Covid-19 fear sends people looking for sublime sanctuaries

Choki Wangmo

Covid-19 may have limited the movement of people, particularly in the usually-crowded parts of the capital, but go to the hills and mountains to really understand the true terror of the pandemic.

Trails are teeming with hikers and joggers.

Sangaygang is today a hotspot from where young and old in Thimphu launch themselves on to living a healthy life. There are cyclists too.

Here a policeman monitors the movement of the people. There has been a visible change in the past few weeks. Never has there been so many people hiking up these hills.

“Perhaps now we have so much more time to kill,” he said.

Sonam Nima lost his job recently and staying home is becoming a challenge. “One can shut oneself in only for certain time.”

With him is his nephew Tashi Dendup Dorji. He has been to almost every hilltop in Thimphu. He makes it a point to outdo his own resolve every day.

Movement restrictions make people feel more claustrophobic, said Sonam Nima. “And that’s unhealthy. It can become detrimental to a person’s health in the long term.”

Sonam Nima said that his nephew would not sleep on time and was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle. “Now he has cut down on his video games. He wakes up early too.”

Yesterday, Tashi Dendup Dorji walked till the base of Sangaygang. He aims to climb till the top in the next few weeks. He said that being outdoors made him energetic. “I want to be adventurous.”

Since the government recommended remote working, Zeeshan Ali and Suman Bahara, ex-pats working with international organisation, walk for two hours daily towards Sangaygang. At other times, the friends do not have time for walks due to tight working hours.

Zeeshan Ali said that working late into the night took a toll on one’s health. The pandemic, he said, made him rethink his daily habits. “This pandemic taught us that it is not always about profession but also about our health. The freshness of nature uplifts my mood.”

Since the movement restriction, he has learned to cook.

On weekends, especially, the number of hikers increase manifold along the trails. For instance, the trails and short hiking areas like Debsi-Kuenselphodrang are crowded with groups of hikers. Most of the hikers said that physical movement was necessary for a healthy living.

“Monotony can be a more dangerous disease,” one said.

Covid-19 is going to economies and the way people live, and work. A survey conducted by researchers at the Centre for Economic and Social Research in the US reported a significant shift in peoples’ behaviour.

Among the top findings, 85 percent of people reported washing their hands or using sanitiser more often than they did before Covid-19; 61 percent reported following social distancing guidelines.

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