How do you face the reality of a Pandemic? Naturally with a mask on! It helps to keep your emotions from getting betrayed. And with the Sun at its fiery best, you could add dark glasses to make yourself even more inscrutable.
Reams have been written about masks, their types, their adequacy and their efficacy at keeping the virus out of your system. A significant amount of research has been done. Does a surgical mask prevent a surgical strike by the virus? Does a cloth mask keep you well draped? Does a respirator allow you to breathe? Will a dupatta or pallu of a saree prevent SARI? All these FAQs are being published with interesting replies.
WHO says the world needs to face the pandemic bravely. The mask definitely helps hide the fear, if nothing else. It also keeps your expression of a smirk, disgust, revulsion, sarcasm or a sardonic smile to yourself even as you maintain your recommended social distance. The poker face and the stony countenance have lost their ground to the mask. The wrinkling of the nose, the pursing of the lips, the widemouthed grin, the drooping of the angles of the mouth, the angry pout, the bristling of the moustaches are all history. The mask has conquered all and more.
Lipsticks and cosmetics manufacturers have also gone into total recession. Suddenly, cosmetologists and dermatologists are staring at total loss of employment. No more dermabrasion and Botox injections. The only guys laughing all the way to the bank are manufacturers of masks.
Who would’ve thought banks will insist that you can only enter the premises with a mask on? And the guard at the entrance frisks you no more. All he does is shoot you in the forehead with a thermal sensor and waves you in after spraying your hands with a sanitizer. You could carry a gun in your waistband and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Only, the teller has no money to hand over and nonchalantly directs you to the ATM to try your luck there. She then resumes her behind-the-mask discussion on the subject of a package of Twenty Lakh Crores with her mate sitting six feet away, or compliments her for wearing a colour-coordinated designer mask. The mate informs how her husband bought her a designer Louis Vuitton mask to go with her Louis Vuitton handbag for her birthday. Old expressions like ‘facing the music’, ‘to make a long face’, ‘a barefaced lie’, ‘be taken at face value’, ‘a face-off ’, ‘in your face’, ‘come face to face’ and many others have gone obsolete. In their place, men (and women) have taken to ‘slipping on a mask’, ‘change into a new mask’, ‘keeping a mask on’ and ‘the masked expression’.
Where our social systems deplored ‘wearing a mask in public’ for centuries, the new normal is to never be seen without one. The Police, the guards and even total strangers confront one with the question, ‘Where is your mask?’
The brunt of this assault is unfortunately being borne by the ears. As if the weight of eye glasses, ear phones and blue-tooth devices was not enough, we have added the strings and loops of the mask to it. They are the only parts of the face that are being handled since the mouth, the nose and the eyes have been declared out of bounds. Adding to their woes are opinions of experts by the earful.
Everybody who is anybody or even a nobody, assaults you with their knowledge of Coronavirus, the pandemic, steps for its prevention and various surefire cures of the dreaded disease. If we have finished with these topics, we are lectured on its social implications, its effect on national and global economy, what governments need to do or not do, and the way out of this global crisis.
One is reminded of a famous quote of Marty Rubin- “Behind every mask, there is a face and behind that face, a story.” To add to that, if we maintain our social distances, we may actually get to see the face hidden behind the mask someday, and may even get to hear the story!