#VinitasPune: The Oddity Of Social Interaction In Today's World
The inherent desire within us to socialise has come to a grinding halt, thanks to this pandemic. Abundant caution and worry is the new norm.
Entering crowded malls, walking briskly through scores of people in public parks, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at public functions and theatres, hugging, laughing and dancing with joy with friends - all of these activities were run-of-the-mill and taken for granted.
Anyone who was recluse was termed as a snob or a social reject. All this, till about six months back!
And now. You got to roam around in public places with imaginary armour woven around you to keep a few feet's length away from people. The face masks being the visible portion of that invisible shield that string the mind and body to keep one to oneself, once you step out of the house. That micro coronavirus has achieved what no government policy or law enforcing authority could have achieved even with a hard hand.
It has quite literally changed the cellular structure of man - from him being termed as a social animal to getting adapted to becoming an unsocial one. The more unsocial you are, the better off you are in terms of your own health and that of others.
For all the relaxations that the central or the state government keeps announcing, one thing that is constant is the guideline for citizens to self-regulate themselves in public. Take the case of 5.0 guidelines implemented early this week. Face coverings (wearing of masks is compulsory in work places, public places and in public transport); social distancing (individuals must maintain a distance of six feet - do guz ki doori - in public places; shops to ensure physical distancing amongst customers and not allow more than five at a time); large public gathering and even marriage functions prohibited (maximum guests permitted are 50) and; consumption of liquor, cigarettes and gutka banned in public places.
So, honestly, it is not as cool to go out even to complete your errands. Yesterday, I waited patiently in a queue and at good distance from one another outside the Reliance Jio shop for a good 15 minutes. Patience is the new norm and this time it's for your own good health, so most abide.
A stranger started a conversation - I didn't mind that as he had his mask on!!! Just see, he said, how the world has come to a standstill with that stupid little microorganism. I wanted to smile in return but how would he see that? I had a mask on too! So, kept the conversation going through that protective piece of cloth. I've noticed that most shopkeepers feel sorry that you have to wait and often assure you by a gesture, but no one can help. The times have changed!
Suddenly, one is suspicious or wary of so many things around you. I still hesitate to order food from outside; enter lifts; even visit a neighbour's house; gives clothes to the laundry, hire a rickshaw or a cab; put air-conditioner in the car when the driver is at the wheel; enter shops to leisurely look for what I'm looking for; go for a walk even in my housing society premises to mention a few examples. In fact, going out has become a cumbersome activity for me as you feel imprisoned while taking the liberty of moving around in public.
With Work From Home (WFH) having become a social norm and I having settled down comfortably, a meeting held at office last week was a welcome change but for the fact that I was with a face mask for a good six to seven hours right from the time I left home till I came back. By the end of it, I felt as if stale air has settled within me.
It set me thinking as to how our health Covid Warriors - doctors and nurses - must be coping with wearing the PPE kits for six hours or more and without drinking water, tea or taking even a comfort break!
This sudden contrast of life, particularly in a city like Pune, is more stark as dining out, takeaways, online food apps, pubs, parties, public functions of various hues, public campaigns, hanging out in groups (of all ages) in cafes, multiplexes and malls represented the vibrancy and energy of the city. Now, you are shunned in the four walls of your homes - with the idiot box and your mobile - as prime windows to the world of entertainment, information and social interaction. Those who dare to host or attend them physically, could be at the receiving end of the coronavirus's ire.
Virtual birthday parties, family gatherings and conferences have become the new norm. For me, the daily two hour Online Yoga has been a great boon. I do it with unfailing regularity as you are not affected by any traffic jam that would get you late for your yoga class or any other social commitment that would make you miss it. Indeed, the home is your world and your world now.
The new culprits of course are those who don't wear masks in public (the Pune Police has collected a hefty sum through penalty for such violators).
A leading American medical researcher mentioned on CNN tv news channel the other day that a mask is multiple times more effective than a vaccine (as no one is sure as yet of what would be the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, particularly if brought in a hurry).
Indeed, we are in those unusual times when "Being alive'' as Bill Gates said, is the only point of survival!
#All views expressed in this column are the authors and/or individuals or organisations that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.