• Monday, Oct 25, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:35 pm

The new normal

  • Published at 10:06 pm May 17th, 2020
rmg workers walking mask
REUTERS

Things will never be the same again

Following months of clampdown, the world is slowly beginning to open up, resigned to the fact that we just may have to live with corona for quite some time. How long that is, no one can specify, but several experts have already made a grim prognosis stating that this may become a part of life.

Corona will be here but life has to go on. Therefore, countries are taking cautious steps towards lifting the restrictions, though the new normal may not be normal at all, and our lives will possibly change radically in the days to come. 

Say goodbye to hugs and handshakes

The most common of human rituals, the handshake, is already outlawed. I can see that when a person comes towards me, there is a slight, almost imperceptible change in the expression as to how the greeting should be carried out without a handshake.

But when I simply smile and refrain from extending the hand, the look on the face of the other person turns from embarrassment to relief. It’s certainly tough to renounce a habit which has been here for centuries. 

Elbow touching has not caught on in Dhaka as yet, and I may not be wrong in stating that this may not become popular because the whole ritual is a bit odd. 

One way may raise the hand in half salutation. 

Anyway, hugs are gone too, which means that people will smile from a distance. In normal day to day situations, this is possible, though how people will stay apart during weddings is something we need to see. 

Since there is a chance that the virus may stay with us for a while, life has to go on without these rituals.

To look at the darker side of corona, if there is an accident on the road, the number of helping hands may fall. I am not saying that others won’t rush to save the unfortunate person(s) caught in a road mishap, but the enthusiasm of the past to come to the aid of someone in trouble will dissipate.

Even if there is a vaccine, the terror injected into human society will take time to dissipate completely. 

Masks are us

Talk about business for mask makers! I think companies which make better quality masks may soon become the market rulers. You never know; in time, the top fashion houses may begin to market masks as their most sought after accessory. One can visualize fancy masks with designer logos.  

If you want to flaunt your riches, then have the masks studded with small precious stones. The face-covering was already a common sight before corona with many using it to ward off dust. Now, this is mandatory. 

I am guessing that in a short time, transparent masks may also come to the market to protect the user and to also ensure that the masked person cannot conceal their identity to commit crimes. 

A bit like the prohibition on tinted windows used in cars. 

Football in empty stadiums

Sport is coming back, with Germany allowing Bundesliga matches in empty stadiums. For some time, football will be drawing room entertainment, watched on large screens, and the galleries will remain empty.

There go the earnings from ticket sales. Although, watching games on TV may require an added payment sometime in the future. 

Gradually, other sports may be allowed, though cleaning sport items with disinfectant may become mandatory. 

As for body contact sports like wrestling, the future looks rather grim. 

Home is the sanctuary

In this period of lockdown, we all got a chance to develop a special bond with our homes. People have used the home space to do wonders: Exercise, dance, make movies, hold/attend online classes, and even attend virtual weddings. 

The other day, a virtual wedding was shown on TV where guests took part via video link, looking debonair and sipping bubbly. A thought occurred: In this new system, the bride and groom can order food and have them sent to the guests, and the guests can send gifts using courier service. 

Of course, the gift boxes have to be sanitized and the food must be prepared in safe conditions. 

In between the money spent for decoration, large halls can be saved. Community centres may turn into online call centres or emergency hospitals.

There won’t be any group picnics anytime soon, and spending idle afternoons at large plush shopping malls will be a thing of the past. 

John Donne may have written that “No Man is an island,” but in current times, it’s advisable to be as isolated as possible. Like many crises which came and went, this will also go away, but the fear instilled will remain. The insouciant days of the past may not come back in years. 

But we have to adapt and carry on, with Shakespeare providing hope in a time of global despair: “Come what come may, time and hour runs through the roughest day!”

Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.

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