Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 04/5/20 6:03 AM

Guest column: Staying alive, staying relevant

Staying alive, staying relevant

The weeks of social distancing are stretching on, becoming as elastic as time itself. All the multitudes who displayed remarkable fortitude, a biting sense of humour and admirable pragmatism in facing the situation are now, understandably, chafing at the bit.

Think about it. The new virus is the wild animal out in the street and the people, the ones caged in their respective zoos. And given that the human being has always been a social animal, the current outbursts of irritation, annoyance and full-blown rage are to be expected.

Hunker down is the mantra but we just don’t do hunkering too well.

Finding your niche

And then I received a random email. Struggling to make your stories stand out? it asked earnestly. Which was when the penny dropped. This physical distancing has dealt a body-blow to our sense of self-relevance. Staying relevant is vital to us humans and we will do anything, anything at all, to gain,then keep, our place in that catacomb.

All over the world, balconies have become the new public spaces, as also the stage for personal performances.

Celebs, foreign and homegrown, are singing ‘Imagine’ (execrably), getting into rose-petal-filled bathtubs to lecture us on the coronavirus, sitting down to sketch with all the panache of a Picasso.

The rest of us, the aam janata, are busy doing two things: forwarding WhatsApp missives and posting wildly on every platform available to us. Never mind that the socmed treadmill is overloaded, there’s so much noise, it’s easy for our ‘relevance’ posts to get lost in the cacophony.

The relevance reason is also why there is an outbreak of Covid rebels acting out, chilling at the beach, licking toilet seats, hosting corona parties. Part cocking a snook at the virus, part sheer exuberance of youth, and all about staying relevant. They may be young dammit, but they are relevant.

As for the boomer uncles and aunties, their bid at relevance manifests in another kind of defiance, in going out for a walk with their cronies, stopping for their daily cuppa at the nukkad tea-stall. In their mind, they aren’t succumbing in craven fashion to the rampaging virus. They may be getting on in age dammit, but they are (still) relevant.

Then there are the faithful, faithfully flocking to places of worship, chanting mantras like ‘Go corona go’ (if the virus was American, this would be taken as encouragement) and beating drums to celebrate the end of Covid. This too, is a bid for relevance. It is their sink- or- swim moment and whichever way they go, into hospital or into self- quarantine, they will go with a chant on their lips and happiness at their brief moment of glory.

The importance of relevance

Read books, exercise, play board games, learn new ways of being, the poet tells us. No thanks, we say. We’d rather take deep dives into activities like Insta-gymming, making crazy videos (anyone seen the couple turning into a rider and his horse?!), and trying to sing ‘If the World was Ending’ through our nose.

The challenge is to do all of it with enough style to catch the casual cybersurfer’s capricious attention.

Of course, there is renewed appreciation for technology. Let’s face it, with technology at our command, we can continue to stay relevant.

Because the show must can go on. Covid-19 notwithstanding.

This ran in THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS of 5 Apr 2020.

My other TNIE guest columns:

Guest column: Travellers from Hell

Guest column: In the end, who will we be?

Guest column: Cancel Culture: Feeding the Socmed Monster

Guest column: If we must travel…

Guest column: Worrywarts or neurotics?

Guest Column: To Mask or Not to Mask, That Is NOT the Question

Guest column: The kindness of strangers

Guest column: In the end, who will we be?

Guest column: Staying stylish in Covid times

Guest column: Distancing? Perish the thought!

Guest column: Hikikomori or modern-day hermits

Guest column: Millennials and their morals

covid timesessay on relevanceguest columnrelentless race to stay relevantrelevance in Covid timesStaying Alive Staying RelevantThe New Sunday Express

Sheila Kumar • April 5, 2020

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