We are all house arrested now because of Coronavirus for our own safety. We do not know how to live like this. In India and in many countries during lock down period people do not know how to spend time at home and use it for personal and community benefit. The famous American astronaut Scott Kelly who spent one year in a space vessel shared his experience how creatively he spent time in locked up living in the space station. Let us remember that our homes , even apartment spaces, are much open and and still near nature than any aircraft, more so the space station.
Scott Kelly said: “Being stuck at home can be challenging. When I lived on the International Space Station for nearly a year, it wasn’t easy. When I went to sleep, I was at work. When I woke up, I was still at work. Flying in space is probably the only job you absolutely cannot quit.
But I learned some things during my time up there that I’d like to share — because they are about to come in handy again, as we all confine ourselves at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus”. .
We Indians are much less creative as of now than an average Euro-American person. That is the reason why our scientific creativity and inventive ability is very low. Science and scientific thinking cannot improve with just individual’s hard work or imagination or creativity. Corona taught how we live purely depends on science and nature. Spirituality renders only psychological help but not real material life saving help. Hence Indians must start learning scientific thinking from others, who achieved many things that we could not. We begin to learn new things only when we accept that we do not know a particular thing. A person who thinks that he/she knows everything does not learn anything new. To save human life this approach does not work at all. We need to be curious to learn everything that we do not know.
Reading books, not social media messages or watching TV, but real books that changed the human life historically is the key. Indians as a society have no habit of reading books. India as a nation should start this in Corona lock down.
When compared to China, leave alone Europe and America, Indian educated, even Ph.Ds,Post-graduates and graduates have no habit of reading general books at home. The best thing that the educated must practice is reading general books of history, autobiographies, novels and so on. Particularly when parents and the school going children are spending time at home for a longer time without going out let us read more books on science. Parents can make their children read books as Scott Kelly did in his small space station.
He said: “Some people are surprised to learn I brought books with me to space. The quiet and absorption you can find in a physical book — one that doesn’t ping you with notifications or tempt you to open a new tab — is priceless. Many small bookstores are currently offering curbside pickup or home delivery service, which means you can support a local business while also cultivating some much-needed unplugged time”.
When we are at home we can pick up any book from home library and start reading either for one self or for whole family. But in India home library is a very rare thing. Even most educated, including many university professors do not have the habit of general book reading as a hobby hence no library at home. Reading is not a hobby in India, as much as playing cards or drinking liquor in clubs. Corona should teach us a new hobby of book reading to destroy Corona itself. Corona kind of pandemic can be killed only by science, medicine and high level of hygiene. We are not sure this disease will not recur again and again in a situation of climate change. Our children must be taught to read more and more science books—including science fiction.
Unlike Euro-American and Chinese schools Indian schools do not teach and push students into a habit of general book reading. Ideas of science come from engaging with nature, practicing new things in our daily life and by reading lot of science books. This is the time educated parents and children can do group reading and discussing variety of ideas that a book throws up.
Children must be involved in all house hold chores. Washing dishes, clothes, cleaning house, cooking, spending time in kitchen, irrespective of gender or age because kitchen is a creative and exercising place. Here father must take a de-gendered view of work along with mother. Work is a killer of fear and anxiety. Leisure is a killer of creativity and humanity.
India is a country where there is no habit of writing family history. In the West family history is an important source of generational knowledge tree of that family. To write a family history one does not have to be a writer. It requires basic recording names of family members as many generations as possible. The skills of some of them have both exceptional and ordinary. That record becomes a major source of history writing about community, occupations, skills, knowledge and techniques that different generations used for survival and development. This is the time people should sit down to write their family histories. Scott Kelly wrote his daily work dairy even in the space.
People sing, play music and play indoor games. But these are known things and many do. Coronavirus and the future dangers need many great minds to keep the humanity survive and every family’s creative work, particularly reading and writing contributes to the pool of such knowledge.
Let us do that while defeating Coronavirus staying at home.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author of many books, the latest being From Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual—My Memoirs