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In Covid times, the masked man is becoming an oddity it seems, writes Aditya Mukherjee

02:30 AM Nov 30, 2021 | Aditya Mukherjee

Almost five months after being double-vaccinated, I still make sure that I mask up properly while stepping out of my home. However, these days, the world outside seems to challenge my self-belief and conviction. I stumble upon people of all age groups, moving around gaily, without masks -- from domestic helpers to car washers, from middle-aged citizens to housing society guards.

The mask, our most trusted companion since the pandemic broke out last year, has been contemptuously tossed away as people have got it into their heads that life can go on without this innocuous protective equipment, as daily cases are on the decline.

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Markedly masked

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It makes me ask myself if the pandemic is finally over. I find myself pathetically outnumbered by the mask-ditchers. There is little camaraderie to be drawn from the adventurous lot who go a step further, wearing the mask under their chins, like a fashion accessory or a ‘chin hammock’. I stick out like a sore thumb, an oddity among people driven by personal convenience and misguided notions of normalcy.

It is true that wearing a mask at times can be extremely cumbersome and tiring, but that should be no reason enough for us to take it off at will. That is simply non-negotiable. Doctors and scientists are still saying that the worst is not yet over and exhorting us to maintain all Covid protocols, including the wearing of masks. I recently saw a group of senior class students taking selfies outside their school; full marks for guessing they were minus masks, of course.

Netas couldn’t care less

The marriage season is finally upon us and it is raining wedding invitations. People are again crowding banquet halls and social distancing protocols are going for a toss. Most of us have stopped carrying hand sanitisers, a practice which we religiously followed till many months ago. As is their wont, politicians have ceased to remind us about the perils of taking things casually despite a drop in corona cases across states except Kerala.

But then, when have they been unduly bothered by issues such as public indiscipline and the lack of civic responsibility in the time of corona. Invested in their ecosystem, these days many prominent politicians are busy visiting other cities to test the political waters to cast their nets wider. They may be wearing masks, but no one is really concerned about the need for social distancing.

Collective responsibility

The question is, has it now become the sole responsibility of doctors and scientists to keep reminding us that we should not forget to continue observing protocol? Are we not mature enough to judge for ourselves what is in our best interest? How can we say with certainty that there will be no new variant which could strike with more ferocity despite the dose of double vaccination? Don’t we have any collective responsibility to maintain all Covid-appropriate norms for a few more months, so that we can tame this lethal virus? Novelist and satirist Jonathan Swift was not off-beam when he said, “How is it possible to expect mankind to take advice when they will not so much as take warning?”

In a recently published book titled ‘The Dark Hour, India Under Lockdowns’, journalist Soutik Biswas writes about Dr Ravi Dosi from Indore, who since last year, has seen 23,000 Covid-19 patients. Dr Dosi makes a startling observation: “I am absolutely amazed by the coronavirus. It has defeated everyone – doctors, epidemiologists, governments. It breaks down every barrier of immunity within days. We have been outwitted. We tamed swine flu. I don’t think we can tame Covid. This will only tame itself.’’ From this, we can easily conclude how the insidious nature of the virus continues to mystify scientists and doctors even now.

Horrors of second wave

I am sure we have not forgotten about the deadly second wave in April-May this year when behavioural fatigue led many Indians to congregate at crowded weddings and family functions without following social protocols.

Many European countries, including the Netherlands, the UK and Germany are still seeing huge spikes in corona cases and thousands of deaths daily. The same is the case with the US and Russia. In many European countries, people steeped in paranoia, have crossed all limits of decency by resorting to violence while demonstrating against lockdowns. They are treating the state as their enemies.

Next time, you come across a friend, a relative or a stranger without a mask, ask them to wear the same. Discretion lies in not following the herd mentality. Expecting social distancing in festive times may be a little quixotic, but we can at least wear the mask while going out. This is the least we can do; it doesn’t take much effort.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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