An Army Officer’s tips to survive self-isolation and coronavirus lockdown

epa08303814 Soldiers of the 12th Mechanized Brigade with police help seal the border with Germany in Lubieszyn in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland 18 March 2020. Due to the threat of spreading the Covid-19 virus, permanent outposts were created on the 120 km stretch. In Poland, 251 cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed, while five people died. EPA-EFE/MARCIN BIELECKI POLAND OUT

As soon as people heard the announcement of regarding a three-week lockdown by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, there were people from two schools of thought who began to comment. People from one school of thought were very happy with the announcement as they felt India would be able to sail through this phase, while people from another school of thought felt they will have to go through boredom.

There are many who I have seen getting frustrated, I have heard people wondering when this phase will end.

I would like to share a real story of my friend from the Indian Army to give a different perspective to this situation. The army officer was posted at Siachen Glacier. And while this may be a place many have heard of, or admired in pictures — the perception changes when you are actually on ground.

Soldiers serving in the Indian Army get deployed in Groups of 6 at a time. They are completely isolated from the world, and live in igloos made of fiberglass panels that are no bigger than the size of a king-size bed. The only way to keep themselves warm is through small kerosene stoves.

Temperatures usually dip well below −50 °C, and touching anything made of metal with bare hands can cause severe frost bite within seconds. Even the sweat in your gloves freezes to become ice, sometimes leading to finger amputations. Fruits freeze to become as hard as cricket balls and potatoes can’t be dented even with hammers.

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While he was posted there, my friends buddy was unfortunately martyred by enemy fire. At this time of emotional upheaval, there were additional problems. Due to the heavy snow and a blizzard that continued for 3 days, the body could not be airlifted.

What comes next is unimaginable: This friend of mine had no choice except to sleep in the igloo with his buddy’s dead body for the next 72 hours.

This is the time to think of the gifts we have been blessed with in life. This is the time we should think of what is the best we can do.

In our lives there will be times when the situation is in our control, there will also be times when situation is not in our hands. One of the things we learn in the Indian Army is the concept of Cognitive Flexibility which involves changing the way our operation was earlier planned based on time, place and circumstance,

As per World Economic Forum, cognitive flexibility is listed in Top 10 skills of the future. In one of the dictionaries, cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch one’s thinking (cognition or train of thought) as an adaptation to the demands of the environment.

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Two important lessons that we can learn from the incident I narrated pertain to Gratitude and Cognitive Flexibility. Both can help us get through this phase.

  1. Cognitive Flexibility :-
    1. If you are alone by yourself, call few people whom you know. This call can be a call with no business agenda, you can also call people to learn few lessons from their journey.
    2. If you are not used to sanitizing different things you are procuring for your day to day survival at home, try doing that. The more you are conscious about cleanliness the safer you will be. There are people who thoroughly wash the milk bags they get in the morning prior to consumption. There are people who are regularly sanitizing their phone as phone is one thing which most of the people use more often than any other thing in the house.
    3. If you are not used to wearing a mask, keep in mind the soldier in this story sleeping with a dead body. What’s easy? Wearing a mask or sleeping next to a dead body of your friend or colleague?
  1. Gratitude :-

    Express your gratitude for the gifts you have been blessed with in life. The best way is to think of people who are currently extending their support in the moment of crisis like Doctors, Nurses, Support staff in Hospitals, Police, Fire, and many others. Be grateful with the extra time you have in hand you can learn something which you badly wanted to learn, be grateful with the extra time you have in hand you can pursue a hobby which you badly wanted to pursue.

If we are able to see the positive in the negative situation, we will be able to embrace change, that’s something which is needed to say good bye to coronavirus.

The author is Lt. Col. Harsh Vardhan Srivastava (Veteran) who currently works as a Senior Manager for Schindler India . He is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow and National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla having professional experience of 21 years in Technical Operations Management with the Indian Army. He led teams at the Line of Control at Jammu and Kashmir and eastern borders at Sikkim. An specialist in the Battle Tank Technology, he has participated in the Operation Parakram, Operation Rakshak in J&K (twice) during the peak of insurgency in 1997, 2005.


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