“Social distancing will not work in India, because total strangers latch on to you from behind, in a queue, like the alien clinging to an astronaut’s face,” I said to my wife.
“We do not have a concept of personal space as there are too many of us and space is at a premium,” I said, sounding philosophical.
It is the sixth day of a nationwide lockdown and it can drive people crazy not being able to go outside in the fresh air and talk to someone other than your wife or partner.
By the way, Bengaluru’s Air Quality Index (AQI) has improved ever since the lockdown when everybody stopped driving, burning garbage and halted construction work in the city. In Hebbal, for instance, AQI was 101 on March 11 and dropped to 66 on March 18.
With the coronavirus outbreak people were advised to keep six feet apart. Now, a new study says you should keep apart much more as sneeze droplets travel 26 feet, and that distance just suits someone like me
I personally like the curfew as I don’t have to make small, silly chit-chat with people. I love to sit at home and read or stream movies and documentaries and if I need to socialise I go on social media and abuse and troll someone about how they look or their idiotic political stance.
The only terrible thing the lockdown has down is that my wife now works at home and for the first time in so many years of our married life we are seeing each other continuously for 24 hours in a day and I do not think holy matrimony or being hitched was ever supposed to be such a torture for two people.
Anyway, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was going to give us a surprise after he had earlier requested that we lock ourselves in for a day.
“You have just four hours to stock up on the soft sponge cake from Venkie’s bakery that you like, dye your hair and buy bags of pet food, he said. “This time I am locking you all in for three weeks.”
Our corner grocery store in the community today had crosses marked with numbers in chalk at the entrance. We are supposed to stand on a cross, about six feet apart, like it was a reality show, where we would suddenly take off and do some crazy thing like climb up a tree or pick up large rocks and bring it and drop it in your marked cross.
My wife who had shopped a couple of days earlier, said it was exhausting standing in the heat (Yes, cool garden city Bengaluru is heating up and the temperature is reaching 30 degree centigrade in the shade) and all she got was a few limes, carrots and a bunch of coriander.
It is scary to be around human beings after a six-day hibernation in my flat, even at six feet apart. I tense up when someone sneezes or coughs and my first instinct is to think of beating up that person. How dare she put our lives in danger?
Even before the lockdown I had issues with people. On the plane, I would cross my hands and rest them on my paunch, as I did not like touching someone’s hand on the arm rest. I would freeze when someone’s leg touched me when sitting in a bus.
I would stop breathing whenever a friend spoke to me. She had this habit of touching you with every sentence. “I went shopping yesterday and the Friday crowd was crazy”. Touch. Argh.
Worldwide, the social norms are that you a keep a distance of two to three feet (60 to 90cm) when speaking to someone.
With the coronavirus outbreak people were advised to keep six feet apart. Now, a new study says you should keep apart much more as sneeze droplets travel 26 feet, and that distance just suits someone like me.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.