The pandemic is rebirthing the world in ways we don’t fully understand yet


Christ said a universal truth: “A thing must die before it is born again.” We see it replaying over and over again in the world—in the way our planet kept resurrecting after 24 mass extinctions. We see it in nature—in a storm which washes the land anew; in a caterpillar which must metamorphose into a butterfly; in a day which must fade into night before it is reborn. We see it in the epochal moments of history—the Berlin Wall must fall for anti-Communism to rise. Nuclear weapons must destroy two cities before the rest of the world can enjoy peace. The Black Death gives way to the Renaissance, slavery to freedom, rigid Catholicism to protestant Reformation….

In a way, with the current pandemic, the death has been obvious, in-your-face…. It is there in the numbers—in the over 45 lakh people who have died globally. It is there in the stories—of children orphaned at a tender age, of those forced to bid adieu to their loved ones through glass walls in hospitals, of senior citizens left with no one to take care of them in their final days….

But what about the dozens of less obvious ways in which death has crept in invisibly, almost insidiously? Many of us have lost a serenity born of the assurance that certain things were unchangeable. Others, a time when anxiety and fear were not a constant companion. Still others, a sense of identity in a world seemingly getting emptied of meaning. College students have lost the experience of a campus life; singers, of live concerts; lovers, of a wedding they always dreamt of.... We have lost the simple pleasures of confiding in a stranger seated next to us in an airplane, dressing up for a dinner party, sunbathing on a beach…. The thrill of a first date, the joy of an uninhibited laugh, the freedom of a stroll in the park, the camaraderie of an outdoor barbecue.

While death is everywhere, its contours etched clearly, what about rebirth? How will a new world baptised in a pandemic look? Here, opinions swing wildly. Some people say that vaccines are our best bet for a Covid-free world; some others are against vaccines. Some say things will go back to the way they were, others swear by change. Some say the damage is permanent, others not. With our life’s certainties ripped off, we seem not to know anything about anything anymore.

In keeping with this sense of unsureness, THE WEEK’s cover story imagines a post-Covid world through a creative lens. Through short stories, essays and poetry, we conjecture how the coronavirus might impact different aspects of our lives, whether it is in online education, climate change, virtual dating or deglobalisation. We do not want to set things in stone or take them for granted—the last time we did that, a pandemic happened. But we want to lay out a roadmap for a better tomorrow. Because, ultimately, we are all getting reborn; we just don’t know into what.