Time for a better world

So, my 86-year-old father, who is spending his quarantine alone in his apartment in Bengaluru—being socially distant from my tainted London/Mumbai/Delhi returned brood—just posted a picture of himself jauntily modelling an extremely trendy-looking mask improvised from a premium brand of underwear, on our family WhatsApp group.

“Only superheroes wear their undies on the outside,” said the caption below the picture. Apparently, you push your head through one leg hole, position the crotch over your nose and mouth, then pull the rest of the undie behind your neck, give it a twist, then yank the other leg hole like a bandanna over your head.

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘getting your knickers in a twist’.

These are truly dystopian times. Our planet is being stalked by a virus that attacks poor folk and prime ministers with equal and dreadful democracy. Locked down in their homes, people are oscillating between euphoria (so much free time! I made banana bread!) and despair (financial losses, fear for their loved ones) and working up a high degree of cabin fever.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

As usual, the poorest and the minorities have it the worst. Home quarantine makes no sense if you have no home, and the concept of a united “Us” against the “VirUs” is rendered moot if people ostracise essential service providers, right-wing trolls make “corona jihad” trend at #1 on Twitter, and students from the northeast get spat upon and told to go back to China.

On the positive side, those of us privileged enough to have home, health and hand sanitiser, are relearning the concepts of perspective and gratitude. Every Facebook post is either an epiphany, an existential crisis or an ode to household help, and nature is so flattered by the sudden surge of appreciation her sunsets and flowers are getting that she is thinking of installing a Like button.

Facebook has become one massive coaching centre, offering free tutorials in Kathak, karate, Zumba, knitting, baking, video editing, Indian classical music, guitar, painting, stand-up comedy, nail art, advanced calculus and nuclear bomb-making. Matlab, the possibilities are truly infinite. I, for one, am determined to emerge from this quarantine with three new skills mastered: hula hooping; conversing in French with street dogs; flying in my pink-checked nightie on moonless nights using only my black umbrella.

“From scratch” has become a thing. Malaika Arora is making besan ka ladoo from scratch. Sonam Kapoor is making stir-fried tofu from scratch. Maria Goretti is making sourdough starter from scratch. People are making frothy coffee, momos and Maruti cars from scratch. And, of course, I am sure a whole lot of folks are making babies from scratch.

This new generation will be called the Coronnials. They shall be born without fingerprints because their parents washed their hands so often, hand sanitiser shall flow in their veins instead of blood, they shall come onto their balconies like a billion Juliets at 5pm sharp every day to light candles and bang on utensils for their grey-bearded Romeo, and on low-pollution days, they shall possess the ability to see Mount Everest from India Gate.

Speaking unironically now, I have to admit that I am positive about the post-corona world. Surely, we will gain more from this than just a rash of topical movies and web series titled Virus, Quarantine and Corona Heist.

Surely, this incarceration has made us better, more sympathetic, more sensible people, who are capable of rising above our petty differences to preserve our beautiful and much-abused planet.

Nature has cleaned our slate for us.

Let us emerge from our homes holding sparkly chalks dipped in hope and love and creativity, and write something worthwhile with it.