First world problems: the collapse of everyday

Janani Janarthanan
3 min readJun 21, 2020


One would assume that with all the time in the world, you could actually pursue your interests- the ones that you always dreamed of. In my case, I often regaled myself with the myth that if only I had time, I would spend more of it writing, working on short stories and the like. Like I said, I regaled myself with the myth when I could afford to. It was something to chew on as I looked forward to a time free of troubles- a thought that helped me digest the then present. As with all antacids, there is a bitter aftertaste. But little does that stop you from eating or dreaming about eating. And so I try to write something every other day. Like this one below-

You might be tired of cynicism these days and frankly, I am more than you.

Everywhere I look around, there’s something missing. Shops that were formerly shuttered down now carry a dilapidated sadness. Some keep their shutters tightly down and their sign boards go missing. The pandemic now wears face masks and gloves wherever it goes and carries the scent of alcohol based rubs. Seems too long since a passerby smiled at me. Busy roads, formerly destitute, are now picking up traffic. You see the blown out tar and stones spilled across these roads like regurgitated food. It all seems unsettling but it is the new normal.

There are changes in the attitude and people sometimes don’t come back from hospitals. But one thing that stands strong and defiant globally, is the will to fight. People are now fighting for their means to survive. People are fighting oppression and some are fighting just to get home. A collapse of the ‘old life’. Sands of commerce run dry. The flow of money is more frugal than ever. Shop windows are no more dream catchers and ordinary people can’t afford to be picky about…their grocery. Well, at least those of us who really think of ourselves as ordinary.

We ordinary people complain over chai about how things were so hard these past few months as we type away on our laptops. We complain on social media about how we are ‘working’ more than ever from home while our banks message our monthly statements. We complain till the chai residue sticks to the bottom of the high handed porcelain.

And as the constant struggle to replicate the past consumes us, paranoia settles in more comfortably. The one thing that will continue to stay with the pandemic (at least till a cure is devised) is mistrust and paranoia. Nobody trusts an interstate traveller. We don’t even trust our own doctors and front line workers. We wipe away every surface of contact, with the ‘new and powerful antibacterial sprays!’ I even remember reading that health care professionals were barred from the high-rise apartment homes that they struggled to pay EMIs for.

And while the dust settles across the shine of our former lives, I feel safe that things will become normal for me. A little later than predicted but sooner nonetheless. Protected by the veneer of my privilege, this was never really hard for me. Inconvenient? Sure. But hard?

Because what truly protects me is the fact that I can afford top notch medical care and afford to record my experiences and “my journey with COVID” for my friends to view and share. I can afford to be abreast with news and the protests on the other side of the Atlantic. I can truly afford to paint myself as “the distressed” and say how much I miss pani-puris when the guy who used to make them has probably just reached Uttar Pradesh (If he managed to leave two months ago).

And you know what the truly cynical part is?

I have my own cynical bunch and we think the world of our little problems. But mind you, we are self aware okay?! We call them first world problems.

Originally published at on June 21, 2020.



Janani Janarthanan

A young adult living in Bangalore, India. Constant talker and avid culture enthusiast. Love writing on different topics and learning something new every day