While the pandemic raged across the globe, scaring people out of their wits, making them scramble for face masks, guess what most Indians searched online while trapped at home?
No, they were not searching frantically for advice like I did, on how to wash hands and how many times one should sing Happy Birthday while soaping and rinsing the webbing between the fingers.
(“For whom shall I sing Happy Birthday to”? asked a relative when I told her how to get rid of the virus on her hands).
Indians were neither looking for science articles explaining how much distance one should keep from your wife if she coughs and sneezes, and how far the aerosols can fly, and come crash landing on your vulnerable face, nor how to escape from your home if the municipality nails your front door shut, when you declare yourself infected.
(The municipality in Kerala did one better, instead of forcibly shutting people in their homes, those who tested positive, it pasted garish-yellow posters warning people that the person residing here is infected.)
“It makes one feel ostracised,” said a friend who had such posters pasted on his home after everyone at home was infected. The Supreme Court then ordered against such a practice, which is against the constitution and against your personal freedom).
According to Google trends, while the world was going crazy, most of India was obviously more interested in IPL (Indian Premier League). Much earlier, before the times of Coronavirus, whenever India played Pakistan things would come to a halt, at least in India.
Then as the people who were stuck in their homes started getting hungry, the top “How to” search in India, was, “How to make Paneer.”
Paneer is fresh cottage cheese that is made from curdled milk, and is firm and can be cut into blocks, but it won’t melt.
Paneer is like, well, meat for vegetarians. So, you have paneer tikka (the vegetarian version of chicken tikka), ‘malai kofta’ (meat ball curry, but with cottage cheese) and there is even Paneer Biryani, I am sorry to say.
The two things I don’t like are paneer, and tofu, which tastes like ... nothing. Tofu is another “meat for vegetarians”. There is one other thing I detest — “Gobi Manchurian”-- cauliflower florets fried in oil.
There is nothing Manchurian about it, come to think of it, most of the Chinese dishes in India are crossovers and no Chinese would recognise General Tao’s Chicken when eating it in a Delhi restaurant.
Popular web searches
The other “How to” popular in India was How to Make Dalgona Coffee. (Try it, it is creamy and delicious and all you need is instant coffee, a whisk and good wrist work).
A few wise Indians also searched for, “How to Boost your Immunity.”
Just for your information, my wife is an expert on immunity. She has a deep and intrinsic knowledge about inflammation and herbs and their benefits. “Here, bite into this,” she said, handing me an innocent looking fruit.
It was ‘amla’ (gooseberry) and it tasted sour and astringent, and my mouth puckered up like a baby’s who is tasting lemon for the first time in her life. “We should add this in salads,” she said. Then I started getting a warm glass of milk in the morning, with turmeric (curcumin) powder in it, instead of my “bed tea”.
I am not sure what nationals of other countries searched online while sitting bored at home. Maybe Brits searched for how to make beverages at home, with fruits fermenting somewhere, which many expatriates resort to, in figuratively ‘dry’ places.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi