Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The terms that have become common over the past few weeks like “stay home”, “lockdown”, “break the chain” and “virus”, remind me of my school and college days. These terms take me back to incidents that happened a long time ago.

“Stay Home” reminds me of my days as a mischievous schoolboy. A regular punishment from my parents was to make me “stay at home” if I had been involved in any mischief. My father never spanked me (parents spanking children was very common those days), but he had his own ways of punishing me. So “stay at home” meant that I had to stay put on a chair next to him. This may seem like a very comfortable punishment for many, but for someone like me who can’t remain idle for long, it was very, very hard. And finally, when my parents agreed to end the ‘Stay Home’ punishment and let me go out, my friends would sarcastically inquire whether I was under “house arrest”.

Years later, as a journalist, whenever I used that headline referring to some politician who was under ‘house arrest’, I remembered my school days and the punishment from my father.

more off the cuff

Another dreaded punishment those days was called “locked out”. Sounds similar to today’s “lockdown”! If children did not return home within the stipulated time, parents made them stand outside their homes, in the dark, as a punishment. Just like the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the advantages of staying indoors, in his address to the nation a few days ago, our parents too reminded us that the restrictions they imposed on us would ultimately serve to our advantage at some point in our lives. Hence, terms like “stay home” and “lockdown” may not be new for many of us who have received these punishments as children.

The younger generation can find it frustrating when they are now forced to stay home as part of a measure to prevent the spread of a deadly virus. Children with boundless energy must be giving their parents nightmares. But for those who complain that staying home is tough, they would do well to remember that they are blessed with numerous communication devices today such as mobile phones, laptops and television sets — things that were unheard of when we were punished at home. With no WhatsApp or Facebook, the only source of happiness was face-to-face interactions with friends and relatives.

The chain retriever

The term ‘break the chain’ reminds me of an incident that occurred during my college days. Every evening, my friends and I would gather around a tea shop, chatting away till it was time to go home. Those days, it was common for thieves to snatch gold chains that most ladies wore around their necks. So once when such an incident took place right in front of us, one of my friends ran after the thief for a good ten minutes to finally get hold of him and retrieve the chain.

When he returned the chain to the lady like a hero, she thanked him and with a cheeky smile told him that the chain was not made of gold, but imitation jewellery! From that day, he got the nickname ‘Chain Raju’. So “break the chain” also seems like a familiar term, except that it was a practise followed by many thieves in my hometown ... and something that continues even today!

Incidentally, in our college group, we have a friend who is known only by his nickname ‘Virus Chandran’. He was so called because he had once told his teacher that he suffered from “virus fever” when he should have actually said “viral fever”.

At a time when the world is going through a difficult phase, tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, these familiar terms of my younger days bring a smile to my lips. And I’m sure my friends would be feeling the same.