As public places and services gradually reopen and resume activities, we have to get used to some challenges while we precariously try avoiding passing within six feet of each other in our mask-wearing world — being trapped under our own breathe, distinguishing a smile from a frown with just the crinkling of eyes (after you have successfully distinguished a friend from a stranger) and having phones that no longer recognise our faces.
When the war between mankind and the virus spread its tentacles closer to home, we invested in a box of surgical masks.
On our only outing to the supermarket during partial lockdown, as the husband and I suited up in masks and tucked hands into the safety of latex gloves, I felt like the surgeon that I never was, one gloved hand clutching a shopping list instead of a scalpel.
The virus and the subsequent lockdown that caused unimaginable tragedies, economic crisis, joblessness, tested relationships and long stretches of isolation have slowly cracked and then shattered the masks that once perfectly held it all together, fuelling the flames of doubts and fears into raging fires that consumed the last twig of hope, throwing the fractured mind and broken thoughts into dark forbidden alleys and forcing the self to do the unthinkable
On the other side of shopping, my respect for health care superheroes, who have been in the forefront treating the sick and battling the trauma of long hours in uncomfortable PPE suits, doubled many folds and I vowed to replace surgical masks with less uncomfortable reusable ones.
I wish to take this story forward with tall tales of my mind meandering into creative corridors as skilful hands created the finest masks, but my last and only creation — one that was intended to be a shawl but transformed into a deformed muffler (that briefly cushioned mugs before doing a disappearing act) halts the need to exaggerate.
Today, my reusable sweat-absorbent assortment of black cotton masks (from Amazon), that makes me look like a bandit, reeks of antiseptic (from repeated washes) strong enough to clean the air circulating within it and keep bystanders six feet away while sending in constant reminders of the enemy that we are up against when there is an urge to pull it down and breathe.
Before the virus socially distanced and shielded the better part of our faces inside masks, our world loved the mask.
Unlike the ones we wore to rage a war against a virus, these were the invisible ones that carefully shielded our constant war with bottled up insecurities, fears and doubts cracking us from within but tactfully portrayed a persona of a perfect life to the world outside.
There were those who prided on the many masks they wore, switching from one to another with astounding dexterity.
Last twig of home
The virus and the subsequent lockdown that caused unimaginable tragedies, economic crisis, joblessness, tested relationships and long stretches of isolation have slowly cracked and then shattered the masks that once perfectly held it all together, fuelling the flames of doubts and fears into raging fires that consumed the last twig of hope, throwing the fractured mind and broken thoughts into dark forbidden alleys and forcing the self to do the unthinkable.
We are required to stay six feet apart only in person, not in heart.
When our mask and mind fails us, our generation is blessed with innumerable means of communication that will aid us to reach a friend, family, loved one or counsellor who will offer the first twig of hope by lending a listening ear so that you can sail back from afar the ocean that gleams dangerously with million shades of dangerous grey into the safety of firm land to face life.
Every life is precious and there is no excuse big enough that will give you the right to take away what you cannot give.
As for the masks that will keep up our relentless war with the virus, you could choose from among surgical, N95, reusable or one that matches every dress that will add value to your #maskies (not selfies) on social media.
Each one of us is the key to contributing in flattening the curve and all one needs to do when stepping out is put your mask right and keep the distance.
— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha