~Vishü Rita Krocha
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare many things. Things we have taken for granted, rights we should have fought for, issues that should have been addressed, and things that we were probably never aware of, before the pandemic. It came upon us, as unprepared as we were as the rest of the world. And life, as we know it, was never going to be the same again.
In a closely knitted community that Nagaland is, journalism, at least for me, took a direction that is revealing of many ‘bitter feelings’ of citizens, that were perhaps accumulated over years and decades of corruption. The pandemic was revealing of the very system that has begun to grow deep roots in some, while for others, it has already seeped into their very being.
Above all things, it laid bare the poor health infrastructure in the state and the lack of even the most basic facilities especially in the remote areas of Nagaland. So much so, that questions, allegations, blame, distrust and hate for the government grew with such intensity. They were losing confidence and their faith in politicians. In the beginning, I almost felt sorry for the present-day government, who had to bear the brunt of the mistakes, both theirs and of all those made over the decades-and thought to myself, ‘well, the pandemic isn’t their doing.’
But as we slowly got used to another so called new system, I decided that everything falls back into a norm that already has roots of its own. With the pandemic, the world out there became hungry for information like never before. Even in our own little corner of the world, most of us were searching for information related to COVID-19. Our social media feeds were overflowing with stories from everywhere to a point that it became almost exhausting.
A decade of experience in journalism didn’t seem quite enough. People were hungry for information and a large measure of what they consumed depended on journalists, many of whom, for me, are storytellers at heart. But given the circumstances, it was, in no way going to be easy.
With things getting more sensitive than ever, “can I quote you?” became a common question asked during and after an interview. Those who knew the ground realities, despite wanting to share what they know, and sometimes, including hurtful experiences, did not want the world to know their names-a returnee, a health worker, an administrator, a government official is all we made do with. After all, it also meant ‘inviting trouble’ and nobody wants that, really.
The task of documenting news became a challenge, never felt or experienced before. Especially when it called for reporting from the field, knowing full well that there is every chance of contracting the disease. But despite the fear particularly for the wellbeing of our loved ones, I believe, as journalists, we did what we had to do whenever a story demanded an on-the-ground-reporting, just as we continue till today, to fulfill our task of providing information and writing stories, which, I sincerely hope, impact lives.
If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught me, then it is the resilient spirit of human beings. I have listened to the harrowing experience of a returnee who waded through an international river in the middle of a night, just so she could get home;and been told to, the recovery journey of a COVID patient, who emerged stronger from the experience, even after enduring all the stigma and discrimination. Such stories have reaffirmed my belief that when the situation demands it, we will persevere.
Having said that, personally for me, journalism during COVID-19 will remain an experience of a lifetime. I also know for a fact that history will remember the pandemic through the stories we have written and the photographs we have captured during these times of global crisis.
(Prize winning Article based on the theme ‘Journalism during COVID-19 Pandemic’ organized by the Kohima Press Club (KPC) on the occasion of National Press Day)