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Social Distancing: A Social Commentary

We are on the verge of collapse and despair , yet never before has meditation and prayers taken more precedence in our lives. Never before have actually believed more. while saying “Sarve Jano Sukhino Bhavanthu" - let the entire world be safe and happy’.

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While at home in most middle class ergo, working class (by choice or on Janta Curfew) , we are eating more, thinking more, working more (well, WFH has this cool tag, even for moms :p), and obviously texting more. What’s also happening is we are trusting unverified forwards more, fearing more and passing on that fear more.

A few months ago, there was a viral video circulated (again, courtesy WhatsApp) of a young 7/ 8 year-old boy basically driving home the point ‘What you focus on, grows.”

It basically meant that what we focus on , manifests more. Today. on vacation mode (and in a good sense),the kids are asked to stay away from friends they want to play with, from planning any vacation, from grandparents homes and all the media is focusing is on the negative, the fear which is feeding on our minds 24X7.  For those of us (fortunate enough?) who don’t have cable ,there is still WhatsApp forwards of the ugly images of COVID devouring our bandwidth and mind space, both with equal fervour.

Subbalakshmi’s Suprabhatam has been replaced with never-ending spools of COVID fear diving right into our psyche and morning space. The psychosis of fear about which nation caused it and which nation suffers - the freehold of the media- is now entering our private space. our bedrooms and our psyche in general.

Yes, dining table conversations have begun to last loggers simply because of all the family members present in a house, but is the news junkie in the family ready to have a non-COVID conversation ? Is the teenager with the headphones blaring into his head (vacations, mom- just chill) ready to help with those in need. Is the elder in the family (who’s also now addicted to non-standardised YouTube content 24X7) willing to have a non-COVID conversation ? The answer is mostly no than yes in most households.  

Is this fear new ? Didn’t we fear earlier too ? Wasn’t God, religion, social customs, traditions, even “ God doesn’t like this”, Satan used to drive fear.

As evolved citizens and a mother of two free-willed kids , its but natural to pause and take stock of all the fears that have been imposed on God-fearing (or not) middle class kids as we grew up in a “normal” family!

The good, Bad and the Ugly.:

It's not many decades ago that measles / Chicken pox or Amme (as it was called in Kannada) was the star performer in most Summer Vacations. What started with one family / child used to spread quicker than the air blowing through those arid, listless summers. When neem leaves made more sense than mangoes, when cooped up in a dark(Ish) kind of rooms with old copies of Amar Chitra Katha made more sense than fighting with your sibling for that last piece of Besan Ladoo that Ajji (grand mom) had made. But this is a good kind of fear. Because its physical, and goes away (unlike the COVID) with a expiry date of exactly 7-10 days, give or take a few ! And as it affected kids, they forgot as soon as they were rid of it. and off they went to play Gully Cricket, Liguori and the like, till they were drenched in sweat and came back home only to wash up and eat lunch/ dinner and continue playing again. No gadgets ever gave that sense of happiness (or freedom).  

What about then, the not-so-kudumi (slang for brilliant chap), your cousin,  who liked arts better than maths ? Who decides it was hara-kiri to talk to him while s(he) flunked any exam ? How can someone NOT go to Amreeka- the land of the Promised dream ?  Well-meaning aunts and uncles would pry away their daughters and sons from this good-for-nothing cousin who couldn’t crack the CET, better still didn’t get a professional degree and neither did good for himself or the society (good marks = good character). Sigh !

Growing up in an ultra-traditional TamBrahm family also meant you dreaded your periods. The social stigma that came with it - separate utensils, separate mats, and the entire street (and uncles and cousins who dropped by regularly) learnt about your ‘precarious touch-me-not’ position within minutes of entering the house. All in the name of God and religion, I say !!

And this isn’t even Ugly.

What WAS Ugly was a different kind of Social distancing - a pronounced, in-your-face, something that would leave scars through your growing up years. The Social ostracism (see, we didn’t have fancy words then, we simply called it “Social Neglect”). This happened to families without regular source of income, where they were not "at-par” with the rest of the siblings or cousins. Tch, tch No bank balance, no own-house (Renting was considered “Poor”) and heck, not even a LIC policy !! The distance that kids from these kind of backgrounds was not social - it was emotional. Neither death or births were informed to them for years (hey, they don’t even have a landline telephone!!) and neither were social events for them. In the event you actually made it to these social events, you could see eyes of contempt, indifference and spite all rolled into one.

This was UGLY, and for a long time.

When the tide of course turned (it always does, right?, the same kids and their parents got a standing ovation “for becoming what they have in the face of hardship”. Couldn’t the same kids been hugged , been kissed good night like their own? Couldn't these kids been sponsored a few thousand rupees to be taken for a vacation, a decent education, an ice cream once in a way. Did these kids (and the family) deserve any of it at that point?

And so the tide turns.

Just the way COVID has overturned our lives. What was taken for granted- socially acceptable status, reckless purchases, living off Credit Cards, vacations (and parents) taken for granted, 4 gourmet meals in a day, endless supply of rations (and love), binge-spending before you can earn a penny, scoffing at someone who said you need to save for a rainy day : this and more has taken a full turn today.

Humanity is staring at the things around us, not knowing what hit us worse - the virus or the uncertainty of it all !! When would all this whoosh away like a bad dream?  We are repairing our lives - one step at a time. Socially, we are awash with the fact that quality family time is important, that WhatsApp can only pride itself on forwards and motivational quotes, but it’s the family that keeps you safe. Inside the house.

We are on the verge of collapse and despair , yet never before has meditation and prayers taken more precedence in our lives. Never before have actually believed more. while saying “Sarve Jano Sukhino Bhavanthu" - let the entire world be safe and happy’.

We needed a shocker of an apocalypse to shake us out of our delirious state.

Will it take another shock to embrace Love and Humanity into our lives, social distancing (of any form), notwithstanding !!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Social Distancing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak

Kalyani Srinath

The author is L&D (Learning and Development) Professional, Food blogger & Commentator

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