Can anyone be happy during a pandemic?

Surenthiran Pillai

By C. Vinoothene

KUALA LUMPUR: “Happiness in pandemic, ah?”

That was the reaction given by 31-year-old engineer, Kumar, when asked to recall any happy moments since the Covid-19 pandemic hit early last year.

Like many others, he thought the idea ludicrous. This leaves the impression that it was impossible to have positive feelings especially when it felt like the world was “coming to an end”.

While the pandemic and movement control order (MCO) might have affected people in many ways, it also brought with it blessings in disguise, said registered counsellor from the Board of Counsellors of Malaysia, Surenthiran Pillai Venayagam Pillai.

“When lockdowns were implemented, it affected people’s survival, making it hard for some to maintain an income and put food on the table. People’s routines were upended and this puts them in an uncomfortable position, affecting their happiness.

“But we can’t deny that there was still some joy to be found with the flexibility to work from home, to be able to spend more time with our families and take up new hobbies. We lost some things but gained others,” he told Bernama in an interview.  

When the MCO was implemented on March 18 last year, it allowed many people to slow down and take a breather, he said.

“Before the pandemic, many of us lived our lives like we were running a marathon. When the pandemic hit, it forced us to hit the brakes and gave us a chance to see and appreciate the little things around us,” said Surenthiran.

He acknowledged that not everyone experienced the same privilege but said that the pandemic still taught valuable lessons in survival and strength.

Renuga Mohan agrees. The 29-year-old who works in Singapore, said that she was forced to go on unpaid leave when the border closed due to the pandemic. However, she took it as a chance to slow down and be with her family, whom she had not been able to spend much time with for the past five years.

“I was able to stay with my family for 10 months and to be surrounded by my loved ones was such a blessing. I missed them so much over the past five years. I was able to learn to cook, take up new hobbies, catch with friends over WhatsApp and did some odd jobs for an income,” she shared.

For Nur Shuhada Azlan, getting pregnant during the pandemic came with its own set of challenges and blessings.

“During the first round of MCO, I became pregnant for the first time. I was overcome with severe morning sickness so it was a blessing that my husband was able to work from home. At least there was someone to help around and cook for me,” she said.

The MCO also forced festivities to be celebrated quietly and on a small scale, but for Nur Ifarna Nasreen Anvardeen, 27, it made it all the more memorable.

“Last Ramadan, we were not allowed to perform the tarawih at the mosque or surau, so for the first time in our lives my family prayed tarawih together at home throughout the whole of the fasting month — my parents, sibling and I. I’m grateful for this and for being able to celebrate Aidilfitri together, albeit modestly and while ‘stuck’ in the city,” she said.

Ong Ming Hui, 28, on the other hand, believed that one has the power to make themselves happy even in times of darkness.

“I enjoy every single little thing or beautiful view in my life. I used to only take selfies, but during the pandemic I took more pictures of sceneries. Even though these are everyday scenes, every time I look at them, they evoke different feelings.

“The smallest changes also bring lots of happiness to me. I’ve always believed that instead of chasing other people’s definition of happiness, why not discover our own?” she said.

Every year, the International Day of Happiness is celebrated on March 20th.  This year’s theme of ‘Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind’ is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and is a message to find uplifting and positive ways to look after ourselves and one another. – Bernama