Many of us have been told that we’re not listening properly. Many a fight or argument has broken out between friends, teachers and students, spouses, on the subject of listening intently. Interestingly, our listening habit is what we are all trying to improve today as the coronavirus disease ravages through the social fabric of the world.

We have become more sensitive towards each other, and we have more time to spare and help our close and loved ones navigate this rapidly changing world. But what happens to those whom nobody listens to even in the best of times, and are struggling that much harder in this time of crisis?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech announcing the extension of the lockdown focused on the struggles of farmers and unorganized sector workers. With the lockdown bringing all economic and commercial activity to a halt in India, they are possibly the worst affected. 

When the lockdown was first announced three weeks ago, the country suddenly faced another unexpected crisis: Thousands of stranded laborers in big cities began walking hundreds of miles back to their villages. Even though some managed to get back, many are still stranded without any food or shelter. In fact, on the day the lockdown was extended, hundreds of migrant workers flocked to a Mumbai railway station following a rumor that the government was running trains to transport them home. 

In times such as this, we need to make the effort to listen to them too. We all have people who help us out at home, or at work, who now need our help more than ever. And while we work extra hard to ensure that our immediate social circle is keeping well, we need to also reach out to those who, over the years, have made sure that our homes are clean, our special meals are delivered, and our provisions at home are stocked.

For this, we need to develop the EAR of Listening, found in Harappa's course on Listening Actively. When expanded, EAR stands for Empathy, Authenticity and Respect. In other words, to truly understand how we can help those in need, we need to employ these three virtues in our efforts to solve this problem. And some have been successful in developing them in the last few weeks.

Now, how can you develop better listening tactics? You just have to be slow and deliberate in your approach. Check out what broadcast journalist Prabhjit Bains has to say on this. 

As you heard Prabhjit say, focus on what is being said, and once you do that, you will be able to figure out ways in which you too can be of help those in need in these trying times.

Many members of civil society have come together to make arrangements for distributing provisions to those in need. Be it distributing fruits and water to police who are on duty, or creating packages with grains and other dry foods for consumption, many people have gone over and above their call of duty to make sure that the underprivileged don’t have to struggle any more than they already have to. 

Similarly, certain state governments, like the one in Delhi, have built makeshift shelters that are providing meals to lakhs of homeless and poverty-stricken people.

While these are momentary images of hope in these trying times, more such initiatives need to be undertaken by those who are able to take on the responsibility. And this can be done only if we listen to what others have to say. 

So, apart from calling your best friend or your old boss, also call the gardener who tends to your plant friends. While you figure out how to stock up your larder, check with your domestic help or drivers to see if their kitchens are well stocked too. Instead of only depending on home delivery grocery apps, support local vegetable and fruit vendors who are still out on the streets.

The beauty of listening to those in need also lies in the fact that it will help you cope with your cabin fever better. And opening your eyes to the struggles of others will help cope better with the extended lockdown. 

Suha Gangopadhyay is a Specialist in the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A postgraduate from University of Oxford, she wants to contribute to the growth of education studies in India, and dwells in a world where books are almighty.

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