The Coming of Corona

In this personal essay, the author reflects on life at the threshold of the covid-19 pandemic.

Those were the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we didn’t know just how severe the impending upheaval would be. Some of us could distinguish between the correct and incorrect methods of fighting the virus—the latter including the consumption of cow urine or boiled garlic, and chanting “go corona go” a thousand times. But, that was not a time when social (or rather, physical) distancing was enforced strictly, which is why I ventured out one evening to visit a relative who lived nearby. I stared at our elevator button for a few seconds before remembering to use my knuckles to press it. It hurt, and on hindsight, wasn’t really necessary. I had to use my hands anyway to open and close the collapsible gates. As I was doing that, I imagined all the other hands that had touched it. This was followed by the handling of several more gates, by the end of which I wanted to dissociate myself from my hands. They felt foreign, alien to my body. What do you do when the hands that you use to touch everything become the problem themselves, I thought. And immediately, as if on cue, my nose started itching. I seemed to helplessly feel the spikey viruses climbing through my nose on their journey into my body.

Another time, an old schoolmate was acting in a play with acclaimed thespians, and many of us—batchmates and friends—were supposed to attend. I was desperately hoping that the programme would be postponed, but because it was still the early days of the pandemic, it was not. My family advised me to wear a mask while in the auditorium, but when I took my seat, I saw only three other people wearing masks, and each of them looked rather old. Not wanting to look old myself, I decided not to wear the simple medical mask that had been retrieved from its protracted and idle existence in the medicine chest. As the play began, a sense of suffocation engulfed me: What if I cough? What if someone else coughs? Again, as if on cue, someone else did—and all of a sudden, as several small plastic bottles were taken out of bags, the cloyingly sweet scent of the hand sanitiser, the gift of market enterprise to mankind, pervaded the air.

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Updated On : 2nd Jun, 2020

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