Coming soon: Covid-19 festive version

| Updated on October 15, 2020

Headed north: A vaccine is still a distant dream, and the so-called curve that needs to be flattened is looking suspiciously like Silk Smitha   -  ISTOCK.COM

’Tis the season to be careful; only then can we be jolly. A perturbed reader on why we can’t let the mask slip

Dear Editor,

Just what is wrong with us? What is it about this three-word sentence — wear a mask — that we do not understand? Last heard, Covid-19 had hit more than 73 lakh people in India, and killed more than 1.1 lakh people. A vaccine is still a distant dream, and the so-called curve that needs to be flattened is looking suspiciously like Silk Smitha, all nice and curvy. But despite all this, and all the dire warnings that our phone calls have mercilessly been subjecting us to, we are looking at a face mask the way we treat a certain television news anchor — with utter disdain.

What worries me, dear Editor, is the fact that the festival season — starting with the five-day Durga Puja — is upon us. This is when, in a normal year, we would 1) throng markets 2) buy mountains of clothes 3) wear aforementioned clothes 4) go pandal hopping, and 5) eat out.

I fear some people are planning to do all this — and more. And without their masks.

Durga Puja, as you would know, is like a thousand mini Kumbh Melas. This is when people stay up all night, eat Mughlai parathas at food stalls, smear sindoor on married women in a manic manner — and generally go berserk. And that’s not all. Immediately after the Pujas, for a fortnight or so, Bengali men indulge in a practice called kolakuli — hugging one another. One shoulder, the other shoulder, and then the first one again — just to be sure.

Can you foresee the future, dear Editor? Ruling parties are loath to put restrictions on festivals — and certainly not just before an election year. But I firmly believe that if prohibitory orders under Section 144 are not imposed in parts of the country, along with a ban on kolakuli, there will be mayhem.

Of course, some people — including Puja committees — are behaving responsibly. Many of the pujas are not open to the public, and quite a few are sending over bhog — the daily prasad of mostly khichri, a vegetable dish and tomato chutney — in multi-tiered tiffin carriers, if you place your orders in advance. But if you know Bengalis and Durga Puja, you will know that there will be a wave of people in their Puja best out on the streets, hoping that Ma — if not Didi — would ably squash the virus.

We should learn from our mistakes, but we don’t. Kerala, which had done a great job in handling the pandemic, went a little wild on the happy occasion of Onam a few weeks ago. Soon thereafter, the state saw a steep rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, Most of those infected were between the ages of 20 and 40, which, the administration says, implies that younger people have been moving around and possibly not following precautions.

Dear Editor, this used to be the time of the year when there was happiness all around — in the form of bonuses, holidays and festivals. Bonuses and holidays are now words that few recognise, and a festive occasion is like a horror film. The festival of lights pops up next month and I shudder to think what’s going to happen when a million people step out of their homes to burst crackers.

There’s more. We have Chhat Puja, when women from parts of eastern India stop eating, stand submerged in water and pray for their husbands; and Karva Chauth, when women from most parts of India stop eating, stand looking at the moon and pray for their husbands. After the November festivities, we have Christmas. And then there is Sankranti, and Lohri — and, you get my point...

Is there a way out? Let it not be through the door marked Exit, dear Editor.


Decidedly non-festive reader

Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader

Published on October 15, 2020

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