Corona Diaries 53: Of Three Million Plus & Diminishing Fear

Three million plus, and now sky is the limit. Experts have stopped devising false ceilings after they were breached by the virus every single time. It’s okay that we no more hear of peaks, plateaus, troughs and gradients. Trajectory of numbers cease to carry curiosity value after a point. Those amazing Excel sheet projections had turned unexciting.

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We scampered home and bolted ourselves in when COVID-19 positive cases numbered around 3,000. At three million we have decided to set ourselves free. This despite not much having changed about the threat of the virus. Nothing else exemplifies the curious ways the human mind works.

In Delhi, it is pre-Corona times again. Roads are busy. Jay-walkers are doing their bit to invite expletives from angry drivers, drivers are jumping the red light and furious words are exchanged from behind masks over wrong parking. The market places are crowded. People jostle at kirana shops without any need to. Full-throated haggling is back when the situation warrants less words. At tea stalls, friends meet up again and compensate for lost time with effusive horseplay. Here, like everywhere, masks are in place, but social distancing is gone for a toss. Yes, people have discovered normal again.

This more or less is how things are elsewhere in the country. Gone is the sense of panic. And it’s replaced by certain carelessness. The reason is difficult to fathom. Perhaps it has something to do with our approach to fear. Too much of it kills its scare potential. In the beginning, we hide wishing it to blow over, then we seek to laugh at it and then give a damn about the whole thing. In case of the virus, it may not be a good idea, particularly with no cure or preventive in sight, but that is how things stand. One hopes masks and sanitisers are not junked by the time we reach four million cases. The line between foolishness and recklessness is always thin.

THE LONG WAIT FOR FREEDOM

How long is too long? If it’s about a pandemic then there’s no answer. The World Health Organisation chief Tedros A Ghebreyesus says the novel coronavirus pandemic could be over before two years. One is not sure whether to be relieved or worried. Two years is a long time; we haven’t even reached halfway. And we have suffered enough already. Cases are still climbing in several parts of the world as is the number of deaths. The US, Brazil and India have surpassed three million cases individually, and India could be competing with the US soon for the undesirable top slot. In two years God knows where we would be.

That makes Ghebreyesus’ optimism quite depressing. He said the Spanish influenza of 1918, the deadliest in two centuries, lasted that long. Being far weaker, COVID-19, he hinted, should run its course before that. Perhaps he could have rephrased his statement to be more reassuring. We don’t know how though. With about 170 potential vaccines on trial and more than a fifth of them in human trial stage, his words better come true.

GIVE ME BACK GOOD OLD SCHOOL

Here goes a crude joke on online schooling on the social media: The octogenarian asks his naughty grandson how are studies going. “Just like you,” he answers. “What does it mean?” the man is curious. “Bhagwan bharose,” the boy replies. The joke does not reveal whether a round of spanking followed, but it tells something about online schooling.

Intially excited about the novelty of the idea, kids are finding it is not quite like offline. A far away teacher is almost like an absent one. Missing is the personal touch. Classmates are just images on the screen, not flesh and blood. The chair and table at home are not like the bench and desk at school. They cannot have a good laugh at the dirty scribblings on desks or add anything interesting of their own for the benefit of posterity. Busy with chat boxes, many hardly pay attention to the teacher. When a question is asked, they can always go mute, later blaming it on poor broadband connectivity. It has stopped being funny. They yearn for good old physical school.

The government is mulling phased reopening of schools from September. But there are many ifs and buts. Like we said earlier, everything is ‘bhagwan bharose’

THE INNOCENT QUESTION ABOUT ALCOHOL

Does alcohol kill novel coronavirus? Many variants of the question — diluted, undiluted, on the rocks and cocktail — did the urgent rounds of the internet some weeks ago. Procuring liquor was a bit of a problem then. The novel coronavirus and humourless cops with lathis ensured that the national craving for a few sips remain largely unanswered. It is still a mystery whether the question was born out of innocence.

We should rule out innocence, considering the answer is so obvious. Health experts have been crying themselves hoarse on all media for long about the ill-effects of such indulgence in the time of the virus. The drink that makes people happy, makes the virus happier, they have been telling anyone who would listen, not in exact words though, because compromised immunity turns the human body into its stomping ground.

Obviously, many were not listening or refused to listen. Perhaps a few had already settled down for a longish night with spirit poured into glasses packed with gleaming ice cubes before seeking some kind of moral support for their act. In these matters the social media hardly disappoint. You can always find someone claiming that alcohol made life hell for the virus in his case and he was cured of COVID-19 after improving intake. In any case, a yes or no would hardly have made a difference to the questioner. But for him killing a few viruses while in the act would have been more fun.

Now that liquor shops are open in most places, the question is less visible on the social media. We fail to make a connection between the two though.

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