Rangan Srikhanta, Skoll Scholar 2019-20, reflects on completing his final term at Oxford Saïd during the pandemic.
My last post was an opportunity for me to reflect on what brought me to Oxford and the transformative experience it was having in the space of just one term. This post has taken much longer to marinate than usual, but COVID-19 has provided many an opportunity to stop and reflect.
The Oxford Bubble
As the pandemic infiltrated our Oxford bubble, it become a transformative experience in understanding the human condition. From being dismayed at the frays in our social fabric perfectly encapsulated with panic buying of everyday items, to being inspired by thousands of frontline workers who have put their lives at risk when the long-term effects of exposure to the pandemic are still unknown. The Oxford bubble became a sanctuary for reflection, away from the many distractions that make us yearn for the next thing, without appreciating what we have now.
On a personal level, it was overwhelming to see the town clear out in a matter of weeks, many blossoming friendships that thrived on in-person chance meetings would be tested by a shift across multiple time zones, an artefact of participating in one of the most diverse MBA programmes in the world. Experiencing a deserted Oxford seemed somewhat post-apocalyptic and surreal, when considering that the city had unlikely been this quiet in a very long time.
Spring provided a welcome respite from months of cold, and bike rides an opportunity to take in the fresh air and find calm amidst chaos.
Crises as a Catalyst for Innovation
“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” - Benjamin E Mays
The pandemic has exposed our misplaced priorities and helped amplify society’s inequalities to breaking point. I see many similarities between the bushfires that often ravage Australia and the pandemic. The most prophetic is that tragedy always precedes re-birth and re-growth – that they are two sides of the same coin.
Whilst early indications suggest society has become more unjust and more unequal through the pandemic, another perspective is that the pandemic has brought to a head deep structural issues that need revisiting.
I am not sure if the worst is yet to come, but I am certain that these trying times are providing society the space to have those uncomfortable confrontations to build back better.