British MP Wendy Chamberlain participates in a remote session of the House of Commons in Westminster, London, from her home in Fife, Scotland on April 21, 2020, during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: AFP

Home is where the heart is. A place to rest and relax. A place to enjoy the warmth of our loved ones. A place to pursue our hobbies. A place where we can be ourselves. Home was our world, a private world sealed off from the world outside.

All that has changed. Homes are no longer what it used to be. Work came home with us. The world and its troubles invaded our living rooms. Our worlds collided and converged. Where does home end and office start. The lines have blurred.

When home becomes office, home ceases to be home. That’s happening around the world. Lockdowns and social distancing have pushed most people into home isolation. About one-third of the world is in some form of lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

We can’t entirely blame the virus. The microbe merely accelerated the changes that have been taking place over a period of time. The pandemic formalised the change. A change from which there may be no turning back.

I hope social distancing goes away. We can do without that. What’s a world without friends? Enemies too. We need them all. After all, we are social animals.


When did it all start?

For me, it started with television. The radio may have brought entertainment to our homes, but it was more of songs and other audio programmes. It had its limitations. It wasn’t as fulfilling as the television. Well, seeing is believing. And television facilitated that. It was a game-changer.

How internet changed our lives

Movies came into our homes. Football matches and Test cricket were beamed live into our living rooms. News bulletins brought the world into our homes.

That was when the world and home converged. We became witnesses to the Bosnian war, Italia ’90, Los Angeles Olympics, LiveAid concerts in Wembley, London, and Philadelphia. Many more events that changed the world, we watched them all from the comfort of our sofas.

If television became our window to the world, the internet brought information to our fingertips. Everything was a click away. The internet changed the way we live.

Everything is online. We shop online; we bank online: we chat online. Social interactions too have gone online. The rise of social media was merely a sign of the times.

The internet put our lives on steroids. It brought us streaming television; we no longer have to go to movie halls. High definition telecast became a reality as bandwidths grew.

High-speed internet brought us more comforts and convenience. Classrooms and offices crossed the divide. They came home with us. Remember how we used to thump through the messages on BlackBerrys. It was convenient yet inconvenient. It robbed our family time. We dismissed them as minor aberrations.

When stress came home

That was the beginning of work from home. Teachers kept students updated through WhatsApp. Wasn’t it intrusive? It was, but we refused to acknowledge it.

The coronavirus pandemic merely cemented what we have been doing. What we’ve been doing part-time has become full time.

We start work from home in our pyjamas. The work never ends. Finally, when we tear ourselves off the computer screen, another screen awaits us. The television with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple +, all beckon us with their offerings.

Our children too aren’t spared. Schools, colleges and universities might be closed, but remote learning keeps the education going. Their social interactions might be suffering, but the learning process continues.

Will we return to our normal lives?

We miss eating out. So if we can’t go to restaurants, the apps on our phones bring the menus to us. And the food delivered at our door.

Groceries, laundry, everything comes home. Telemedicine takes care of the consultations with the doctor. There’s no need to step out. The world has entered our homes.

What happens when the pandemic goes away? Will we return to our normal lives? Will we want to return to life as we knew it? Will we continue to work from home? What about the remote learning of our children?

My guess is most of this will stay with us. Maybe over time, we may return to our familiar ways. But a stagnant economy will force employers and companies to continue using the work from home mode.

It makes perfect business sense. Work from home will reduce the overheads of companies. And that would make the balance sheets and bottom lines healthier.

We would have got used to the convenience of online shopping. It would have become a habit. So the bricks and mortar shops will be in jeopardy.

Schools should return to what it was. Or else, it will adversely affect children’s mental development. Remote learning could supplement classroom teaching. There could be better integration.

Our hospital visits will be drastically reduced. We will stop running to doctors for every ailment, opting for teleconsultations for non-emergencies.

more on coronavirus

I hope social distancing goes away. We can do without that. What’s a world without friends? Enemies too. We need them all. After all, we are social animals.

What won’t change is television. It’s no longer an idiot box. They are called Smart TVs now, and they come with apps. And apps have taken over lives.

The virus crisis brought out the best in humanity. People rose above the barriers of race, caste, creed and nationality to bring relief to the most wanted. That should stay with us.

It will make us a better version of ourselves.