In a country where the society is divided on the basis of the Varna system and deep-rooted gender stereotypes, Coronavirus has become a source of unification not just in a battle against the fast-spreading infection but also in a strange way has unified socio-cultural community and has almost started uprooting the social Hierarchy.
With changing times the hereditary nature of occupations is slowly vanishing but sadly the social hierarchy continues to be in the picture. Thankfully, this period of quarantine has brought a revolutionary movement of change in our mindsets and has given us enough time to review these borders of social status based on an individual’s job.
When there is no domestic help available to anyone, we have begun to understand the importance of these services and learn to do them for ourselves. The people working for proper sanitation making public places safe to visit, the garbage pickers and sweepers ensuring clean and hygienic localities, the health workers who could probably get infected while tending the unfortunate victims of the pandemic, the delivery staff who brings us necessary items so that we don’t have to step out into the warzones that out neighbourhoods have become, the policemen who are still out there responsible for ensuring proper law and order and so many more are the working force of the country without whom we cannot imagine our lives and hence the most essential to us, but yet somehow land at the bottom of the pyramid of class and status in the society.
It is common for us to judge people solely on the basis of their occupations. The educated know that it is wrong and yet even they unknowingly do it. How often do we clean the drains of our own homes? How often do we wash our own cars? We usually leave these tasks for the ‘help’ because while we may not word it, we consider these tasks as filthy and beneath us. The lockdown has blessed us with the gift of realization that domestic help, labourers, sweepers, garbage pickers, security guards, delivery staff, heath and sanitation workers and in fact everyone who provides us with any kind of service are not a part of the vertical system of social status but a member of the same horizontal community to which we all belong as citizens of a country.
Even inside our homes, with everyone (hopefully) sharing the load of house chores, from cooking for hours in the kitchen in the unbearable summer heat to washing utensils and mopping floors when everyone does the jobs which are wrongly prejudiced to be ‘lowly,’ we all become the same and the very existence of the social hierarchy is put to question. The quarantine period has made people value and appreciates essentiality of services irrespective of the kind of economic strata and caste to which the servicemen belong. An excellent example of this has been set up by many celebrities who have been posting videos of them doing these basic house chores to inspire people who earlier took pride in not knowing how to cook or never have washed clothes or any other chore they considered ‘not so fancy.’
Another group of the society whose labour has been extremely undervalued is homemakers. Everyone knows that it is wrong to play down the work done by homemakers out of love and yet so many of us still do it. Homemakers do not get the same acknowledgement as their working partners who work outside to earn money. With the lockdown forcing people to stay inside their homes, now everyone is not just witnessing but experiencing the toilsome chores which homemakers do on a daily basis with little appreciation. Now, everyone realizes how consuming it can be for a homemaker to actually cater to needs and variable choices of every member of the family and actually make a house feel like home.
The silver lining of the dark cloud that is this pandemic is that it has made us question the construction of social hierarchy and has resulted in the beginning of its fading. It has made us ponder over the meaningless existence of this vertical system of social status turned out to be a much required cultural tsunami for the nation.