I wasn’t expecting a long stay. I packed a very small suitcase and even left my portable laptop mouse in New York, in hopes of shutting off from work while I was away. But COVID-19 went from just another virus to a pandemic. India went from operating 100 US flights to 0, in just seven days.
Time has become a strange concept. In an attempt to stay close to my New York work schedule while living nine time zones ahead, my new workday starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 3 a.m. (on the good days). I eat lunch when my parents eat dinner, and I sleep when the sunlight starts to trickle into my window. The biggest struggle has been staying motivated, especially while watching the pandemic unfold in my developing country.
Sixty percent of India’s population, an estimated 812 million people, live in extreme poverty, unable to even sustain basic needs such as food and water. Each of them lives on less than $3.20 a day. India’s lockdown has meant that work, transportation, and support stopped for most of the population, making already harsh conditions even worse.
A few days after I settled back into life at home, a young man approached me as I walked my dog, asking me politely “do you know how I can get to Agra from here? I am walking there and need directions.” He carried his life with him in several bags, shuffled his feet in torn slippers. Agra was 160 miles away from where we stood. It would take him 87 hours of walking continuously to reach his destination. He was just one out of 812 million.
The world’s most disadvantaged are suffering in the harshest of ways. Everywhere, communities struggle to survive. I’ve looked to my work to provide me with purpose. The current social and political climate has shown that it is not only important for corporations to take a stand on social issues, it is necessary. As advisors, Brunswick influences how companies behave, how they talk about issues, how they can use their resources to change the world, to make it a better place. Holding on to this broader vision has kept me motivated, helped me stay up and stay alert during my odd hours.
The world is simultaneously mourning and fighting—for health, for equality and for new hope. There is a lot of sadness, a lot of frustration and anger. I only hope that everyone has a few moments of joy to hold on to, a few loved ones to turn to, and a vision to look toward to get through this difficult time. Here are some moments of joy that I’ve held tight:
I was able to prep my father for his first live CNBC interview—while he made an incredibly terrible client, he made a very proud father as he experienced a little snippet of the work that we do.
I couldn’t be in New York to join the recent protests, but having a steady paycheck meant that I’ve been able to contribute to causes I believe in. Connecting my fortunate ability to work to giving back has helped me attach value to my days.
My mother visited our local florist two months back and found him struggling to put food on the table for his family. No one was buying flowers. He wanted to shift to selling fruit instead. Moved, my mother did what she could to support him. His new fruit shop seems to be doing well, and he has vowed to repay her kindness by being kind to others he encounters who are struggling to make ends meet.