Thursday, 24 September, 2020
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OPINION

Corona Hits Culture



D. N. Gartoula

Culture is an umbrella term, which encompasses social behaviours and norms in any society. It also includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of individuals. It is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by people. Such values pass through generations and are generally unspoken and unwritten rules.
Culture is neither obscure nor residual. It is a social phenomenon that is manifested quite clearly. Culture is not a single variable as it enrolls innumerable components. It is not a specific material object that has its own objective existence. All of us belong to this vast cultural system in which we find ourselves connected in many ways.
But we are being divided willingly or unwillingly at present. We are not so close with one another as we used to be in the past.
If a neighbour dies, people reach his/her home to sympathise with the bereaved family members. It is our culture that makes us visit his/her house and do the needful without any invitation and instruction. This type of gathering indicates intimate relationship, cooperation, sympathy and feeling of togetherness in the community.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned this cooperative culture upside down. We tend to avoid visiting the neigbours owing to the fear of catching deadly virus. This has forced people to stay in isolation and detached from the society, hitting cultural norms, values and social activities. When someone dies of corona infection, only fewer relatives, friends and well-wishers attend his/her funeral procession and death ritual lasting for three to 13 days. It negatively impacts social relations involving manners, language, religion, rituals, art, norms of behaviours and beliefs.
No doubt, the culture of a particular society is the most important asset. If we fail to move it ahead citing various factors, we will have to pay for it sooner or later. We enjoy different cultural activities like naming ceremony, rice feeding ceremony for a child, tonsure ceremony, a religious ceremony of wearing of the holy thread and marital ceremony, to name a few. There are many other social, cultural and religious activities. We need to participate in such activities. But the coronavirus has caused an unfavourable situation for us to maintain such vital socio-cultural activities.
Culture is a composition of social organisation, customs, religion, language, government, economy and arts. They are either material or non-material cultures. They represent physical things created by society and intangible ones produced by a culture. We all belong to particular culture and obey its codes of conduct. None of us is separable from our culture. But the current situation created by COVID-19 is separating us from our own beliefs, identity, rituals. Hence, we are supposed to be familiar with new practices that may be difficult, impractical, illogical and misleading in the beginning. But there is no other way at our disposal right now. We have to adapt ourselves to this new normal. 

How do you feel after reading this news?