Gavel in the time of Corona

Oh, how I wish I was talking about the alcoholic beverage. –

This past week has been Ada Derana news alerts one after the other, confusing us about whether Monday is a holiday for everyone, shutting down everything from cinemas to museums and reporting on Coronavirus patients being found at quarantine centres. This past week has also been a time of WhatsApp group chats getting fired up due to disagreements, sharing (in equal capacity) memes about the end of the world, Jumanji and the ever-famous millennial death wish and articles with valuable information about COVID-19 to the point where you’ve read “do not panic” in at least twenty different articles to date.

Personally speaking, I was ready to go to class and discuss the relevance of literature to this whole crisis but I am stuck at home, saying this to my family, who could care less about what I have to say. I don’t know if you feel the same way, but if you do, I’m here to say that you are definitely not alone. If you’re happy that you don’t have to go to University for two weeks, that’s valid too, and you are not a bad person for wanting a holiday in the midst of all this mess.

Something that greatly saddened me was the round of messages being sent around about ‘Oration 2020’ being postponed until further notice, because I was looking forward to the competition taking its course during the next few weeks and because I know the organizing committee has done a great job, as is. Obviously, this is out of our hands (but we should keep washing them for 20 seconds) and I would love to have a Table Topics Speech to discuss the ‘highs and lows of Coronavirus’ but we cannot have meetings for the next two weeks, either.

So, I decided to use my words to remind everyone how Gavel Club can help us get through this frankly annoying period of time where everyone is either panicking or panic-buying hand sanitizer.

Being a Gavelier means being able to think on your feet – every time we do a Round Robin speech, even though it is only for 20 seconds, we pretty much wing it. Although we know the theme that we need to speak on, we get lost in what others say and are too busy listening to catch the last word the person before us said, so that we can at least attempt to follow to rules of the session (this sense is rife with sarcasm).

We are so used to thinking on the spot and spewing out whatever comes to mind, and we can use that skill to our advantage right now. You have most probably encountered a wisecrack or two already, that keep yelling in your face about the virus being a menace and how it is disrupting their fun and how they cannot go watch a movie in peace or whatever. This is where you could use your Gavel-given talent and join in on the complaint train until they have stopped talking. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything to complain about and that you actually think the shutting down of public places is a good idea, you only need to out-complain your opponent so that they either think you’re hopeless or you’ve both somehow covered all topics to complain about and nothing more needs to be said. You can also use this talent to hit people with the facts when they start saying things that you know are not true which would only confuse and alarm other people (I did this yesterday with my granduncle and now he won’t talk to me). The takeaway here is to use your quick-thinking to spread awareness, clear up doubts and even to vent a little bit, if you want.

Another thing that we learn at Gavel club is the power of resilience.

We learn to be resilient and power through whenever the Table Topics Master calls on us out of the blue to give a speech and the title that we pick is something that we don’t even understand. Sure, it may take a few seconds and a few awkward stares, but we eventually start the speech and end it on a definitive note. We can use this power to get over the hurdles that this quarantine period is putting us through. Maybe an event that you were looking forward to, got cancelled. Maybe you love your workplace and now you have to work from home. Maybe you want to work from home but your boss is demanding that you come to office. Maybe you were looking forward to a lecture but now you’ve to wait two weeks for it. Maybe you’ve had to postpone a trip (although with the hotel and travel rates these days, I wouldn’t mind risking it). Whatever you have had to do or give up, now is when you use your resilience and think of ways to work around it. Just like how you aren’t sure what your Table Topic speech will turn out to be, you probably don’t know right now, exactly how you’re going to solve your issues. But take a few moments, look at the ceiling, the floor or the back of the hall – take that time to steady yourself and think it through.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form promoting the idea of leaving home during a health crisis. Please stay at home.

One of the more important things we promote at Gavel is giving prepared public speeches – this means that we actually need to prepare ahead of time the content that we speak, how we speak it and how the speech flows. We also need to be mindful that these speeches achieve the relevant objectives they are supposed to achieve. What all of this does for us is teach us to prepare ahead (some of you need to learn to do this for future speeches is all I’m saying). What this preparation teaches us is that there are many things that we need to consider before finalizing a speech.

Now apply this to your life right now – people are panicking and buying out entire Keells outlets, they’re spraying disinfectant on everyone, they’re not buying food from Chinese Dragon, they’re doing things that they think are smart, but are actually really stupid. Thankfully, we don’t have to be those people. With all the preparation that we have been doing for speeches, we can easily prepare ourselves to face this pandemic without being hasty. My challenge, currently, is preparing for the endless tirade of complaints about the way in which I conduct myself at home that my mother will inevitably embark on, in the next few days. Some of my friends are preparing to alter their schedule for the next few months to accommodate these sudden holidays. Some people are preparing to work at home with the sound of the coconut scraper in the background disrupting their focus. Others are preparing to keep themselves busy for the next two weeks because they can’t go anywhere. With all of the knowledge that we have on how to prepare, these things should be way easier for us to be ready for, all or in-part thanks to Gavel club’s Prepared Speech segment.

Finally, we can actually use this time to further our Gavel club journeys! We now have two weeks to sit at home and sulk, or go to work and sulk (provided they don’t declare any more working holidays) so we might as well use those two weeks to prepare either our CC Speeches or our Oration speeches. Basically, this entire article was to promote Oration and how now you definitely do not have an excuse for not signing up, because you can prepare for your speeches now without those pesky lectures getting in the way.

No, but really, while this virus has plagued nations all over the world, I’m sure it has become exhausting to hear, see and read about how bad the situation is. Hopefully, this article made you laugh a little, roll your eyes a bit and breathe out a tiny sigh of relief (because you realized that I am way crazier than you are, to actually write this nonsense).

At the end of the day, all I really know is that 2020 has been a steaming pile of garbage so far, and with how rapidly COVID-19 is spreading and affecting nearly all aspects of everything, we need to be ready to face whatever comes our way. While this in general may be a depressing thought, it doesn’t have to be. There is always someone else feeling the same way you feel about these things. This could be a time where you find more allies and make more friends (virtually). You may even have fun at home.

Let us not, however, pretend to be invincible and do things that may land us in the hospital or in jail. By this, I mean to say that we need to stay at home, avoid going to crowded places, sneeze and cough into our elbows, greet people without touching them and for god’s sake, wash our hands for 20 seconds.

“Thanks for that advice, Nish, but what am I actually supposed to do now, with all the time I have?” you may be asking yourself while shaking your head at how ludicrous this blog post is and ignoring what I’ve been saying for the entire article (I don’t blame you – reading articles has become tedious during the last few days).

Well, that is up to you, my friend. I was asking myself the same question earlier today, and then I decided to write this.

Please stay safe, stay healthy and stay sanitized.

Love,

Nish.

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