So, living with veiled faces may have become the new norm. So much has been said, so many of us have learnt to alter our lives. But there are some things that make us laugh and cry at the same time. Let me explain.
The other day, my cousin came home with her two kids. The younger one who is just over a year and half old is quite a handful. As we laughed and watched the little fella’s gimmicks, we noticed how he began to throw a fit the minute any of us grabbed our face masks.
The baby was trying to be heard — to be lifted in arms, to be seated in a pram and taken out because, the baby has learnt that when someone picks a mask, they are going out. We laughed when we watched the scene unfold. We clapped, showered the baby with kisses and felt his cuteness wash us with glee but the mask episode refused to leave me.
It continued to haunt my mind because living a life that is straight out of science fiction is no small feat. When I look back, I remember my son would throw his hands up and make a fuss when he watched anyone wear a shoe. This ironical change of behaviour doesn’t leave a good taste. But the reality of present times is our ability to find our way through this maze of human behaviours and safety methods second guessing ourselves.
I wonder how the baby will react when he learns about the world that used to be. Will he be shocked that we used to shake hands or worse will he even know about shaking hands when our palms would grace each other? Will he believe that fist bumps and elbow bumps weren’t social conventions?
Will he express disgust that we breathed unfiltered air and that we sniffed openly without a care? Will he find it strange that our noses hung out in the open for everyone to see and face masks were not even a thing? Will he laugh it off saying that the world that used to be is just in our imagination and we are all making it up? Or is it just imagination that we did live a life where we could hug our friends without worrying about their travel history?
Stranger than fiction
This life that we are living certainly is stranger than fiction — flinching our way through coughs and sneezes but rejoicing in the ray of hope called vaccine — one small prick in the arm gave us so much to look forward to that we all believed that we could break the chain. And, that was just enough because we needed that little straw to hold on to even when the funeral pyres lit the evening skies.
We endured the wait for our turn for the jab because it helped us live through the dark phases of long Covid. Even as the disease quietly seeped through relationships and strained the bonds, we believed it would all settle down once the game was over.
But, when is that — we ask as we nurse our tiring feet, ready to quit this science fiction life even as a mind numbing cynicism masks rationality — will we ever go back to what it used to be. And, if we do go back, will the baby be able to forget this world of veiled faces? I don’t know.
As we race towards a third year with a baggage of covid and a torchlight of hope in the form of a vaccine, I pray there will no longer be clothes with matching face masks. They say that humans have lasted this long because we live through each day with our ability to overcome all odds. Perhaps, we will be able to do this. This may last, till it lasts but we cannot stop celebrating a new year because we know there is hope. And the latest?
“He doesn’t recognise people when they are without masks,” my cousin laughs on the phone. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. “This madness has to end”, I shake my head because science fiction is fun only because it is not real and frankly we are all just tired.
Most importantly, we all want to show off our smiles without having to hide those curves behind screens and this year might make that happen.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman