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Our Writing Interns Share Lessons Learned Amid A Pandemic

Multiple Authors | South Asia

Note from the editors: Most of 2020 has been spent in our homes, with time to do things we never imagined we would get a chance to do, and opportunities to connect in new ways with people around the world, from the comfort of our homes. We asked our writing interns to reflect on the past few months, and what they have learned during this time.

Part 1: A Global Village

Mahnoor Sargana | Islamabad, Pakistan

Quarantine has been a transformative time for us all in a variety of ways. The entire shift in how we do life brought out things from within us and around us. The adaption to the reality of the pandemic has been an interesting experience: opening doors and closing some (careful of the knob!)

As school became a less dominating part of life I strived to find unique opportunities to accelerate my growth; whether it was a webinar that was previously geographically out of bounds or reviving a passion I had forgotten. I have been actively working on growing out of the shell I had for myself. I experienced the thrill in taking an initiative no matter the scale: reaching out to someone or organizing a picnic for your family. I started seeking joy in small wonders the Earth and all that is around us has to offer. The rare stars the sky reveals in the city, the feel of the grass and lyrical sweetening process of writing a letter at midnight.

Moreover during this time, I involved myself with the task of learning about a variety of topics and themes. One of the the topics that stuck with me was Urban Development and Planning, especially Smart cities in the era of Urbanization. I raised the value of communication and understanding that people are a wonderful variable of life. I grasped the idea that no man is an island and that relationships and human interaction are an integral part of your growth. After all, we humans are social beings.

Despite the lack of in-person interactions, Covid-19 has paved a way to connect with online methods and opportunities. We have become a global village more than ever before.

On the topic of people, I learned the importance of conversations and dialogue. Hearing someone’s opinion on a matter gives a perspective you wouldn't have pondered over before.

During quarantine I also understood the reality of ‘walk the talk’. I processed my behaviour which has not been active prone to the information or knowledge I am collecting. In light of that I have been trying to build cognitive bias towards action. But I am also trying to learn how to take action, what action is relevant and why I should act.

Life is full of lessons and circumstances we have to optimize for ourselves and others. There is much to learn and much to evolve. Here’s to being the best versions of ourselves!

Part 2: Playtime with Paint

Maliha Khan | Srinagar, Kashmir

With the busy ever-moving world, it always seemed like the 24 hours of a day somehow were not enough. There was always too much work to do or too many places to be.

Over the pandemic suddenly we had all of this time that we had no idea how to spend, especially over the summer.

At least for me this was the case. With the lockdown I suddenly didn’t have my friends to decide my evening plans with or a college assignment deadline to meet over the summer. So, I started looking for new and different things to do and stumbled upon a few things. From playing keyboard on my phone to producing music on a Groovepad to baking, I tried everything. I enjoyed all of those things but never continued them for longer than a few weeks.

My favourite things to do are the ones that calm me down and make me feel alive at the same time, like dancing, cycling or listening to music, so I had to look for something similar. This was around the same time that my best friend started an Instagram page for her artwork. I had tried painting before and I seemed to enjoy it but being surrounded with good artists such as my best friend and my cousins, I didn’t felt too confident about my paintings and had given up.

Over the summer her page got me thinking that maybe I should give it another try. After all I had nothing to lose, and so my playtime with colors started. I grabbed a couple of brushes and some acrylic colors and frankly with no knowledge of how to paint, I began.

In no time I found my Pinterest page being filled with ideas for painting, my Youtube searches filled with art videos. My best friend suddenly became my teacher.

The bare wall below my bookshelf slowly started soaking in the colors and came to life.

As you can predict, by the fall I had already fallen in love with watercolors and was addicted to painting. My desk now is covered with paint stains and there’s a little Charlie Brown on my balcony floor waiting for a companion to be painted beside him

What I love most about painting is the satisfaction it gives me. Watching the colors spread on a blank white paper feels like all my stress is slowly flowing out of my body. Its almost like the colors are dancing with each other and with every brush stroke a new move is made. It’s rewarding in a sense to look at something come to life like this and know that you created it.

Part 3: An All-Round View at the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ayesha Mahmood | Sargodha, Pakistan

From cooking to eating, painting to drawing calligraphy, reading to watching movies, introspection to extrospection, there is nothing that I have not tried in this lockdown.

But wait. What are the things that I have learnt from this pandemic? How it has changed our lives? How it has affected our educational institutes? How it has affected our mental health? What role has media played in this pandemic? And most importantly. How will the post-pandemic recovery play a part in shaping our lives?

The pandemic has transformed our world tremendously. From slowing down all activities to maintaining social distances, to avoid shaking hands, to washing our hands frequently, to wearing mask whenever we step outside our home. We all have learnt a lot and still there is much more to learn about.

Educational institutes and pandemic

It is said that every coin has two sides. The same is the case with our education system. The pandemic took our education system from physical lectures to digital lectures. Some students, like me, enjoyed taking online classes, while others claimed it is not a good method, and that they were unable to understand the topics completely. The issue of accessibility is also a concern because not everyone has access to the technology needed to connect digitally. Students amid the pandemic have had connectivity issues, and issues with electricity in countries in South Asia for example, as well. Students have also said that the lack of access to libraries and labs has negatively impacted their research and thesis.

Mental health and pandemic

We, being individuals of collectivist countries, it was very difficult for us to maintain social distance and to lock ourselves down in our homes. Many people were badly affected by this, as we were not used to this. Many people became depressed, stressed and anxious. However, soon we found the solution to this problem. We began taking advantage of technology and started socially connecting with our friends, peers and family members, and found our spirits being lifted again as a result of connectivity.

Media and the pandemic

Media has also played a great role in this pandemic. It gave awareness to the public about the COVID-19, its effects and prevention measures. Many news channels aired special shows and invited medical specialists to raise awareness to the public about the pandemic as well. Moreover, there were many social issues that were shared across social media like the Black Lives Matter Movement, which people learned more about because we were staying at home, spending more time online, and wanting to get involved in social issues.

Our lives post pandemic

Now, as the government has announced opening of all institutes countrywide (in Pakistan), we need to behave like responsible citizens of our country in order to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones. While the re-opening of the country is important to establishing the new normal, we must continue to follow rules, regulations and government policies strictly to avoid the second spell of this pandemic in our country.

Baking during a Pandemic

Tehreem Khan | Hyderabad, Pakistan

Before COVID-19, most people barely had time to get a wink of sleep, everyone was wrapped up in their own lives following a busy routine. Life before this pandemic was, well in simple words, fast paced. During this time period of quarantine and self-isolation we all had time to reflect upon ourselves, find a meaning to life, and discover our motivation to keep going. Of course, this is not all that we did. In fact, what most of us found were fun hobbies to keep ourselves busy and high spirited.

Many people came across to like things like binge watching shows, sports, writing, painting, reading books and gardening. One of the hobbies I picked up along the way is baking. I haven’t been really good at baking although I can cook pretty fine, this bugged me even before the pandemic.

With all the free time I had, I decided I am going to learn more about baking. I took some online classes on baking, looked over some good recipes (Tip: In the beginning, pick up recipes of your own country and culture so it’s easier to find ingredients), did a lot of practice and eventually got the hang of it.

As one would expect, baking is pretty fun once to learn how to do it right. You can be creative with your food. Frosting and decorating cakes are really satisfying and therapeutic. It may not classify as the stereotypical forms of art we see, but it is art. You can design your cakes to be elegant, quirky or plain. But you can get even more creative and start learning about which ingredients go better together and which don’t. You can learn to make new tastes suitable for your taste buds. Feeding your family and friends is also another sense of joy. It’s fun when others like your baking. Or when my little brother asks me to make a certain dish again (he is very choosy I may add) or when my mother brags about how my cupcakes are the best. You can also try and bake foods from all around the world. Its helps you find your favourite taste and you learn to appreciate different cultures in a deeper sense. Despite what most people think, baking is not harsh on the pocket either. Most ingredients are simple raw materials like Eggs, Flour, Butter, and Milk. Once you buy a packet of these you can use the same pack for making different kinds of food.

These are a few of my reasons to love baking. I hope all of you found something you loved too in this hard time. And even if you haven’t yet, keep looking and trying new things.


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