To begin with, the following vignette illustrates the dedication of a young engineer, operating at a Principal level, who routinely works though night hours when people generally sleep. He ensures the train track remains safe for the early morning commuters. The world remains safe because of such conscientious engineers, who soldier on silently.

A few nights ago, I woke up suddenly and checked my bedside phone. It was around 2.20 am. I also noticed there were a number of messages on my phone, including one from Chetan Watel, a fellow Australian of Kashmiri ethnicity. I had been waiting to hear from him. I decided to thank him. When I started writing my message, I noticed he was online.

“Good morning, Chetan. Thank you for your message. I just woke up but it seems you are still up. It is already 2.23 am, please sleep. Good night.”

Chetan immediately sent me a picture from his work site and said: “Yes, I am at work. I came out for a routine inspection and found some defects, so had to immediately call out a repair team, cannot let the train run with this defect in the morning.”

I acknowledged his dedication and professionalism: “Oh, you are at work! When soldiers keep guard, people sleep. God bless you, you are a true soldier. Someday, perhaps soon, I’ll write a story about you.”

He was humble and polite in his quick response: “I am just being faithful to my profession, just doing my job, nothing special. By the way, why are you up at this hour?”

I could not help commenting: “That is what many people don’t do – doing their job. If we all did our job, the world would have been a better place. Btw, I just woke up.”

He agreed: “That is certainly true! Hope you get some more sleep, there are still a couple of hours till the daybreak.”

I decided not to disturb him any further and closed the chat: “Take care, Chetan. Stay safe and well.”

Like Chetan, I know many young engineers who have been working long hours during the current pandemic. For instance, my young associate, Nick Lowe, has been going to office every week day before dawn – starting around 5.45 am – and working till about 5 pm and sometimes past that time. Nick is in his late 20s and has a young family to look after. Of late, my other young associate, Dr Farzad, has also gradually started stepping into my shoes; he has started responding to client emails from about 6 am.

The construction of mining infrastructure on a number of important iron-ore projects, located up north of Western Australia, has continued to happen even during the pandemic days at a war-footing, without any disruption, seven days a week. These projects are extremely vital for the Australian economy. During early days of the pandemic, when I had started working from home, a young client called from a site one late Friday and asked, “Bill, if we send you the load test results by this evening, how soon can we receive your advice?”

I replied, “Tomorrow morning.”

He sounded excited but a little amazed: “Are you sure? It is Saturday.”

Although he was a client, but being an older person and a senior professional in the engineering industry, I took the opportunity to transcended the typical client / consultant barrier and remind him that we must all work as a team. Pandemic had changed my outlook to how we see and do our ‘work’ and all other things about life.

 “Shane, you are working so far away from your home and your family, and I am working from my own home. If you can work on weekends, why can’t I? In these pandemic days, for those us who work from home, there are no weekends. We must all work as a team; we must work together for Western Australia, for Australia’s economy, for all of us. Please feel free to contact me 24 x 7 except during the night hours, between 10 pm and 4 pm.”

He thanked me, sounding a hint of bemusement. Over all these past months, I did fulfill my promise.

During the first four months of the pandemic – from the end of March 2020 till the end of July 2020, I worked mostly from home, starting from around 7.30 am till around 6.30 pm. During the remaining time, I would write (poems and prose), watch news for an hour or so in the evening to keep in touch with the world, and have a shut eye generally between 11 pm and 4 pm.

My perspective about the world of humans had changed significantly. I did not feel helpless, not at all. I was just a little more realised.

In the first 100 days of the pandemic, I wrote a world chronicle. I wrote about humans and our mysterious behaviours. I wrote about our good, our bad and the ugly. I wrote about how we humans behaved. I wrote for the people who are not born yet. I wrote to inform them how strangely we humans behaved even during the pandemic and that even COVID-19 did not succeed in bringing out the best in all of us. I thought I was writing my swan song. Rest is history.

… Bill Koul (Perth, 27 September 2020)

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