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Published on: 01/30/22 4:24 AM

Guest column: The Covid fear factor

The Afraid vs the Unafraid

Since the past two years, ever since the pestilence hit,  society has divided itself sharply into the Afraid vs the Unafraid. One or the other invariably takes centre-stage at different times.

Let`s take the first lot first. Whatever they believe, do, ingest/absorb/practice, it`s all driven by their intimations of mortality, the fear that they  might not really be able to ride the dratted virus out.

The vicious second wave, the one that fell upon us like a Fury and took away a lot of people we held dear, pretty much cemented that fear. In the period between the waning of the first wave and the waxing of the second, we were slowly coming out of our metaphorical caves, taking stock of things, trying to reclaim our lives. The second wave swept our puny efforts aside ruthlessly and put us back on that stoop of fear. Now we don’t merely fear the virus, we also know just how sharp its spikes are.

Fear is the very thing that impels us to take our vaccines, to follow Covid protocol as best we can, to lie low and locked down for what seems an indeterminable period. Fear has us overlooking hands that are  rubbed raw with frequent use of sanitizer, forever hoisting that mask right upto our eyeline despite the pain we feel behind our earlobes. Fear is behind the relentless steam inhalations and gargling done every night, even if our throats feel fine.

Fear is behind us ingesting copious amounts of kashaya, giloy, even cow urine. It drives us to buy up oxygen cylinders, home testing kits,  replace Remdesivir with Molnupiravir, and experiment with the latest miracle cure for Covid that we read/heard  about. If people are rubbing cowdung over themselves, it isn’t only because their homegrown gurus told them to do so. It is that old fear factor again.

Nobody wants to catch Covid, suffer from long Covid, struggle to get an ambulance/hospital bed/oxygen, or die. And everyone is willing to try anything – however outlandish — to stave off the virus.

The current  skepticism about Omicron`s supposed mild propensities is also because of that lurking anxiety. We can only hope that the fear will dissipate in the brilliant light when we emerge from inside the tunnel as we must, sometime or the other.  However, right now, all we have lurking besides us is that wretched foreboding.

As for the Unafraid? Some of us are  born reckless and really don`t give a damn. Others are confident that Covid-19  will stay far away from them. Yet others are  just fed up with being careful 24/7. Still others are all too busy monetising the virus — and the fear. And that`s how the Covid cookie crumbles.

This ran in the Sunday Express magazine of 30 Jan 2022.

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Sheila Kumar • January 30, 2022

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