On the Allegory of Covid (UK Shyam)

Once every few years, the Universe speaks to us. History repeats itself like a metaphysical conscience -- to chastise most of humanity that is self-absorbed and arrogant. This January, Singaporeans started to hear murmurs. And soon, the murmurs escalated into funereal chants. Now it screams at us and forces us to confront our humanity, or lack of. I can’t help but think this sobering period of 2020 is meant to check our hubris. The hubris in all of us -- Covid doesn’t discriminate. As the whole nation went into Circuit Breaker mode, the calming yet uneasy silence that came over my neighborhood forced me to think about life and if what I was doing with it was truly meaningful. My sometimes self-indulgent philosophising was interrupted by an inner conscience that pricked my ego. The Whatsapp messages from my ex-colleagues and insights from my smarter partner made me realise the disruptive wave the education community was experiencing. I was compelled to do something.

I activated Team Singapore and we went into overdrive, drafting documents, making phone calls, and running around to all corners of the island to collect and distribute some relief to families in this time of frustration and chaos. The good people at EngineeringGood do the harder job of painstakingly reformatting pre-loved laptops, sanitising them and uploading new software. Toiling for hours in a room lined with little towers of laptops and MacBooks, the team’s spirits are high. They laugh about their eye bags, disheveled hair and insomnia for the greater good. This is the true DNA of the Singapore Spirit - that almost mythical gotong royong mentality that we’ve read or heard so much about from our grandparents. 

Each day, as I walk home towards my apartment after a few hours of laptop delivery, I revisit the difficult questions that this pandemic has forced us to grapple with. This allegory of Covid brings to light the tensions and contradictions that have festered in society. I see heightened vitriol and empathy, xenophobia and camaraderie, despair and joy. I hope this confluence of yin and yang, of hatred and love, of silence and cacophony jolts our moral conscience such that we re-examine what is most dear in our lives, and appreciate what many of us have been blessed with. Many have a lot less. What is paramount is that we look intently at this black mirror that Covid holds in front of us, so that we deny the ego that so intuitively governs us. Let us reset and think of the Other. 

Marilah kita bersatu dengan semangat yang baru”.


UK Shyam 

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