During childhood, we used to play a game. We would draw squares on the floor and number them. One has to hop through the squares with single-leg following the sequence of numbers. If the other leg touches the ground, that was considered foul. The longer one can religiously stay inside the border of the square while hopping the safer it is. If the leg touches the border, that’s foul too. The score would increase each round, basically, we add up the numbers in the squares, and at the end of all the rounds whoever has the highest score wins. The game was fun and everyone wanted to outperform others.
I got reminded of this game when I was standing in one such square marked on the floor at the medical store. Similar markings in squares and rounds were made at many places all through India so that people can maintain ‘social distance’. This word became a buzz word in no time after the pandemic hit. People were too worried about maintaining distance. I witnessed an argument between two gentlemen over maintaining distance at the grocery store. One of them just requested the other to maintain distance and this lead to a heated argument. Some were following the rules religiously and some were ignoring them.
Maintaining social distance is nothing new to us, Indians. For many generations, there was a disparity between people belonging to different religions and castes. The upper caste would have the final say in everything and the lower castes were looked down upon. There were people belonging to some castes who were considered untouchable. Women during menstruation are untouchable. Eventually, we modernized and developed distances based on social class. When we are so well versed with all these, why was it difficult to maintain such a distance when the government requested it?
Because physical distancing is not the same as social distancing. When following physical distancing measures, we are supposed to stay 6 feet away from people who do not live in the same household as we live in, which includes our friends and colleagues. We have no clue who are carrying the virus. Asymptomatic cases made this worse. The virus sees no difference in gender, religion, caste, ethnicity, or age. No matter we are rich or poor, famous or not, celebrity or a common man, we are alike before the virus. Only as long as we maintain the distance and wear a mask, we would be able to protect ourselves.
Some news that I read in the papers really made me realize there is so much as a community we have to change. There were instances where front line workers were not allowed to their respective houses. The same happened with Air India pilots. These are the people who are putting their lives to risk so that our community stays safe. We shouldn’t distance them, that’s immoral. There were some encouraging examples too where, in some societies, doctors were welcomed with flower showers. Tributes were paid to all the front line workers and sanitary employees. Without them, we can’t even imagine what would be our situation. I myself made a new friend – my neighbor. Her work timings and mine are different, we hardly ever saw each other’s faces before this work from home came into existence. But, this pandemic, at least made us say hello to each other at times and I cherish that.
There may not be group hugs, graduation walks, chit-chatting in the corridors, lunch with colleagues, or attending huge conferences in person any time sooner. Maintaining physical distance during these tough times is very important… Let’s not make this time burdensome for ourselves. Let’s wave hands, smile at each other even if we cannot hug or shake hands. Continue to have virtual meetings with family, friends, and colleagues. No matter how far we are physically, we have the same bond as before, maybe even stronger bonds have emerged. We have crossed many hurdles in life, this too shall pass.