Its official- Covid 19 outbreak is declared a pandemic and everybody have been asked to self-isolate themselves. The recently subscribed newspaper, to break my unhealthy morning habits screamed at me in bold headlines. My morning chai was getting cold as my mind had a zillion thoughts running simultaneously. For the past many days, life seemed to have rewound to the so called “good old days”, when things were organised and clean. People woke up before the sun, begun their day in prayer, did not keep a count of the many steps they had already walked, had healthy breakfast before they headed out for their chores, came back home before their kids slept, spent time with the family before they retired for the night.
Just when our sedentary habits were getting engraved into our lifestyles, we needed a pandemic to bring normalcy to our lives.
Sipping the boiled ginger water, infused with pudina and cloves I went back to my thoughts – they were wandering all over my brain. Is the pandemic real? If it is real, is it a biological weapon? Will self-isolation really help contain the virus? Is social distancing possible? How is media shaping our perceptions about the virus? The last two thoughts lingered a little longer than necessary, making me focus on them. Before that thought took my attention completely, an operational challenge also engulfed my thought process- how the hell am I supposed to work from home? When many were worrying about how to work from home, with kids around, my worries were around what than how .
After the pandemic broke across the world, there seems to be a sudden surge of attention to better living, which back in the day was simply living-organic food, fresh herbs and spices are being used in every dish which allows experimentation, families are seen going for leisurely walks- many like me with their phone with them, just to clock 10,000 steps- however hard I have tried to fulfil my new year 2020 resolution, my YTD number is averaging a mere 2500 steps a day. Desi medicine sales are increasing and so are the prices of sanitisers, soaps and tissues. Majority of this new knowledge or renaissance has come about by studies conducted in two of the foremost universities of the current generation – WhatsApp university and Facebook College of facts. With faithful faculty, who have all the time in the world and students, who waste lot of their valuable time, of these two universities, social distancing seems a reality which can be attained, after all.
More memes, and messages than actual infections have been flooding the chat boxes and walls. Without even verifying for truth behind this information, it is passed on. Our penchant for free stuff is contagious, as we pass it to others ten times the pace of COVID -19. The problem is not with these false or sometimes true information, the problem is with people using this information to educate others. Recently, I was in a meeting and one of the attendees, jokingly said that a priest has been praying “GO CORONA, GO CORONA”. I just asked him to check facts and not depend too much on WhatsApp university and Facebook College of facts. He was watching a video of one of the Indian Politicians praying with some Chinese. The message accompanying the video was customised as per needs. Loads of messages educating people to wash hands for 20 seconds, boil garlic, boil ginger, drink go mootra, rub dung etc have been doing rounds off late. The worst part is many believe in these and obey them as they are convinced, without giving a slight thought about it. Don’t believe in everything the internet throws at you- there are many things changed to suit requirements. It is customised, people. Be aware. Do some research on the source of the information. If it is a source which or whom you trust, believe it and forward. When I mean trusted source, not all big news providers can be trusted now. As George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 said “The one who controls the past, controls the future, and the one who controls the present controls the past”. One of the first thing we were taught in university was “WIKIPEDIA REFERENCES ARE NOT ALLOWED”. You know very well why.
Now the question of social distancing. Back in the day, people met people, people trusted people. But now, COVID 19 has forced us to apply social distancing. I wonder if there a need for this- haven’t WhatsApp and Facebook already done this? Sitting in the same table, a family of four hardly speaks four sentences to each other. People are always on the phone- the first thing they see when they wake is the phone, and the last thing they see before they sleep is the phone. People meet people only when required or invited. Gone are the days, when mummy happily scrambled in the kitchen to make an extra pot of rice, when relatives turned up, uninvited. This was before Zomato and Uber Eats, before the fun was taken out of the kitchen.
Once, a hysterical wife of a friend of mine called me on my phone, sobbing enquiring about her husband who was not responding to her calls. I calmed her down saying he might be in a meeting and would call him back in an hour or so. Exactly an hour later, she called again. I advised her to write on his FB wall that she is looking for him. It worked.
Social distancing might be the need of the hour to survive this pandemic, but I hope this does not turn out to be a norm, post Corona. I would rather prefer social media distancing right now to stem the panic. How much more will this pandemic push us towards social distancing. Does it want us to have social distancing within our homes? Well, that too doesn’t seem far away. Does it?