When the Coronavirus infection case was first detected, nobody expected it to become a pandemic that would affect the whole world. Most of us thought it was just a problem in China, hitting only the Chinese in Wuhan or cities in the Hubei Province. Then, suddenly the virus spread like wildfire to the entire globe. COVID-19 spreads so fast akin to a revolution or maybe a tsunami. Malaysia’s journalism icon, Datuk Johan Ja’afar, even dubbed COVID-19 as a game changer as it has entirely transformed our lifestyle. Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yasin calls this transformation as the ‘new normal’ as many of us are forced to change the way we do our daily activities. Today we are doing things that we would never have done previously.
In the past, it would be weird for us to queue and stand in one-meter gap from each other in front of shops or banks before entering the premises. We would be called abnormal if we did so. Now, we even have to stand in a long queue and in one-meter gap before entering KFCs and McDonald’s. COVID-19 have made the process of buying fast food slowed down.
Traditionally, we could be considered arrogant if we did not shake hand when meeting people. Try shaking hands when we meet people now and we could be receiving frowns or reluctant gestures. In the new normal way, we should just place our right hand on our left chest to show greetings. We may just continue doing it in the future.
Online matters used to be looked upon as something exclusive and expensive and also would be done only by those who are IT literates. Nevertheless, during this Movement Control Order (MCO) period, many things have to be done online including teaching and learning at schools and universities. The writer used to be in awe with Athabasca University, the leading distance online university based in Canada that was established in 1970. Now, almost all learning institutions are ‘Athabasca University.’ Even teachers and academicians who used to resist and take online learning for granted are now forced to use online media as platforms to deliver their lessons. Distance online learning is the mainstream now.
As MCO forbids people from going to their workplaces, work from home is the new normal for office workers. A friend used to say that he always dreamt about just staying at home and not going to work if he is rich one day. For saying that, he received blank stares and “In your dream” reply. He is now living his dream even without becoming rich.
In this holy month of Ramadan, there is no more Ramadan bazaars for Muslims to buy food for iftar. It was something unthinkable to happen before as Ramadan and bazaars are closely related. These days, food for iftar is ordered online and delivered to our doorsteps by people in mask. Such online Ramadan bazaar does not only happen in the cities but it rampantly takes place in kampungs as well. Zakat is now paid online and no more through zakat collectors or aamil. Even the writer’s 80 years old father who has never shown any interest in IT had just paid his zakat via the Majlis Agama Islam Johor’s e-zakat platform. It is something of a totally new normal for his father.
We used to smirk seeing men go into shops selling cake ingredients. It is a place where men would least go. Buying the ingredients and baking cakes are normally done by women. Men would just eat them. Nevertheless, as Eid will be celebrated in a few weeks to come, it has become a place where husbands are forced to go as their spouse would want to bake cookies and cakes. At the beginning of the first phase of MCO, many men faced conflicts at groceries. They could not recognize the types of fish and vegetables that their spouse put in the shopping list. There were many funny incidents when men brought home the wrong grocery items after spending long hours at shops or supermarkets looking for the items listed by their other half. However, as the MCO enters its fourth phase, men get better and it is also a new normal now seeing them cook at home though they may repeatedly have to refer to recipes.
COVID-19 has certainly revolutionized our way of life. It has transformed what were abnormal to be done in the past into new normal activities. It is not surprising that these new normal activities can become normal in the near future. Just brace for more transformations of abnormal to normal practices as the future unfolds.
Dr. Azmi Abdul Latiff
Deputy Dean, Centre For Language Studies
Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)
Photo: *google image