Comfortably Numb

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



In the end, who will we be?

Even as the old normal returns, will we do a recalibration of our old selves? 

So, now is a good time to reflect on how humans will be humans, always and forever. A lot of `normal`  activity  was on a hiatus for the past few months but now the headwinds are beginning to blow. Hard.

Even as wistfully tender Whatsapp messages do the rounds, talking of a reset, a recalibration, a new way of life to be adopted in the near future, the simple truth is this: the old normal has reared its head again. And it`s business as usual.

Look around you. The reckless buying and hoarding graph continues to climb, only the objects of desire now are dishwashers, robot floor- cleaners…and yes, the latest iPhone too, while we are at it.

Business as usual

Old-fashioned `cheating` cases are seeing an uptick; burglaries are happening with equal and impartial frequency, on roads, at temples, a lake (yes, you read that right; we are talking encroachers in Bangalore) and of course, wine shops and bars.

In Belagavi, 400 people were fined for spitting, which is an ancient Indian practice, and droplets transmission be damned. On the one hand, global gas emissions are down…for now. On the other, the Dark Web is selling Covid `vaccines.`

And the advice, it`s coming in droves,  the numbers in sharp  disproportion to the sense it disseminates. Sustain a Vedic lifestyle, pleads one. Drink gaumutra, urges another. Wash your hands after digital sex, says a third.

Even as newspapers run photo campaigns asking wives to send in laudatory snapshots of their husbands attending to household tasks, there`s been an uptick in calls from victims of domestic violence… and you don`t need me to specify that 99% of these DV victims are women.

Contrariwise:  will you continue helping around the house after the lockdown is lifted, a survey asks men. No, say more than 60% of the men, frankly and fearlessly.

Hatewatch is trending, wild rumours of communal/political persuasion, blindly believed, leading to attacks everywhere.  Forget about banana bread and Dalgona coffee, child porn is the biggest draw online. Online child porn traffic has gone up in India by a whopping 95%. Which means millions of paedophiles have clustered on the web, a very scary prospect.

Elsewhere, child marriages, stealthily arranged and executed, are on the rise too, mostly in Bharat-which-is-not-India, as some sage once said.

Opportunity in calamity

Even as people are valiantly helping the migrant workers, even as people go out and feed starving strays daily, there are those who see opportunity in this calamity. Opportunity of the wrong kind, of course.  The newest scam in town? Fraudulent animal helplines which inveigle money from kind-hearted animal-lovers. Clearly, nothing is sacred, nothing is spared.

Basically, it isn’t a wonderful world, all the heart-warming messages notwithstanding. It`s the same old world we were living in before that damned virus struck.

The question du jour is: in the end, who will we be? My regretful answer: in all probability, our belligerent, heedless, pugnacious selves.

So, yes, there`s a lot of gloom about, a lot of foreboding, too. There are lost jobs, lost livelihoods, lost indulgences, lost comfort zones. But is there a new awareness, a desire for transformation? The jury is still out on that…

This ran in THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS of 7 June 2020.

Links to my other TNIE guest columns:

Guest column: The kindness of strangers

Guest column: Staying stylish in Covid times

Guest column: Distancing? Perish the thought!

Guest column: Staying alive, staying relevant

Guest column: Hikikomori or modern-day hermits

Guest column: Millennials and their morals

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


essayguest columnin the end who will we beno rebalancing of lifeno resetsold normalpost-lockdownSunday columnThe New Indian ExpressThe New Sunday Express Magazine

Sheila Kumar • June 7, 2020

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