New Beginnings, an essay by Ali Ashhar at
The Digital Artist

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

written by: Ali Ashhar



Advent of the pandemic

With the advent of the novel COVID-19 endemic in late 2019 from China, and then establishing its status as a pandemic in early 2020— this catastrophe turned life upside down for many around the world. A desolated and altered form of lifestyle turned into a grim reality with many countries going into total lockdown to contain the further spread of the virus. 2020- a year that will go down in history books as one of the most peculiar and bizarre years that altered our lifestyle and social paradigms.


Learning turning into virtual mode

As the Indian government announced a lockdown on 24 March 2020— the lifestyle of 1.4 billion people around the country was consequently dismantled. With schools and universities closed, and learning mode turning totally virtual; students bound themselves to the screen of their mobiles/laptops/tablets. Poor network and audio coverage while adapting this new mode of learning were among some of the chafing factors to deal with. With these nuisances prevailing, learning wasn’t as effective as the erstwhile mode of classes. Assignments and chapter doubts became more of complicated stuff. Discussing doubts and assignments with our kin rather than our teachers had now become the new normal. There are always pros and cons of circumstances, and quarantine life was no different. Thanks to our quarantine schedule that brought our family closer than ever. Solving doubts with mutual discussion, and helping each other with their stuff had now become a part of our life. Delving more into self-study rather than mainstream lectures sheerly transformed our way of learning. Not only was the academic mode of learning changed but aspects of life too changed with the pandemic.


Conforming to the norms of quarantine

With the implementation of lockdown expanding and quarantine routine becoming a new norm— we certainly prayed for our world that was perhaps going through the worst of phases in the modern era. Many chapters were etched in the history books and tackling the pandemic with utmost care had become our daily routine now. No social gathering, party, or university fun, had taken a toll on our routines yet learning about the pandemic and keeping ourselves safe was our inclination now. Fear of mingling with someone knocking at the door and going out to buy groceries amidst all precautions was nevertheless an uphill battle for us.


A new beginning of life

As we say there are always two facets of a coin— this pandemic became pivotal in exploring new chapters of life.
Learning new household chores and ways to cook scrumptious recipes amidst the free time. Helping mom with her chores, sometimes playing board games and solving puzzles as we shared glimpse of past with each other. Resorting to indoor games and sports to stay fit and juvenile was the tale of every quarantine evening. One thing that fretted us for sure was our constrained social life— no rendezvous with friends, and atop of it the closure of religious institutions. From visiting mosques five times a day and learning few religious lessons to now being restricted to pray only in the yards of your house— life appeared with its new countenance. Perhaps, the silver lining amidst all this was our father didacticizing us on various spiritual aspects of life— a thing which he included in his free routine of the quarantine. Then, came the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar— Ramadan. Ramadan is when Muslims fast throughout the month from dawn to dusk out of sincere faith. A meal known as iftar was prepared at dusk to break the fast as we fasted all day long in this holy month of Ramadan. Verses of the Quran were recited and reflected upon to serve humanity as we looked for the underprivileged around us and provided them some aid in this sacred month of Ramadan looking for some reward from the Almighty. The pandemic during Ramadan was now one more factor to serve humanity as many were finding it hard to earn their daily wages.
In these months, we strive to give up on evil deeds and focus more on the teachings of the Quran. Ramadan in this pandemic taught us that nothing is permanent in the world, life is uncertain so we should strive to give up on evil and get ourselves closer to the Almighty by engaging in the good deeds loved by him. Soon, Ramadan bid us farewell but the teachings it had inculcated in us made a profound place in our hearts for a long time. Even after Ramadan, long religious sermons by our father became the spiritual escape that offered us peace and made us tackle the dreary quarantine life. As many underprivileged approached us in search of basic necessities and groceries, Dad reminded us of all the favours that Almighty had bestowed upon us. He said, “To be able to serve others is also a favour that has been granted by the Almighty upon us. If life has blessed you with something good, you should be utilizing that blessing for a philanthropic cause always.” These lines carved a special place in our hearts for an infinite time.


How I turned myself into a poet

During lockdown, I began exploring my inner self. I started writing journals. Writing was my escape from this hard time as still I was looking for a clue about the disaster that gripped the whole world. I started writing poems and suddenly I found one dormant stance of poet within me. I started posting it online as now I had found myself encompassed more with words that were drilling every ounce of life within me. I started preparing a diary for my poems and this lockdown transformed me into a dilettante poet. A secluded life spoke to me more than the hustle of everyday life. I found myself occupied with words. I began reading poets from William Shakespeare to Kahlil Gibran, Geoffrey Chaucer to Williams Wordsworth, from John Keats to WB Yeats. I started doing research on poetry: scribing my emotions on the blank page of free time that the quarantine schedule brought me. As the world was suffering from the pandemic, pathetically many other evils were prevailing around the world. In the middle of the pandemic, there were still conflicts, wars, and atrocities going on. Movements like “black lives matter” in the early days of June carved a revolution out of injustice in the United States. People took to the streets of the United States to protest against the suffering that black people around the world go through. This motivated me to come up with words that portray what our world needs right now. I wrote a poem titled “Racism” with injustice as its theme and it was published online in a magazine. I then wrote further more poems on motivation, love, family, and social issues. My first poem with “love” as its theme was published in an anthology during the lockdown and this was no less than a life-changing experience. With the passage of time, a mediocre student in me had established himself as a poet with my words reaching out to the masses— both online and offline. If it wasn’t for the free time that made me introspect during the pandemic, I would not have established myself as a poet whose poems were getting published in magazines and anthologies. With my writing, I aimed to bring whatever little change I could bring to this world, as my father taught me to utilize any blessing you are blessed with for a good cause. I had found a new way of escape from the melancholy of life, a way to express who I am, what I aspire for, my beliefs, my values, and the poet in me equated firmly with every emotion now on the pages of my poetic life. Life adds more to its meaning when you find a source of inspiration to dwell on, and that too at such a period of time.


What the pandemic taught us

There were umpteen lessons that life taught us with the onset of the pandemic. As the days of lockdown were expanded and so was the morbidity of COVID-19. With immense fatalities reported and the predicament of humans intensifying, each day came with the appalling stories of death and suffering around the world. Life had now started appearing more of a blessing than a debacle. If you were having food in your fridge in a world where millions were starving and dying due to job losses and suffering, life certainly taught us what gratitude ever meant. Over 122 million people lost their jobs in April, according to estimates from the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy— 75% were small traders and wage labourers. A dismal time that sadly made many commit suicide out of hunger and poverty. Life had perhaps unfolded its catastrophic aspect, yet the proximity of our close ones and the right vision during the pandemic made us wade through it all.
A pandemic that left many jobless, bereaved of their loved ones, left many starving, now certainly made us appreciate everything that life blessed us with. A heart that was grateful for beating and a body that was still breathing. Making it through all safe and sound was nothing less of a miracle. And at the end of the day, the mind just muses over the fact that this was a pandemic that made us delve more into life, a pandemic that made us ponder over the uncertainties that life brings, a pandemic that made us introspect more with us, a pandemic that taught what it means to hold your loved ones close in dark times, a pandemic that taught us— what a rollercoaster ride life is. 2020 was uncertain yet it made me better of a human being, a better scholar who now had found a motive in life, a person whose emotions had now found a voice that was reaching to many around the globe. Another factor to beam over my achievements during this period was the proud face of my parents— they had found a promising writer in the reserved introvertish personality of their son.

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