Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, distancing, isolation and lockdown have become the new normal. Yet, it’s no secret that we all need care and support during this time. Whether it is for access to essential services or for emotional wellness, we need to remain socially connected even while we distance ourselves physically.
Finding ways to connect could be difficult during this time. I definitely struggled with this. One question that I constantly asked myself about this was:
“How to build connection, especially with human beings with different experiences than me, when I feel so isolated and cut off in my own bubble?”
That’s when I came across The Curio-city Collective: an online platform that inspires conversations, reflection and action around well-being and inter-connectedness in Indian cities, through a variety of resources including podcasts, articles, and Instagram posts. It has been co-founded by three women- each with a decade of experience in the development sector- Deepika Khatri, Arpita Joshi and Srinidhi Raghavan. Throughout April, they have been having conversations on the theme of ‘Connection and Care’, with a recent episode of their podcast fittingly titled: Connection in the Time of Corona.
The Curio-city Collective Team very warmly agreed to be interviewed by Stories of Hope, to help us answer some questions we had on ways to connect to others at this time. Enjoy the deeply insightful interview below!
Why did you choose ‘Care and Connection’ as a theme?
Care and connection are the fundamental values and concepts that underpin the work of The Curio-city Collective. Our well-being framework was created around the idea that no issue or person functions in isolation. Our lived experiences are an outcome of myriad variables that come together to frame, present and define a condition. Hence, one of our core hopes for our work has been to showcase how these interconnections exist and how, when we recognise them, we can work on a more holistic understanding and approach to responding and resolving them collectively.
Why is this so important during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have been faced with divisiveness and fragmentation within sections of society in the last few years, and COVID-19’s occurrence has thrown us into a strange space of evaluation. In some senses, the blindness of the virus to our social differences brings us together as humanity and reminds us how our collective wellness is an outcome of each person’s behaviour. Yet, the fragmentation and inequity that currently exists within society showcases how the human response to the virus needs to be sensitive to these differences and especially account for the most vulnerable amongst us. As these realities unfolded about us, we felt a special focus on this topic- at a time when our vulnerabilities make our need for connection and care acute- would but helpful for reflection and action.
It seems to us at Stories of Hope that, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also facing a pandemic of loneliness and distress. How can we cope with this, and how is connecting with others related to coping?
It is reasonable to assume that a pandemic would cause anxiety and distress. A lockdown added to it can make for a complicated set of outcomes for different individuals. The cause and depth of the distress would vary as per the particular conditions of an individual. Like our partners from iCall indicated, a distress response is a complex outcome of many psycho-social variables and requires a response unique to those individual needs.
That said, our website lists articles and resources which can help one begin to navigate distress. In this article – Tanuja Babre, the Co-ordinator of iCALL, a psychosocial helpline, presents a short guide on the basics of self-care. In another article, Prathama Raghavan, a developmental psychologist, offers her thoughts on intentional actions in moments of distress. In this piece by Srinidhi Raghavan, you can learn how to make a care box, which is a tool to cope with anxiety. We have also listed helplines and organisations we can reach out to during such times of distress.
It’s also useful to remember that research is increasingly telling us that expanding our web of care further might not only be beneficial to those we reach out to, but also to ourselves. Hence, sometimes a powerful way to cope is also to reach out and extend our support to others.
(Note from Stories of Hope: You can also check out the list of resources we have compiled in our post on reaching out for help.)
It has been widely reported that the occurrence of domestic violence across the world has increased during the lockdown. What are the ways that people who are unsafe at home can access care and connection?
Those for whom a home is not a safe space have been particularly vulnerable during of the lockdown. Like we have reiterated, the unique circumstances of individuals define the nature of response they might require. Required responses may include: access to spaces of redressal and support at multiple levels in the system, from the communities the victim inhabits to the institutions and mechanisms especially evolved for addressing such vulnerabilities. Over the last few decades, we have seen movements and activists work actively towards achieving this by petitioning and framing laws that help ensure that violence is understood and responded to sensitively; and, by breaking the taboo around the subject and raising awareness on it.
In terms of actions victims of violence can take: A number of distress helplines are accessible for those who might wish to ask for help or want to talk. Specifically for children in need of care and protection, Childline (1098) can be accessed. Victims can also reach out to the police if the situation demands it. Many cities now have exclusive women’s police stations or police stations which have integrated women and children’s cell that have been especially trained to respond to issues of violence.
As individuals in society, it is important that each of us stay vigilant and sensitive to any abuse that might be taking place around us and take appropriate and thoughtful action which can vary from extending emotional support, to helping victims link up with systems that might address that abuse.
One aspect of the situation that hardly gets talked about is the stigma associated COVID 19. Physical distancing is important, but, all too often, it can result in suspicion, hypervigilance and stigma towards people who living in hotspots or whose family members have had COVID-19. How can we escape from the trap of stereotyping and stigmatising?
Stigma is often a function of the fear of the unknown. What we’re seeing now is a reiteration of demarcations and biases driven by fear and anxiety. To address this at a structural level involves at multiple actions (which would need a much longer response). There need to be:
- strong messages from leaders in government, including support for those whose family members have been affected by ensuring that action is taken against those who threaten or violate their safety or right to live in their home;
- openness and sharing of accounts by people who have recovered;
- safety plans made and shared by Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) on how to respond to someone who might contract the virus should include providing provisions and cooked food to the person/family so that they are not put under more stress.
Talking about these issues and coming to an agreement about support-driven efforts changes the language and approach.
During this lockdown, while staying at home, our interactions with people from different social backgrounds than us has reduced. In this sense, we are free to live in our privileged bubble without thinking about how many communities lack access to basic food and livelihood and are experiencing disproportionately high levels of distress during the lockdown. How can we stay aware of this reality, empathise and extend care to them?
A good place to begin is to talk to the people around you. A lot of false information that’s damaging and vilifying is circulating on WhatsApp and the news. Begin by having conversations with family, friends and people you went to school or college with who might share information that promotes biases or separations. Rather than a heated WhatsApp exchange, reach out to them and say you’d like to have a conversation. Arm yourself with verified, accurate information. Take the time to discuss interconnections between issues. If someone says they can’t understand why workers need to be paid when the government has assured them food and shelter, try to approach the statement by presenting a situation where that person’s income/access to money might be taken away if they are promised food and shelter. Would they still be amenable? Use your own life examples to talk about privilege and what access to safe water means in this time and the lifesaving role it plays.
Walk the talk. If you recognise the bubble within which you function, the best approach is to find ways to break it. If you want family members or people around you to empathise, start by reaching out to organisations or vulnerable groups yourself. Perhaps it might mean keeping a flask of tea for sanitation workers who come to collect garbage everyday. Bring the stories and lived realities of the people you hear of or engage with to these groups—their experiences and daily struggles could serve to bring a human face to what otherwise might feel distant.
Even amongst the distance, anxiety and fear, what are some of the initiatives that give you hope?
Even with the grim news of the pandemic unfolding, there is also news of several initiatives being undertaken by individuals, collectives, spontaneously organised groups, NGOs and institutions, that are heartwarming and inspiring. From individuals leaving food for stray animals to people buying and delivering food and groceries to the elder or disabled members of their societies; from large scale efforts to help farmers sell their produce within communities to raising funds and basic resources for the most vulnerable in society – the examples are plenty and, in these difficult times, they show us how the path of compassion and care can be a path of recovery and hope.
Was this interview helpful? Did it help you to think differently about issues of connection? Let us know in the comments below or by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about The Curio-city Collective and join the TCC Community through their website, which consists of articles and resources that dive in-depth into connection, care, mental health and other issues. You can also listen to their richly insightful and reflective podcast and visit their Instagram page (@curiocitycollective).
I am a feminist, bookworm, occasional writer and perpetual learner. I work at Kolkata Sanved, an NGO that uses Dance Movement Therapy for healing and empowering marginalised communities, and I’m currently training to be a Dance Movement Therapy Practitioner.
I am a feminist and an artist with a keen interest in mental health. I have always found peace and the power of expression, in art and music, since a very early age. Empathy is my mantra and goal for life. The rest of me is essentially my love for dogs, swimming and food!
I am a practicing psychologist. I’m interested in art and design. Mandala art is my stress buster. I’m also into the upcoming field of fashion psychology. Binge watching on Netflix is one of my current pastimes!