Last fortnight, I made the first leisure outing in one year, ever since the lockdown eased in 2020. I have been out running errands, to buy things not available through the e-carts industry or for haircuts but not for the purpose of going out to have fun.
Me and my friend ventured out on a weekday early enough in the day to avoid crowds for the first outing since lockdown. A sunny day as the all too brief spring season was coming to end was the perfect day to be out to an outdoor venue.
Being out in the public, interacting with multiple people made me realise how much our feelings and outlook have changed since the pandemic. We had read about plague or Spanish flu, seen the pictures of people wearing the beak like masks to avoid Black Death but had never experienced being in the middle of an epidemic. SARS, MERS and other similar virus outbreaks in India had slipped by us without creating a huge ripple in the society.
While earlier we did not think twice before plunging into the crowds, now we run away from the horde of people. I have lived in Mumbai, where the only way to board or get off the local trains was to move with crowds, thinking about that way of travelling gives me jitters now. Straight line walking has turned into zip-zag style of walking to avoid coming face to face with people talking without masks while out.
Shopping is an experience of all senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. We like to touch and feel the texture, smell the goods or have a taste before buying something new. In the Covid era, the sense of smell and touch has become forbidden. And armed with a sanitiser in the hand, what we touch we erase it immediately to avoid the virus.
They say face itself is a mask, but interactions meant reading the expressions to the best of our ability. However, with the face masks covering half of that real estate, we have to rely on the words, their tones and inflections. And, anyone without mask was a person to stay away from.
A feeling of peace pervaded as soon as I entered the safe confines of home. A shower and a change of clothes had me breathe a sigh of relief – a washing away of germs and infection. The whole excitement of showing away new shopping had to be postponed as the goods shopped were kept away for a day before being examined and enjoyed.
Will we ever go back to our old ways? Or in some measures when we do, will we always have a niggling fear at the back of our minds? The experience of living in fear and isolation is something that people of all generations are not going to forget soon – year 2020 is going to be etched in our minds forever even with life returning to normal in many spheres of living.
Continuing from Covid Lockdown Diaries I – Nature’s Pushback, Covid Lockdown Diaries II – the human angle, Covid Lockdown Diaries III – Work from Home, Covid Lockdown Diaries IV – Return to Offices, Covid Lockdown Diaries V – Masks the New Fashion Accessory.