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  Opinion   Columnists  07 Jun 2020  Nilofar Suhrawardy | Covid paranoia, and some cogitations

Nilofar Suhrawardy | Covid paranoia, and some cogitations

The writer is a journalist who specialises in communications studies and nuclear diplomacy. She is also the author of several books.
Published : Jun 7, 2020, 5:52 pm IST
Updated : Jun 7, 2020, 5:52 pm IST

Frankly, seeing everyone in almost same type and colour of masks is just making this lockdown phase more uninteresting

Volunteers wearing protective suits conduct thermal tests at Dharavi, during the fifth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai. PTI Photo
 Volunteers wearing protective suits conduct thermal tests at Dharavi, during the fifth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai. PTI Photo

A lot of importance has been given to sneezes and coughs while elaborating on need of masks during the present corona phase but hardly anything has been said about yawns. Why not, considering that they are infectious, spread virtually across the whole face, exceeding limits of masks and air is certainly exhaled while yawning too, though with lesser force and noise as is during sneezes and coughs.

Perhaps, more research is needed on different designs and styles of masks. Frankly, seeing everyone in almost same type and colour of masks is just making this lockdown phase more uninteresting.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider the formation of a “corona-ministry” to look into corona complaints, grievances and suggestions. Perhaps he is, but nobody seems willing to head it.

Considering a few die-hard couples have not let their wedding be delayed forever or till end of the corona-phase, more importance needs to be given to making masks more glamorous and fashionable.
Seriously, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, if those engaged in business of producing and marketing lipsticks and all that has to do with parts of face covered by masks moved a little further in their venture. The two need to be combined, make-up, which would be visible through, that is, from behind the mask. Well, if this idea has not yet been probed into, this scribe can claim copyright to it, whenever it is worked upon.


Consider, some business bigwigs have not spared the tobacco industry. Now, this doesn’t mean development of cigarettes, cigar or even bidis, which can be smoked with masks on. Not to let their business be defeated by the corona-threat, some sections of the tobacco industry have gone ahead.

They are, as reports indicate, doing research on nicotine-patches, which may keep coronavirus away. And their research is based on surveys indicating that fewer number of smokers have tested Covid positive than non-smokers. London-based British American Tobacco (BAT) is ready to test its potential Covid-19 vaccine, using protein from tobacco leaves, on humans in around a month’s time. It is waiting for approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). BAT-vaccine or bat-vaccine, nothing may be spared to fight Covid-19.


If preceding idea (tobacco vaccine) clicks, India may feel a little safe about increasing spread of Covid-19. Bidis are more popular among migrant workers and rural India among men as well as a significant percentage of the fairer sex. Seriously speaking, where smoking is concerned, women from villages and the working class are far ahead of urban women.

This opinion is strictly based on observation and rudimentary analysis. And this demands analysis of another aspect linked to Covid-19. No, this has nothing to do with suggesting vaccines, based on bidi material to counter corona-threat. It has to do with another corona-impact, which is online shopping under coercion of lockdown.


A rudimentary survey of a few online shopping sites hardly displayed bidis. One has nothing against online shopping but it can be availed of by only educated, possessing debit/credit cards. Besides, poorer sections base their shopping on their daily earnings and needs.

Till date, most classes, including middle and urban, prefer shopping for fresh vegetables and fruits rather than stocking them for the week or month. Whether it is shopping for bidis or anything else, the average Indian shopper, used to haggling for prices with daily vendors, doesn’t feel too comfortable paying the price demanded by online shopping coupled with the additional delivery fee.
But corona-panic and lack of essential goods in local markets has forced the middle and upper classes to turn to online shopping for these.


Paradoxically, not much importance has been given to how those would manage in lockdown, without the ability of turning to online shopping.

Similarly, there seems to be virtually a dead silence regarding games brought to a dead halt by coronavirus. There is hardly any physical contact between players in games like tennis and badminton. Nevertheless, the same ball and/or shuttlecock can be touched by different players. This risk can be avoided with a person rushing in with a different, disinfected ball/shuttlecock, before they are picked again by any player. Clearly, certain corona-linked rules need to be devised before game/sports are revived.


In cricket, the safest player is wicket keeper with gloves and helmet. But what will happen to their old practice of huddling together, before game begins, with the players’ arms around each other? Will that be banned? The instinctive tendency of the bowling side of rushing to hug whoever takes a wicket/catch may then also be banned. Or if such physical contacts are practised, the side may be fined through the awarding of extra runs, free balls, etc. to the rival team. This doesn’t seem fair.

The risk of greater physical contact prevails in games like basketball, hockey and football. Boxing and wrestling are impossible without contact. If the option of designing a corona-dress for players is being considered, those fiddling with this idea need to be very cautious. If they play even with just masks on, breathing is going to be tough for players. Cases of lungs being burst of those jogging with masks cannot be ignored.


This places the billion dollar question, if the corona-threat is going to stay, does this mean that the prospect of sports/games being revived are as good as dead? Perhaps, some research is needed on another aspect and this is sweat. Think seriously, there has been confirmed report of one migrant worker’s death from Covid-19 on his way back home. More have died from hunger and dehydration. It is possible, those sweating out in their professions — sports or any other — lower the risk of being affected by coronavirus. Their immunity is probably higher than those not engaged in physically taxing jobs.

Of course, there are also games like chess, involving no physical contact between players. But the popularity of this game on the small screen is fairly limited, compared to that of cricket and tennis. Given the taxing nature of numerous corona-grievances for one and all, “masked” moves to distract people’s attention to issues such as communalism, terrorism, Pakistan, China, etc haven’t succeeded much. Devoid of any lakshmanrekha, Covid threat is not just Covid threat, politically speaking!


Tags: covid-19 india