and memories I do not want to forget.