The last movie I saw in a theatre was the Oscar-nominated Little Women in February. Despite the convenience of online streaming networks, a film in a hall is a delight to which we return time and again. People of a certain vintage who think of movies as a memorable outing are driven by the ritual of popcorn and trailers, and the unbeatable 35mm screen. There was so much excitement for the presciently titled Bond film No Time To Die, but the world has changed overnight. Considering this scenario, one has to wonder if anybody will care about Bond by the time it hits cinemas in November. Quarantined at home, there is time to reflect on joyful moments from not so long ago, when a shared armrest didn’t cause one to retreat in wild panic.
The cinema hall is just one example of the old way of life bound to suffer profound and incalculable collateral damage because of the coronavirus. Absolutely nobody, not even for Daniel Craig, wants to be in an enclosed theatre among crowds for the foreseeable future. People are spooked. It is a peculiar conundrum indeed that everything we engaged in for entertainment and culture — restaurants, bars, museums, malls and plays — are potential spaces of contamination. What kind of a life can it be if fear lurks at the back of your head while hailing an Uber, or working out at the gym, that a random encounter may put us or our family members on life support? One may take solace in the fact that extreme paranoia never lasts. Eventually, people will get fed up and regress to old habits.
Human beings are wired to relish new experiences. It’s what drives us to bungee jump, try different cuisines, send probes to the moon and participate in all that hectic flying around to new destinations. Maybe, we undervalue ordinary moments and overvalue superlatives.
Perhaps the good that will emerge from this pandemic is that it will force us into new ways of seeing; that trivial day-to-day activities, making tea and coffee and one’s own bed, carry their own little comforts. History, however, suggests that the world descends back into how it was, no matter what the setback, world war or atomic bombs. Pestilence has come and gone over centuries — the plague, small pox and typhoid — all killers, but mankind thrived while destroying the planet with impunity, creating great art, technology and music along the way. Point to note, through the relentless hardships of the last few weeks, fake happy news of dolphins and whales in Venice and Mumbai resurfacing, have been widely shared. We may be thinking a little more about what’s important but our social behaviour remains the same.
Many of us have come to terms with the lockdown and settled down into some sort of routine. I am on my 15th day home as I write this, learning many lessons in patience, which has never been my strong suit. Daily reminders that Anne Frank stayed hidden in an attic for two years without Netflix, helps. Considering people willingly sign up for vipassana, surely a couple of weeks of social deprivation should be handleable. Thank the lord for cheap Internet connections, even a global pandemic hasn’t entirely broken up the party. In the evenings, I connect with friends on something called Houseparty, a virtual party App that pre-corona, was used only by teenagers. Currently, it’s overrun by middle-aged folk with a lot of time on their hands and nothing to do. (In trivia, post-Corona, houseparty’s market capitalisation briefly exceeded Uber’s). It’s not much of a party though because it’s impossible to steer a conversation away from the all consuming Covid-19. Nobody can shed the niggling worry that the lockdown is only a small disruption compared to the chaos that lies ahead.
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