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Coping with an invisible enemy in a dystopian world

Updated September 6, 2020 20:04 IST
People wearing mask in France
People in masks walk on the Trocadero Place near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, in September (Xinhua/Gao Jing/IANS)

A few months back as the coronavirus lockdowns were gradually easing, at a red traffic light I peeped into the car on my right with expectations. Hoping to be delighted in finding a familiar face, as I was still in my neighborhood, I got a shock. It was not a familiar face that I saw but a person hiding behind a large plastic grey-black mask with a nozzle. A scene from a science fiction novel, maybe a dystopian Hollywood movie with raging fires, rising smoke and soot all over. There was no way I could have recognized the person in that hideous covering.

Our world has suddenly become a strange and unfamiliar place.

This is certainly not how humankind had visualized 2020 when it welcomed it amidst the burst of firecrackers and optimistic revelry. Not at all. Not in the least. And yet it is; each passing month unravels before us the brutality that we face on a daily basis. The ugliness of the virus from Wuhan becomes bigger and clearer.

The lockdowns have ended and people are beginning to appreciate the sense of freedom, of movement and activity. But things have declined perceptibly over the past few months. The number of people dying is increasing by the hour and the number of sick ferried to the hospitals is shooting up rapidly.

Masks from different cultures and countries (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

The situation that we are in—where a whopping nearly eight billion people have been put under the 6-inch face shroud against their wishes in one cruel stroke is criminal. Unfortunately, people are so busy praying for themselves and saving their loved ones from an invisible enemy that the culprit has found the time and created diversions to escape scrutiny. The criminal is busy committing another bigger crime to escape culpability—and its tactics are working.

Image the power of the invisible enemy. It has enveloped itself like a shroud on the earth, sending the billions in cold and hot deserts, riverine areas and deep forests, snow-clad places and mega-cities—all under the mask. Not just that, it has struck fear deep inside the hearts and sowed suspicion. The fear of the virus and suspicion of friends and family, lovers and beloveds, colleagues and classmates. Never has the world seen so many people living in fear for so long. And that too in fear of everyone.

Now everyone is an enemy, everyone a suspect—living beings and non-living things. You fear everyone and you are suspicious of everything. The misery is unending.

On the brighter side, even as the billions confront the ‘new normal’, the beauty of the human race is that it ferrets out the optimism from the recesses of the heart and tries searching for that ray of hope. Yes, things have improved since that day I spotted a man in a ghastly mask in May.

The masks are no longer as grotesque or insipid. As people step out, and as women begin to dress up—always more fashionable than most men—the 6-inch face device has improved in look and feel.

Three months later, in the bank one day I confronted a myriad variety of colored-cottons, soft-silks, delicate-blue surgical variety and the simpler off-white cloth masks. Thank god for small mercies. One couldn’t recognize the employees still, but the colors and variety has made the world a shade better to look at.

The face mask camouflages but it surely saves lives. It also serves as a reminder that a criminal has to be brought to justice.

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