I’m sitting in my London garden. It’s mid-spring and the garden is in full bloom. The daffodils and tulips have strutted their stuff beautifully over the past weeks and have now started to retreat, as the cycle of life dictates they must. The birds are singing their hearts out, probably letting each other know that I have been digging around, moving bulbs and repotting some plants, thus aware that my tilling of the soil may well lay bare some tasty morsels
It seems a world apart from where I was in April last year. I left India on a ‘repatriation flight’ at the end of April 2020, with somewhat traumatic experiences as the name suggests. Saddened to leave but responsibly for returning to my family in the UK at such a difficult time, the dire circumstances causing fear, panic and deep concern. This was a time where families needed to be together, to support each other and alleviate my children’s anxieties.
As I left my cherished Chhattarpur home, which is also my studio, atelier and creativity mentoring classroom, I bid farewell to the team, the people I had worked with for over 2 decades and assured them I would be back within a month. Something I believed, something I hoped for, something that has been thwarted by the ebb and flow of this evil pandemic.
For evil it most certainly is, unpredictable, destructive, unyielding but, as with all evil, it will end. The survival of humankind is centred on overcoming diabolical doom
Sadly, as I write, the pandemic is reaching unprecedented levels in India. I may be in a comfortable place here in the UK myself, the vaccination program and the strict social distancing rules are certainly making their mark, but I cannot feel truly content whilst the country I regard as one of my two first homes, is suffering
That said, I am an eternal optimist and will forever look for the silver lining in every cloud.
What have we learned from the pandemic, what positive takeaways have been gifted us. Sorry if that sounds a little insensitive but my reasoning is well-intentioned. The way we have adapted to the dramatic change in the status quo over the last year has presented us with changes in the way we do things that will remain for the good. In particular, the Home has regained its place as the centre of our individual universe, a very good thing indeed.
Here are but a few examples.
The Home as an Education Centre
The number of significant challenges inflicted on the Education system and our eventual evolution into new, and I believe powerfully positive paradigms is one. On line mentoring was looked at with fear and trepidation, as a pariah. Now the opposite has proven to be the case. Our Homes have become our Education centrer, a place where all members of the family can develop their knowledge and understanding, both individually and, most importantly, as a family. How many of us really keep up with our children’s education? The ‘coding is not for me, leave it to the kids ‘ syndrome. But sharing our ward’s learning is a great experience for all.
When it comes to delivery, once new mentoring techniques have been mastered, then there are certainly many positive. James Ward, Head of The Cambridge School of the Creative Industries, drew my attention to the fact that his experience with students studying Visual / Graphic Communication show they are really benefitting from the changes IT made. After all the world of computers, and in effect Robot Speak, is where they will abide professionally.
David Gloster, Director of Education at Royal Institute British Architects RIBA, has found that presentations and submissions by students using CAD-based portfolios have seen a huge improvement in translation and explanation
Equally online has opened up the academic world. Faculty from everywhere and anywhere can be in your classroom at the press of a button. Magic. It also contributes to saving the planet. I’ve travelled extensively over the past year from my home office desk. Something I could not have otherwise managed.
I have conducted practical workshops, mentoring studios and interactive lectures all around the world. I really do enjoy the experience and the comments I have received from students indicates that they enjoy it too.
This said it is vital that one develops and improves one’s online Communication Skills. Once mastered there is the opportunity to create different learning patterns. Interestingly I have observed that the process of holding an audience’s attention is the same for 8year olds as it is for 80-year-olds. In truth, the 8-year-olds are often far more open to conversation and interaction than their elders!
The Home Office
The important role the Home Office has played is exciting. Financially and indeed energy-wise a great saving. Last year my carbon footprint was minimal, even though the success of the meetings I had have been considerable. In truth, I believe the quality of those meetings, lectures, webinars, interviews et al were as good, if not better than if I had physically travelled to the venues.
Family and Friends
The old expressions, ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ and ‘An Englishman’s Home is His Castle’ have reestablished their importance. With the risk of contagion high during the times when infection numbers spiked, making the option of staying home rather than going out the preferred option.
The Home as a Care Centre
I have been inspired by my friend and colleague, the renowned architect Seetu Kholi’s recent Instagram posting where she suggests every home should have a room equipped for medical emergencies. A visionary suggestion that in truth is not difficult to achieve.
I quote ‘COVID-19 has told us to make a home medical room in every house today. The must-haves for this is are a well-ventilated room or corner with a medical bed, an oxygen concentrator.
An oxygen cylinder with a full kit including a regulator flow kit and a nebuliser is a must.
A fully equipped medicine box that is refreshed every month.
A TV screen with virtual conferencing facilities with a doctor is essential too.
A sofa/sofa-cum-bed, if possible, nearby for an attendant who could help.
Do invest in a ventilator if you can afford it.
The room should be bright and bold designed with positive quotes written on the walls. Remember to add a music system or inbuilt speakers.
An attached bathroom is very important.
A good view or a balcony with a room make it an ideal room’
One of the horror stories in the UK COVID wise is how the disease ripped through care homes. It is only correct that we personally concentrate on the vulnerable and older members of our family, not dispatching them off to be looked after by others just because they have become a burden, in truth a responsibility.
Interestingly India is much better at preserving the Primary Group than many other nations. Given this strength and the additional advantage of AI making our homes far more powerful resources. The future may look foreboding at present but in truth it is bright.
Prof. Mike Knowles,
Emeritus Professor, School of Creativity