Corona Diaries 63: The Humble Mask As A Style Statement

Hope is on the horizon. But surely that’s not enough to make us drop guard. All we know so far is despite so many people recovering from the virus attack, it gets deadly in certain cases. And you never know whether the certain could involve you. Most people won’t be aware that they carry ailments that could aggravate COVID-19. Many, as cases suggest, may not need comorbidity to die. There are cases where people with severe underlying health issues have survived too. The correlation between age deaths gets blurred if you realise about 45 per cent of deaths in India is accounted for by people in the age group 26-60. All this make our knowledge of the disease chaotic. Hope, of a vaccine or a drug or herd immunity, is what we can cling on to under the circumstances.

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While at it, we must hold on to our masks too. What mosquito net is to malaria, the mask is to COVID. It may not entirely stop the transmission of the virus but it is pretty strong as the first line of defence. It is, experts say, as good as any vaccine as a preventive. The recent drop in cases in the country could be a result of more people wearing the patch of cloth across their faces. Overuse of alcohol-based sanitisers may have long-term health repercussion but not so the case of mask. It may not make you look sexy, but think of it. If you have teeth ugly from nicotine stain or lips flaking due to lack of lubrication or untrimmed and unruly facial hair or simply, bad beath, how useful the piece of cloth can be!

While on masks, trust human creativity to shine through adversity. You name it – theme-based mask, designer mask, mask matching colour of handbags or dress – and you have it all. The flat, green surgical mask was so insipid. It was only a matter of time it made way for products more sassy. Japan, with a long tradition of face masks, is showing the way in experiments with the face cover. Technology has kicked in to make the product stronger in properties to detect pathogens. It will be good news if masks turn into a fashion accessory for the sexes like sun glasses and the cap or hat and remains in vogue for long. What about a mask that serves as a deodorant too? Well, it seems to be in the making. Style, a rather pointless human obsession so far, can be purposeful too.

GOODBYE TELEVISION?

The cause and effect relationship between the decline of entertainment television and rise of OTT platforms is not easy to establish. There is a time lag. The former had already lost appeal, thanks to pathetic shows, as web platforms were making their presence felt. It’s an unequal equation between the two right now. The pandemic certainly has given a big boost to the latter, which churn out interesting, binge-worthy stuff at breathlessness pace. As mobile phones and laptops turn the new medium of choice for the entertainment-hungry audience, the television set at home is under the threat of turning more into a decorative item.

The young generation in love with smartphones may find the transition painless. Not so people separated from it by several generations. But television, the programming part of it specifically, appears to be on its way out unless something dramatic happens on the content front. Technology may soon usurp the only strength it has – viewing comfort – and render it dead.

ENTERTAINMENT GONE GLOBAL

Entertainment has broken the language barrier and gone truly global, thanks to a minor innovation: sub-titles. What else would explain webseries Mirzapur Season 2 being watched in 180 countries? Streaming services bring us the best from the entertainment universe. The bouquet of choices now, from Spanish to English to Italian to South Korean to Japanese to other major languages, is mind-boggling. The seamless appreciation of cinema and web dramas highlights the point that human situations and emotions have certain universality even though the language they are expressed through are different. Shakespearean drama would find similar response among audience across countries if it comes in the local tongue, be it Odia or Tamil or Assamese. Call it small perks of a technology-driven global village.

There’s one grouse though. Universality often comes at the cost of nuances. Some culture-specific elements may get lost in translation.

DARK CORNER OF THE THEATRE

For some reason, young couples in love or even without it have special preference for seats at the far corner of dark movie theatres. Since watching the movie on the big screen is not an immediate priority, its language is not at all an issue here. In fact, many would like the language to be as unintelligible as possible. A familiar one can be a source of distraction. The opening of theatres should have been good news for them. But it is not. The one seat gap rule has come in the way of togetherness. Those in the know say it is not easy to express love without physical closeness. The distance of one seat just spoils the experience.

Theatre owners should be worried. This section of the audience ensured good returns from even horrible movies.

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