On the assumption that today is the last day of the lockdown, I thought it might be fun to recall what we’ve just lived through. If, like me, you marvel at the fact we were able to make light of it, humour was our best support.
First, there’s what we called “lockdown lingo”. “Covidiot” might have been obvious but “coronials”, mimicking millennials, was clever. Do you remember “quarantinis” and the “locktail hour”? Some of us might have been “the elephant in the zoom” as we said cheers in cyberspace. Unfortunately, the government denied us our “furlough merlot”, but many ended up with “le creuset wrist”, which comes from zealously banging bartans (dishes) to impress the neighbours with a cacophonous display of deshbhakti (nationalism)! And now, what do you think of the term “antisocial distancing” to avoid your friends? I guess the “coronacoaster” of life is going to continue. I, for one, have certainly fattened the curve!
The wretched coronavirus also had a pronounced effect on the aphorisms that we frequently toss around. With just a tweak here or there, they seemed apt for the world we’re escaping. Consider this: Divided we live, united we die; A sneeze in time infects nine; As you spray so shall you reap; Distancing is the better part of valour; Necessity is the mother of infection; Out at night is out of mind; Rome wasn’t infected in a day (actually, it didn’t take much longer!); The grass is cleaner on your side of the fence; When in Rome, die as the Romans do. And, finally, a hope we cling on to: Covid never strikes twice.
Now we, in India, are a lot kinder than the Brits. We only make fun of our government in private. In public or in print, we say the nicest things. The Brits might admire Boris Johnson in private but in public they call him Bojoker. So here’s a satirical collection of statements illustrating how the British interpreted the confused and mangled advice Bojoker’s government thrust at them.
First, about staying at home: “You must not leave the house for any reason but if you have a reason, you can leave the house”; “Stay home, but it’s important to go out” and “You should not go to the doctors or to the hospital unless you have to go there, unless you are too poorly to go there.”
Next, about going out: “You are safe if you maintain the safe social distance when out but you can’t go out with friends at the safe social distance”; “Gloves won’t help, but they can still help so wear them sometimes or not” and “Shops are closed, except those shops that are open”.
There was also bewildering advice about children and the elderly: “Don’t visit old people but you have to take care of the old people and bring them food and medication”: and “The virus has no effect on children except those children it effects”.
However, the advice the Brits took to heart was how to recognise they’ve got the disease and what to do if they have: “You will have many symptoms if you get the virus, but you can also get symptoms without getting the virus, get the virus without having any symptoms or be contagious without having symptoms, or be non-contagious with symptoms”. Finally, “If you are sick, you can’t go out till you are better but anyone else in your household can’t go out even after you are better in case they fall sick”.
But let me leave the last word with our own Lav Agarwal. We saw so much of him on TV, he’s become a celebrity. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some have grown to love him. I believe he deserves a prize for proclaiming that if we flatten the curve sufficiently we might altogether avoid the peak. I’m not sure what that means but at the time I rather liked the sound of it!
Karan Thapar is author of Devils Advocate: The Untold Story
The views expressed are personal
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