While I have not witnessed anything like this in my lifetime, as a social scientist and as an entrepreneur I can see that the phobia has gone to another level. And I believe this is because we live in an ‘Information Age’ where every piece of information is a hyperbole, with global implications.
We are overloaded with information, it’s driving us insane. It’s reducing our sense of wisdom, patience, kindness and empathy. It’s making us all information addicts. But that said, the physical reality of it is far scarier.
For instance, I stay in a huge, beautiful, green society in Gurgaon with my husband. But we cannot even go down for a walk! Why? Why can’t people go out to walk? Why can’t people talk to each other maintaining social distance? Why can’t we exercise in the park? I understand that there should not be any exchange of bodily fluids, etc., and there are and will always be people who are apprehensive. But there are also smart people who can understand how to follow the rules.
In our e-commerce set up in Gurgaon, and in shop and home deliveries in Lucknow, people are paranoid. For instance, when we send them milk, they immerse the packet in soap water for 30 minutes. They don’t want to come to collect the packs from the delivery boy. They want it to be left in a corner. There is excessive paranoia about anything and anyone touching anything.
Imagine when the lockdown is lifted, how many people will go out and eat in restaurants or in thelas?
Or, how many people will send their children to the garden/park to play with other children? If one child so much as even sneezes or coughs, I am sure the parents are going to scold the child, or maybe even other children will stigmatise that child. Now, ‘corona’ has become a joke. Anyone coughs, it is corona, anyone so much as even sniffles, it is corona.
One case of a pizza delivery boy being positive and 79 families in Malviya Nagar were quarantined, which we all accepted quietly. But by the same logic, one rail accident should stop us from travelling by train. One plane accident should stop us from flying. One rape should instill fear in women to not go out at night. But we can’t live with this excessive panic and paranoia, where instead of following and working on general principles of hygiene in public and private spaces, we are generating mass unemployment.
Policemen have become goondas in Lucknow, where they are just hitting anyone left, right and center. A bicycle got stolen two days ago from my house and when my father went to the police to file an FIR, they questioned him on how dare he get out and come to the police station! There is abuse of power, there is misuse of information, there is unbridled and unpredictable behavioural change that is happening in society.
We all can, and must only wait now, to see how these changes in front of our eyes. Will our children be able to go out and play? Will they develop herd immunity rolling in mud and sand? Will elders go out and talk? How long will the stigma last? How long will the paranoia last?
It feels as though it has not even begun. it will begin once lockdown eases, once people start getting out. How long can the government contain people inside homes without jobs, food, or access to basic healthcare? It all worries me a lot.