Hassan Tahir Latif
My mind appears to be unravelling, yet coming together spectacularly at the same time. A similar process is taking place all around me as well, I believe. The convictions and conventions that we held to be true yesterday are becoming more and more irrelevant. The way we worked and lived—that world is crumbling. It’s clear that who we were before the world was forced to stand still doesn’t matter anymore; it’s also imperative that we figure out where we go from here. I’m reminded strongly of a quote from Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when our protagonist sagely says, “…I can’t go back to yesterday, I was a different person then.”
The past few weeks have led me to believe that we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of our own. Time certainly doesn’t make sense here, neither do the realities we’re faced with. Navigating this complex, quite uncertain, world requires us to confront our own demons in solitude, practice the extreme sport of social distancing and ensure that the evil queen—the disease—doesn’t find us. “Off with their heads!” resonates entirely differently now. I’d like to keep my head intact, thank you very much.
Unlike Alice, though, we’re not alone on this journey. Sure, Alice found help along the way (misleading at times, confusing at others), but she had to traverse the new landscape on her own. I take heart in knowing that everyone—every single person—is today saddled with the task of finding his or her way back home.
Alice was never the same after her ordeal, I believe. Yet one wonders whether Alice remembered her time in Wonderland once she was older. Don’t adults distance themselves from such fabulist realities? Will we forget the lessons we’re constantly learning during this time? Will our post-isolation reality be the same as the one before?
We’ll find the bottled potion somewhere in the recesses of our minds and collectively we’ll eventually head back to our former ways. In fact, from what I’m noticing, I’m worried that we’ll gulp it down without a thought. What we probably won’t realise is that the potion only propels us further down the rabbit hole.
What this Covid-reality has demonstrated to us is that life cannot go on with the same disregard to the world around us. Escaping one evil queen may not be enough, because another one may raise her head. We already know what the next one looks like. Climate change is not just some creature of the netherworld that one finds in obscure literature. The disastrous effects are already quite visible.
Although the havoc that this microscopic entity has wreaked upon us is terrible, the resulting quarantine and isolation is a timeout that the world desperately needed. A timeout for time itself. We’ve crossed the threshold to a reality where time is suspended and where nature seems to be reclaiming its territory. If nothing else, then the air in Lahore, hovering largely under 50 on the AQI scale, should lead everyone to believe that the world we lived in has changed.
At some point, paths diverged on the cosmic scale and we were allowed this reprieve—a pocket of stolen time to fix ourselves. To come together, heal and navigate our new normal. We’re at a crossroads now. One road takes us for tea with the Hatter, where we can remain in blissful ignorance till our host kicks us out; the other allows us to move forward, further down the rabbit hole till we eventually learn how to live in a new reality.
Funnily enough, only time will tell what becomes of us.
A note on the painting: Leonora Carrington was a British-born Mexican multidisciplinary artist within the surrealist movement. Her work explores both the Celtic mythology she grew up with and the fabulist tales of Mexican cultural tradition. Ulu's Pants resonated with me immediately, due to the way the characters are hybrid representations, all surrounded by a complex labyrinth in the background where creatures seem to be searching for an exit. The egg symbolizes rebirth and renewal of spirit, a pertinent concept in these trying times. This eerie symbolic representation of introspection and human existence pulls me in closer, the longer I observe it.