COVID-19. I have received three questions today. Interestingly, all of them have an element of P in it.
First from a cab driver: Sir,should I panic? Darna haiN kiya? (He had seen me using a hand sanitizer)
Second from a public health friend. If this is not pandemic, what is? Country after country, seriously?
Third from my wife. What do we need to protect ourselves in our house and outside?
On the first, to the driver I replied. “I will ask you not to panic but be cautious. Darna mat lekin sabdhan rehna. There are very good guidelines in paper from Ministry. Please read them. And call 011-23978046 if you have any doubt. Ministry number. You may have to call many times. But you will get authentic advice.” He nodded. Thereafter, I asked him casually. “What do you do when you panic generally?” He smiled. And said “Nakhun khata hoon. I bite my nails.” We laughed. I showed him my nails. He understood the familiarity. And he laughed loudly. Then I told him. “Most important thing. No nail biting. No putting fingers in mouth. And in nose. And ears. Find something else to do when you panic.” He nodded. I said. “But this is very serious.” He asked, “When will I know I have Coronavirus?” I said “Only when you are tested. And you will go for a test only when you have high fever and cough.” Hesitantly then he asked “Can I ask you something, if you do not mind?” I said “If the question is about your sadi-shuda marital life, yes you can.” He folded his hands and said “Dhanyabad.”
To my public health friend, on his concern on pandemic issue, I said “Now that I know that you have read Park & Park and you know that I have read Park & Park to begin with, let us not debate on this issue. You will find a wiser person to advice. I am more interested in knowing when we will catch up over the long pending coffee and pakora treat from you?” He laughed and said “Now that ii is due for so long, let me upgrade the offer to a dinner. Come over the weekend.”
To my wife, to begin with there was no laughter. She had asked the question in all seriousness. And I had to be business like, prompt and clear in my answers. Those who know me will understand the difficulty. Those who know Mousumi will appreciate better. For her, I had the following advice.
- Take this seriously. Do not panic. Do not read WhatsApp. Do not advice others based on what you have heard from padoshan-Bhabhi. (To which she reminded me that this was a serious conversation and the moment she understands I am not serious, she will leave the room.)
- Wash your hands frequently. Frequently means before coming out of kitchen. Every half an hour. And rinse your hands please when you wash them.
- Carry a hand-sanitizer with you. Please use it. I have a few from Seattle. I had bought for my flight. Take one. (To this she replied “You use those. Tell me what I should get from here.” I said “Go to the medicine shop. Ask them for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.” She said, “You should have told this in the first place.”)
- Wipe the surfaces you are working on with a cleanser. Tissue paper.
- When you sneeze, sneeze in a handkerchief or your elbow. You generally do that always. (I think I scored a brownie with the last point.)
- Take your regular medicines religiously. No skipping medicines. A weak body is vulnerable.
- For few days avoid crowd. (To that she asked, “When have you seen me moving in a crowd?” To which I answered “Never. But just in case.” I lost any and all the brownie points I may have gained with this point.)
- And you do not do these things, but just in case if you were to advise others in the house like Raju, all the Didi s and Bhagwan Ji, please tell them to keep social space. No hugging. No handshaking. No … She stopped me. A little furiously. “When have you seen Raju, Bhagwan Ji and the Didi s handshaking and hugging? Can you not give a proper answer to a simple question?” I knew I had failed. Utterly. Miserably.
- (As she started walking out of the room) I said “Mousumi, please however tell everybody that if they have fever and cough and any respiratory distress, they should tell you immediately please.” To which she said “That I know from TV. I need not have asked you for that advice.”