OPN WASHING HANDS-1584438623088
FILE - A hand-washing demonstration at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, Calif., March 3, 2020. Washing with soap and water is one of the key public health practices that can significantly slow the rate of a pandemic and limit the number of infections. (Alex Welsh/The New York Times) Image Credit: NYT

Washing my hands has become second nature to me now and I am washing so often, my hands look wrinkly like a granny’s after she has done her laundry by hand.

“Wash every two hours”, say doctors and hygienists, who I suspect are having a great time frightening the wits out of everybody. They show a slide of the creepy looking Coronavirus, which seems a million times magnified, that has suction cups on thin stalks all over its body, waiting to latch on to you.

“Remember to wash especially before eating and when you touch something,” the doctors say. Humans today are hard-wired to touch a ton of things every day just to get from Point A to Point B. For example, the most dangerous thing today is the doorknob that you turn to open doors.

You are supposed to use an alcohol rub to clean your hands when you cannot get to a washbasin easily, and the only problem is that price gougers have hoarded them


Apparently millions of bugs hang around doorknobs anxiously waiting for some poor soul to touch it and then touch his or her own mouth or eyes.

I now do not hold on to railings when climbing down, and it can be tricky when your wife in front, suddenly stops for no reason.

The hand-washing the health freaks want you to do is not what you were used to before the times of coronavirus, when after using the toilet you quickly put your hand under the tap in the washbasin and then wiped the hand on the seat of your pants.

Tapping away happily

Some people then did not even bother to wash their hands after using the washroom and came back to your desk in the workplace and tapped away happily on your laptop keyboard. Ewww!

The bug can’t be killed easily, so you are supposed to wash your hands at least for 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself, twice.

I once sang Happy Birthday under my breath in a public washroom which I thought was empty when the toilet cubicle door burst open and a kid came out and looked at me scared and ran out of the washroom.

The washing of hands is actually as ritualistic as a Muslim who does “wudu”, ritual purification or ablution, before saying his prayers.

I had taught myself how to perform “wazu” (“wudu” in Urdu) and everything went well, till the time came to wash my feet. You are supposed to wash even the webbing between the toes and the only way to do that was to place the foot, one at a time, obviously, in the washbasin, under the tap.

Contortionists in circus

I used to envy the contortionists in the circus that came to my town during the winters, especially one young girl from China, who would hold one foot with her hands and excruciatingly slowly, pick it up and place it behind her neck, as the band played suspenseful slow music.

I knew only years later that I had locked hips and the flexor muscles were so tight that I could not sit cross-legged on the floor. Breathing deeply, I held on tightly to my right foot and placed it in the washbasin. I suddenly realised I can never ever move again from this position.

Back to hand washing, and you are supposed to use an alcohol rub to clean your hands when you cannot get to a washbasin easily, and the only problem is that price gougers have hoarded them.

“This is a natural hand sanitiser,” said the checkout girl to my wife, showing a plastic bottle with red gel in it. Alcohol rubs are supposed to have 60 per cent alcohol. This had nothing and the Coronavirus was absolutely safe if ever we used it.

So, I use soap and water frequently and my hands look like the granny’s who washed her unmentionables before washing machines were invented.

— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi

More by the writer