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Saturday, December 04, 2021

This festive season, there are tentative steps towards physical contact. But fear of the virus lingers

The brave venture into a side hug, so as not to tempt fate. It is a balancing act between the need for community, of the drive that human beings possess as social animals and the biological reality of the virus and the fear of mortality.

By: Editorial |
Updated: November 4, 2021 9:31:33 am
100 crore vaccinations later, the jhappi is making a tentative return.

Remember, the festive seasons before the pandemic? You’d get dressed up, visit friends and family, and a warm hug would begin the party. Politicians would embrace new members — often defectors from some other formation — by clasping them in public. And many a world leader has been in a tight embrace with a counterpart, their physical closeness a sign of warm bilateral ties. Of course, not every hug was a jaadu ki jhappi — there’s always the uncle, the over-familiar patriarch, who hangs on a little too long.

Then, for the better part of two years, the world lived in fear, festivities were confined to video calls. There was no closeness and in some ways, the gaping chasm left by the lack of physical human interaction was felt all the more with digital spaces making everyone a click away — so close, yet so far. The young, when they did leave home, were racked with guilt and fear about bringing the virus home, and infecting their vulnerable and venerable elders. The old were sick of being controlled, isolated first by age and then by the concerns for their health.

100 crore vaccinations later, the jhappi is making a tentative return. People are still unsure, of course. It begins with a bumping of elbows — a muted Eid Mubarak, Happy Diwali or Merry Christmas is then uttered. The brave venture into a side hug, so as not to tempt fate. It is a balancing act between the need for community, of the drive that human beings possess as social animals and the biological reality of the virus and the fear of mortality. It’s the world leaders, finally meeting each other again, who seem to be completely unafraid. Masked, double-vaccinated, some even gloved, the hug has ceased to be a risk for them.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on November 4, 2021 under the title ‘The hug returns’.

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