Adjusting to the new normal: Understanding and preparing for the post-COVID world If someone told you that you will be confined to your home for more than three months in a row even a year ago, you probably wouldn’t have believed. Not in our wildest dreams would we have imagined been locked inside our homes for months on end, and not be able to do anything about it. And staying inside our homes is merely one small part of the way our lives have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in India in mid-March. Masks and gloves have become indispensable accessories and an inseparable part of our daily existence. Sanitizer bottles, once a rare commodity is now aplenty; present in every small pocket and desk counters across homes and offices. Public transportation has become a luxury and travel, except for under unavoidable circumstances has been prohibited for months now. Everywhere we go, all of us definitely think ‘When is this going to end?’. ‘When will life return to normal?’. ‘When will we go back to a life without sanitizers and masks?’ And at the risk of disappointing you, I predict that time will not come anytime soon. Yes, the number of cases will be down, the spread controlled. We will have better medicines and perhaps even vaccines, but the ‘normal’ as we know it is going to change. For a generation trapped in their homes for months on end due to a pandemic, the recovery to a life without safety and hygiene measures will be unimaginable. Before electricity was invented, it was the norm for people to have dinner at sundown and go to bed right after. The crack of the dawn meant the beginning of a new day for them and there was no way around it. Then, electricity happened and the people had an option to stay up after sundown without having to stare into the blank darkness. Today, we spend money in exchange for the luxury of staying out at night and enjoying a meal with our peers and family—a concept completely alien to the people even two centuries ago. And although a disruptive change, this pandemic will prove to be as important as the invention of electricity for mankind and us as a generation that was forced to change the way we live all of a sudden. The pandemic has also brought back millions of migrants back to their home towns, mostly people from lower income groups who have moved at some point in search for employment. Now is the time to analyze the real takeaways from the situation. We have to divide the situation into two parts: the things we learn from the pandemic and the things we need to do to combat the aftershocks of the situation that are slowly peeking up their heads. From masks to sanitizers--basically everything new in hygiene practices and of course the much-needed implementation of the golden social distancing rules will stay with us for a long time to come and it will actually help us in the years to come to combat the spread of anything similar. Same is the case with the boost to the Communication Technology sector, helping millions of us realize the potential of internet to the fullest and even I might add, help India is taking giant strides towards optimizing our work culture to the internal standards including facets like work from home and long-distance communication. But the challenges posed are aplenty too. The first large problem at had that needs to be solved has to be the goal to isolate and implement sustainable livelihood opportunities for migrant workers coming back to their hometowns. There is need to find opportunities to boost their skills or give them entirely new skill sets in order to ensure that their move back to the home doesn’t get wasted. These people have successfully contributed in the growth of the industries they have worked in and their skills could be engaged or tweaked to help in transformation of the homes they had left behind earlier in search of better opportunities. Then there is definitely the sector of education—which although has been making a comparatively smoother transformation to the digital world, but the gaps there too are aplenty. We need to accept the fact that the penetration and outreach of technological solutions is not something universal in our country and even if the switch to online platforms seems seamless, the challenges of making it accessible universally to every child in the days to come. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a big bang of epic proportions for us as a society, slowing down our pace and giving us a time to reflect on our standing at a very crucial point of time in the human existence timeline. The changes that are required and ones that are absolutely unavoidable---have all come forward and prioritizing everything has become much easier. In the days to come we should as a team all work towards taking away the best from the situation at hand, and come out of it together—stronger as a country and with a brighter future as a society.