A lethal pathogen lurking everywhere is causing illness and deaths. Those who can have been living behind closed doors to the extent possible. Working out of the home has become the new normal. Nobody could have imagined such a scenario a few months ago. Today, it is a reality we have reluctantly accepted as life goes on.
Let’s face it then.
We must learn to live with the mysterious microbe and its kiss of distress. We must accept that millions will get infected in the future. That one reliable vaccine that can stop the virus on its tracks seems far away, the opposite of what happens in Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s disaster drama. But then, life as we know it is different from the most prescient of films. As the society heads towards the future, inadequacies in our healthcare systems have been exposed worldwide. Every system, be it Indian or American, is experiencing unprecedented stress. Millions have lost their jobs worldwide. Robust economies of a few months ago have hurtled towards a crash. Salary cuts have become the new norm. The poor have become poorer. Few are reporting on the misery of the middle class, whose financial struggles are frequently hidden behind gaudy lifestyles.
Essential workers such as doctors and nurses will find employment in private sectors. Those aspiring for positions in non-essential sectors will realize that their struggle has increased manifold. Whether or not the mask can prevent the coronavirus from invading the body is debatable. Apart from those who are incorrigibly reckless, however, every person has been wearing one as a safeguard against the virus when he or she steps out of the home. Those who surf the Internet regularly would have come across designer masks that are being created for making fashion statements!
While the illustration of a green dragon breathing fire on one such mask won’t burn the virus, each sensible person will at least wear a plain one until somebody finds out if it is of any real use. There is a lot more emphasis on hygiene nowadays. We are using hand sanitizers, putting clothes inside washing machines the moment we get back home, and having a bath more than once every day. These newly developed good habits shall remain unchanged for years to come.
Many sectors in which social distancing gets inevitably threatened must redefine their approach. Educational institutions cannot have classrooms with each student sitting one foot away from the other. The fear of coronavirus won’t evaporate overnight and students won’t be comfortable sitting inside crowded classrooms. Their parents may not allow them to do that anyway, which is understandable.
The entertainment industry must take a fresh look at its manner of functioning with actors, in particular, being tested before sequences involving physical proximity are filmed. Personal entertainment on laptops and cell phones will be prioritized over a visit to the theatre, which will struggle to attract footfalls. Also, theatre owners must find ways to ensure social distancing. They must simultaneously reduce the price of tickets to attract viewers, which implies less profit until the fear of getting infected subsides. In India, the pandemic has led to heartbreaking tragedies for the poor. It has also reminded the middle class of the need to embrace moderation. Both these classes will carry the baggage of dreary memories as they try to rediscover comfort long after the worst is over.