So living with veiled faces may have become the new normal. So much has been said, so many of us have learned to change our lives. But there are things that make us laugh and cry at the same time. Let me explain.
The other day my cousin came home with her two children. The youngest who is just over a year and a half is a handful. As we laughed and looked at the little guy’s gadgets, we noticed how he started having a fit the minute one of us grabbed our face masks.
The baby was trying to be heard – to be lifted in the arms, to sit in a pram and come out because, the baby learned that when someone takes a mask, he comes out. We laughed as we watched the scene unfold. We clapped, kissed the baby, and felt his kindness wash over us with joy, but the mask episode refused to leave me.
It continued to haunt my mind because living a life straight out of science fiction is no easy feat. When I look back I remember my son raising his hands in the air and fussing when he watched someone wear a shoe. This ironic change in behavior does not leave you in good taste. But the reality of the present times is our ability to find our way through this labyrinth of human behavior and security methods by questioning ourselves.
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I wonder how the baby will react when he discovers the old world. Will he be shocked that we shake hands or worse, will he even know that we shake hands as our palms grace each other? Will he believe that punches and nudges weren’t social conventions?
Will he express disgust that we breathed unfiltered air and openly sniffed carefree? Will he find it odd that our noses are hanging out in the open for everyone to see and face masks aren’t even a thing? Will he laugh about it saying that the old world is only in our imagination and that we are all inventing it? Or is it just by imagination that we lived a life where we could hug our friends without worrying about their travel history?
Stranger than fiction
This life we live is certainly stranger than fiction – wincing through coughs and sneezes but reveling in the ray of hope called a vaccine – a little prick in the arm gave us so much to wait that we all thought that we could break the chain. And that was just enough because we needed that little straw to hold onto even when the funeral pyres lit up the evening sky.
We endured waiting for our turn for the jab as it helped us through the dark phases of the long Covid. Even though the disease quietly seeped into relationships and strained bonds, we thought it would all calm down when the game was over.
But, when – we ask as we heal our tired feet, ready to leave this sci-fi life even as mind-numbing cynicism masks rationality – will we someday return to what it was. And, if we go back, will the baby be able to forget this world of veiled faces? I do not know.
As we run into a third year with a baggage of covid and a torch of hope in the form of a vaccine, I pray that there are no more clothes with matching masks. They say humans have lasted this long because we live each day with our ability to overcome all obstacles. Maybe we can do it. It may last, until it lasts, but we can’t stop celebrating a new year because we know there is hope. And the last ?
“He doesn’t recognize people when they’re without masks,” my cousin laughs over the phone. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. “This madness has to stop,” I shake my head because sci-fi is only fun because it’s not real and frankly we’re all just tired.
More importantly, we all want to show our smiles without having to hide those curves behind screens and this year could make it happen.
Sudha Subramanian is a Dubai-based author and writer. Twitter: @sudhasubraman