Spectator by Seema Goswami: The new normal

Taking baby steps back into a post-Covid world
For a coffee meet with girlfriends, refrain from kissing and hugging, and take off the masks only to sip the cappuccinos!(Illustration: Aparna Ram)
For a coffee meet with girlfriends, refrain from kissing and hugging, and take off the masks only to sip the cappuccinos!(Illustration: Aparna Ram)
Published on Oct 04, 2020 07:10 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySeema Goswami

I may have mentioned this to you before, but I have been taking baby steps back into the world after months spent cowering from Covid in my home. It started off with a daily evening walk, though I gave up on the teeming mask-less masses of Lodhi Garden in favour of the quiet, tree-lined avenues of Sunder Nursery, where visitors are few and far between. I ventured out to see my doctor; I visited a dentist’s clinic, accompanying my husband.

I even went to a couple of malls to stock up on such ‘essentials’ as my eyeliner and lipstick, though I took care to go on weekday afternoons, when the footfall was negligible. And when the electric whisk of my choice was not available online, I headed out to what used to be my daily haunt, Khan Market, to zip in and out with my purchase.

But the biggest step I took back into the world of normalcy was when I made my first restaurant reservation. For our first outing, my husband and I chose an outlet that had high ceilings, with the tables placed far apart, and where the servers were wearing both face masks and face shields. But even so, it felt rather daring to sit down on our table and take off our masks – the first time we had ever done so in public – to have our first restaurant meal, in the company of other unmasked strangers (even though they were more than the regulation six feet apart from us).

Since that first excursion, we have ventured out to eat several times. And I must admit that with every outing, my nervousness has decreased exponentially. Now, I don’t hurriedly put on my mask when the wait staff comes by to serve us. My heart no longer skips a beat when a fellow guest saunters past our table without a mask (no, I tell myself, he can’t possible infect you in less than 30 seconds). And I don’t obsessively sanitise my hands every few minutes.

So, there’s progress, right there for you.

But that said, there are still many things that I simply don’t see myself doing for some time yet.

The very idea of negotiating an airport, and spending hours sitting cheek-by-jowl with strangers, strikes terror in the heart

The first on that list is taking a flight. The very idea of negotiating an airport, putting my bags through the X-ray machine, going through security, queuing up to board a flight, and then spending a couple of hours sitting cheek-by-jowl with strangers, strikes terror in my heart. A few of my friends have done this and lived to tell the tale. One of them even took an eight-hour flight to Italy wearing full PPE (including an adult diaper so that she didn’t need to use the airline loo!) and seems none the worse for wear. But rather than encourage me to take the plunge, their experiences have, if anything, strengthened my resolve to stay on the ground, and postpone air travel for as long as I possibly can.

Which is why, when we decided to take a mini-break, we chose a resort on the outskirts of Delhi. The drive was just about an hour-and-a-half, which obviated the need for any loo breaks. And even though there was a plastic partition between the driver and us, we kept our masks on for the duration of the drive. The staff at the resort was in masks and shields, which gave us a feeling of security. As did the fact that our room was liberally strewn with bottles of hand sanitiser, disinfectant sprays and boxes of surgical masks.

On our next break, we have decided to venture a little further afield. We are currently toying with the idea of Agra or Jaipur, both of which are a comfortable car journey away. And even though the weather makes the hills an obvious choice, I have vetoed them on the grounds that the longer drive would mean using public toilets – and that’s a scary proposition in the times of Corona.

So, what’s the next step on my way back to normalcy, you ask? Well, I have tentatively scheduled a coffee meet with my girlfriends. We will meet in the open, refrain from kissing and hugging one another, and take off our masks only when we sip our cappuccinos. I can’t wait.

The views expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, October 04, 2020

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Monday, November 29, 2021