Lockdown Effect: Embracing technology for good
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Trust is a tricky expectation especially for those who have reason to distrust or are influenced by innate fears triggered by those who have reason to distrust.

But, when push came to shove, the fears turned into exhilaration as the most sceptical found themselves pleasantly, proven wrong. “It is the best thing to happen to me,” says differently abled GST officer Smita Raje. “For as long as I can remember, I have been very wary of chatting online,” she says. “After learning to work on a computer only a few years back, I used to be in awe of my younger colleagues each time they ‘WhatsApped’ or chatted on a video call,” recalls Smita.

The fears, after all, were not completely unfounded. She had been reading so much about how women were fooled by online scams and had even parted with money in online frauds. Given a choice, Smita would flag down a cab and commute to the nearest ATM, even if it were a mile away just to clear a restaurant bill that had overshot her budget, rather than use her debit card online. “Forget about using a phone camera,” she says, “I’d freak each time someone even lifted their own mobiles for fear of being photographed.”

And, with the lockdown in place, Smita was left with little option but to place her trust in her mobile. “It was a relatively-new smart phone that remained unused mostly because of my own fears and trust issues,” she says. “But, I guess, like necessity is the mother of invention, I re-invented myself during the lockdown,” adds Smita.

Smita Raje on Google Duo with her college friends
Smita Raje on Google Duo with her college friends

Since the last few years, she had reconnected with old college friends and had formed a wonderful support system. Now, with the lockdown in place and a friend’s birthday approaching, she was left with little option but to lead. After all, she was the smart one initiating the meetings and outings with the rest of her friends who were not as savvy. So, she went ahead and downloaded Google Duo after reading reams of reviews online.

And then, on her friend’s birthday on April 15, when all of India was locked down and staying put indoors, she connected them all on a virtual chat and, “had a blast”. “I had no idea how much fun that would be,” says Smita. “The lockdown has given me the time and space to learn so much online that I can use for life, even now once this lockdown has opened up. I now know how to do troubleshoot through so many situations, even cook exotic dishes I had only heard about, just by watching YouTube,” she adds.

For 38-year-old Dilnaz, the lockdown first came as a huge respite. Having broken up with Firoze her boyfriend and colleague of 10 years in a strained relationship, Dilnaz needed time to recuperate. The lockdown was a bitter-sweet experience for her. She was laid off after being paid a two-month salary at her workplace in Pune. But, more than that, she was happy to stay away from Firoze whose behaviour had become caustic after the breakup. “I needed a break desperately but this one came at a cost. I lost my job with it,” she says.

In the lockdown, Dilnaz found it extremely difficult loosening up online. “After all, I had met Firoze on WhatsApp group and felt that every interaction online would end in the same way,” she said. In early May, during a Zoom conference on Stress Management conducted by a psychologist, she attended hesitantly after overcoming her inhibitions, she found herself “face to face with a school friend, I once hated. It was so funny meeting him after more than two decades. We’d have such crazy fights in school. Then, we couldn’t stand each other,” she recalled.

In the days that followed, her childhood friend would call her diligently every morning when she’d discuss her day’s routine, crib about some low-paying online assignments she would work upon and the lockdown in general. “After two weeks, I realised that I actually missed the warmth of a friend, of someone who actually cared,” she says.

“When I told him that I would like to see him once the lockdown ended, he jocularly asked me if it was to ‘fight again…like old times.’ And, I realised that to get close to someone, space didn’t really matter,” maintains Dilnaz who has been waiting the lockdown to end. “I am so happy to have found a friend…one, I realised, I needed much more than a partner,” she says.

And then, there’s Clinical Psychologist Sayli Dhone who had been training her partner and Advocate Sarthak Dhone’s parents Suresh and Sunita with online tools to network and communicate with the rest of the family through the lockdown. “My family lives in the same complex but owing to the lockdown and the emergence of fresh Coronavirus cases in the zone, I couldn’t step out to visit them,” says Sayli.

Sayli with husband Sarthak Dhone
Sayli with husband Sarthak Dhone

That didn’t, however, prevent Sayli from creating WhatsApp groups for the family to stay connected at all times and train elderly members of the family with the nuances of online communication and video conferencing “so that nobody feels lonely during this trying period.”

Three lockdowns later, Sarthak feels sad that with the opening up imminent, the family will be off on their own ways and not stay as connected. Sayli, however, is set to bring the family back on one virtual platform, ever Sunday morning, now even after the lockdown ends.

So, as soon as the Prime Minister announced the national lockdown on March 25 and all institutions were shut down, Mumbai’s esteemed Siddharth Law College In-Charge Principal Sandhya Dokhe, “decided to find a way to help students utilise the lockdown time in a more productive manner.” But she had her own fears – valid and pertinent.

Once she got a nod from the management, the People’s Education Society, she roped in a few students to help organise and conduct webinars.

“With the continual reassurance from a friend and expert in cyber security on my niggling fears of data theft and security, and with the support of a few spirited students, I went ahead. In fact, I organised a webinar on cyber laws itself. Going ahead, it’s important to be aware of these laws which will now impact us regularly,” says the I/C Principal, initially very apprehensive.

Sandhya Dokhe, Siddharth Law College In-Charge Principal
Sandhya Dokhe, Siddharth Law College In-Charge Principal

The lockdown has forced people to stay indoors and face their wildest fears. They’ve learned skills, broken records, made waves even survived when all seemed lost. Going online isn’t easy for the elderly, the hurt, the uninitiated or the untrained.

GST officer Smita Raje, unable to move freely, has found wings online while Principal Sandhya Dokhe has managed to teach laws of pertinence while even away from her students. The lockdown has been crippling for most…but for some, it has thrown open windows of opportunities as most overcome issues of trust and fear of the unknown. It has healed and how!

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