Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.
So now today is Day 2 of the lockdown and the trending word of the year ( possibly) is #SocialDistancing.
This is something completely alien to us Indians, particularly those who think that every property is public property and that each one of us is competent enough to give advice. This is why when we stand at bus stops, the person behind you happily reads your newspaper. Or when you are waiting for the elevator everyone behind you will ask ” are you waiting for the lift?” Worse still, when you are the new person in school or office or building, people will stare at you and ask ” New?” Social Distancing is as alien as shaking hands.
But now with an enforced lockdown, certain things are bound to change. I’m absolutely sure that years of ingrained social behaviour that is part of our DNA will now be modified because as ‘They’* say, 21 days is enough to form a habit. With the coronavirus scare, we as a nation ( please note Arnab G) will soon get new habits.
- Minding our own business: Even if you haven’t started wearing an N95 mask or a masked bandit bandana around your mouth, looking at a stranger has become fraught with danger. No longer do we accept things at face value – after all anyone can be a carrier, transmitter or even a sufferer of the disease.
The virus has proved that it knows no social barriers and all of us are equally at risk. So it doesn’t matter if you have a separate lift for ‘others’, even those in your lift can be dangerous.
- Sneezing into elbows: This is a welcome change from being showered with a rain of droplets from strangers and friends alike. Most people seem to think that their sneezes are benign and happily sneeze into the air around them, looking expectantly for the audience to say “God Bless You”.
- Coughing discreetly into hankies: How many times have you been shocked out of your wits by a hacking cough loud enough to wake the dead? Or how many times has your listening pleasure been disturbed at concerts because of those coughing around you?
- Standing in line: Thanks to the shortage of essential goods, customers are made to stand in a line, outside the grocery shops. Finally, everybody understands that their turn will also come and there is no need to make a mad dash the moment the doors open.
- Not standing a hair’s breadth away while waiting in a queue: One of the most irritating things about standing in a line is that the person behind you is breathing down your neck. Now with the mandatory 3 feet distance, there is enough place for your back to breathe as you wait your turn in the queue.
- Washing hands properly: Every second day I get a WhatsApp message about washing hands. I am sure lots of people get such messages. In any case, with celebrities endorsing this healthy habit and the TV news blaring out the advantages of washing hands, every one of us will have this habit properly ingrained in their brains. No longer do we have to wonder whether the man who just came out of the loo has washed his hands or if the waiter’s hands are clean enough.
- Becoming independent: These 21 days will make everyone truly independent. Especially those who can’t do without Ayahs, Cooks, Maids, Drivers, Chauffeurs, Maharajas, Didis, Bais, Home help and Domestic Staff. They are now forced to get down on their knees and sweep the dust bunnies under their beds. An offshoot of this is the discovery that the other hands at home do have arms that work. No longer is ironing, dusting, sweeping, swabbing, shopping, chopping, cooking X, Y, and Z’s job. All the A, Bs and Cs are suddenly capable of doing these jobs.
- Learning to make do: For years I’ve tried to enforce the ‘One family, One meal‘ Rule. Unfortunately, this hasn’t worked in my home. And I have little doubt it works in other homes. After all, it is far easier to make a meal for each member of the family than having sulky, unhappy faces around your dining table. But now with limited ingredients and the fear of ‘if you don’t eat this you will have NOTHING to eat ‘ coming truer with each passing day, everyone has quietly capitulated to this unwritten rule. Also, since only ONE person is doing the cooking, there aren’t any demands for Michelin star meals at home.
A side benefit of making do, will also create a new generation of innovative cooks
- Not loitering aimlessly on the roads: Thanks to the lockdown, the police are making sure that no one is needlessly hanging about on the roads. This will reduce the number of eve-teasers, wolf whistlers, deviants and perverts who normally loiter about the streets. Perhaps these habitual loiterers will get used to staying at home and watching TV instead.
- Developing a hobby apart from going on long drives: Strangely enough most people seem to think that going on a long drive is a ‘hobby’. Staying at home will ensure that such hobbyists will pick up an alternative pastime. After all, making a quick dash to the grocers or chemists hardly qualifies as a long drive especially these days when there are no cars on the road.
- Learning Social Media: With nothing happening apart from Breaking News, people have become adept at social media. Young people have plenty of time to teach the older ones at home how to use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. There are so many people online these days that the latest message doing the rounds exhorts people to restrict their usage of net space as there is a fear of the Internet collapsing altogether.
- Going digital: Hubby Dear, in particular, is paranoid about digital banking. This is a fear shared by many people who have flunkeys to do their bank work and need to give some work to their otherwise highly qualified wives who are sitting at home doing nothing. These 21 days have brought home to Hubby Dear the inconvenience of traditional banking. How he wishes he had listened to me and activated his Internet Banking before the Lockdown.
So all is not dark and gloomy, is it?