Love in the Time of Corona

love in the time of corona

“And exhale…rub your palms, don’t wipe your face”, said my yoga teacher upon ending the class.

There are hushed whispers in the class among the ladies, about the person who’s just been quarantined in Thane. “He had come back from Dubai and showed no Corona symptoms.”, a lady said. “It’s way more serious than the government is letting on”, another said, wide-eyed. “Hospitals are sending people back saying it’s common flu. So many cases are going undetected.” A woman in bridge pose quipped, “Atleast China has robots to handle the sick. We don’t even have that.”

My memories went back to the SARS outbreak of 2003. Panic had ensued in the media and in my school, where teachers (they only meant well) would say things like, “Don’t come in contact with anyone from China! Wear masks to school! Boys and girls don’t sit close to each other!” In anguish I cried to my Dad one night, begging him not to go to work. I still remember his response, “There are many ways to die in this world. SARS is just one of them.”

When the news of Covid-19 first came out in January, the rumours flew fast and wild. “These Chinese are testing dangerous weapons on bats.” “The kind of food they eat, this was bound to happen. They sell land, water and air animals together in their supermarkets.” Shit hit the roof when an image from a 1981 Dean Koontz novel page did the rounds on Whatsapp. “They call the stuff Wuhan-400 because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center.”, it read. Did Koontz have any idea that four decades later, his prophecy would prove fact is stranger than fiction?

I watched in awe as pictures of newlyweds kissing in masks emerged from China. I watched as toilet paper became a precious resource and gold rates soared high. I watched fashion week get cancelled, even as Naomi Campbell posted her space-suit like ‘Beat Corona’ airport look. The super-rich were retiring to their secluded private yachts, newspapers reported. N95 masks and sanitizers were increasingly being added to shopping carts as the stock markets veered dangerously low.

My own personal low came when my mom forbade me from attending my best friend’s wedding. Scheduled in the midst of a city-wide public gathering ban, my mother threw a fit at the idea of me taking a flight to Delhi. “Are you mad? What if someone sneezes on the catering! All the airport escalators and seats are infected!” This was after me not telling her that most of the relatives were coming from Kerala. My temperature rose just by the thought of my friend never speaking to me her entire life. I was ready to brave the virus, not the wrath of my friend.

Depressed, I tried to make the most of staying upbeat inside the walls of my home, competing for WiFi data usage. My grandma, who otherwise tends to be forgetful, asked me in Bengali whether “the difficulties” happening in the news would mean the postponement of my aunt’s annual trip from the States. My grandfather, up until now had been gleefully enjoying his daily paper and taking great pride in staying abreast of current affairs. One morning at breakfast he blankly stated, “the worrying thing is that the first death in India is that of a 70-plus man. Us old people seem to be at far greater risk.” Knowing better than to indulge their anxiety I repeated the golden mantra, “Keep washing your hands and don’t touch your face. If someone wants to greet you, just say Namaste”. I wondered if the ruling party would take credit for the Namaste brainwave. In any case, the reliable WhatsApp university was doing the rounds claiming the Upanishads advocate maintaining a three feet distance in society; that handshakes and hugging were an evil from the West.

Which brings me to Tom Hanks, for no good reason. Actually, he is the narrator of the Audible book I’m listening to this month, The Dutch House. Midway between him serenading me with his antics of being Danny- his character in the book; he got diagnosed with, you guessed it, Corona.  The girls in my book club (yes, I have one) wailed. “How will I finish the book now?”, they said, as if he was whispering it live into their ears.

Humour was one way to stay survive the gloom. “Did you order Chilli Chicken?” my friend joked when I told him I had a slight dry cough. “Or receive a shipment from Alibaba?” The Punjabi pop music scene exploded expectedly, with songs like “Yaar Tera Kudiye Corona Varga”. Because what good is your lover if the death toll doesn’t rise by his sheer machismo?  Mrs. Dow Jones, who explains finance terms in her Insta account, is going meme-crazy with posts on her “her ex” Warren Buffet would buy the market dip. Others like Rujuta Diwekar, the celebrity nutritionist, found it an apt time for some business-related gags., “For those who plan on starting exercise from tomorrow, gyms kal se band hai.” 

My yoga teacher, mid-camel pose, suddenly breaks the air of dread, “I’m so worried schools will shut down.” Everyone looked at her, quizzically. “How will I handle the kids at home all day?”

A Guide to Modern Day Yoga Poses (Asanas)

“Yoga se hi hoga”, was the resounding agreement by practitioners and students alike, on the recent International Yoga Day that went by. Social media was flooded with testimonies of miracle cases, crediting the ancient discipline to have sorted everything out from their kundalini to their cash flow.  

Just like everything else, millennials haven’t taken long to modify this centuries-old tradition to their justifiably jet-set lifestyles. Be it Hatha or Ashtanga, this generation has put their own fresh spin on postures. In case you’ve not come across these before, follow the guide below to perfect your pose. Here are 5 asanas for health, wealth, luck and the subtle art of not giving a fudge:

  1. Selfie- Asana

The most common of them all, and the most effective. Raise your hand at an optimum level to take the selfie, making sure to raise the chin to not show a balding forehead. Tilt face to flattering angle and proceed to click. It may take sometime until you are happy with the outcome, so don’t bother about your surroundings. Breathe. If you get knocked over, you will fall into the lap of Mother Nature (cliff/ ocean/ passers-by/ dog poop).

Selfie-Asana

2. Crouching-Laptop-Hidden-Tummy Asana

You would require a bed for this asana. The less firm the mattress the better, and preferably no backrest. Take laptop and position it somewhere on the upper abdomen such that the neck is at a right angle with the rest of the body. Keep face as close to the screen as possible, and make sure the radiation heat from the laptop is felt. Feel your brain numb into nothingness, till you reach a point of nirvana.

Crouching-Tummy-Hidden-Laptop Asana

3. Brood-Asana

Best suited to Instagram and perfected by Kylie Jenner, this asana may require an idyllic setting as a backdrop. Kneel on the floor and jut out your posterior as you would in a squat. Rest your elbows on the knees and tilt head. Place fingers near lips, as if brooding over world issues. Adjust exhalation depending on how sombre you want to be perceived as.

Brood-Asana

4. Slouch- Asana

The best part about this asana is that it can be practised any time; while waiting in ATM queues, at movie ticket counters or grocery billing lines.  Droop shoulders to the original level of your armpits. Protude your tummy to align with your toes. Your spine should resemble a paper clip. Make sure to breathe heavily and audibly, allowing your tummy to visibly contract and expand with each breath.

Slouch- Asana

5. Pout-Asana

While there are many versions of this asana, it is practise that makes perfect. Make sure to prep lips in advance, with lip gloss, fillers or a bee sting. Stick out your hip as if about to pick something up from the floor. Keep upper spine erect. Now pucker up the lips, close one eye and make a peace sign with your free hand. Repeat until perfected.

Pout-Asana

And there you have it folks! It takes a lot to make it to dos on time, return phone calls and wrestle with FOMO, all the while stressing about one’s abysmal savings after splurging on a new handbag. But with a few minutes of daily practice, you too can partake of the benefits of these asanas, all the living the millennial high life. Happy Yoga!

Father’s Day Special: A Tribute to Dad Jokes

Tribute to dad jokes

Remember the 90s when sleepovers were a ‘thingy’?  (90s lingo, but then who even says lingo anymore). I was 12, my friends were coming over for the night and I had played out my own version of a Princess Diaries movie in my head. There was going to be the same Linkin Park CD on loop, while we discussed some random guy in school and wrote with glitter pens in a slam book. It sounded perfect.

Everything was going as per plan, we were giggling on some sugar-mixed-with-pre-pubescent-hormones rush and discussing how Ron needs to be with Hermione; when my Dad entered the room. Not bothering to check whether anyone’s in, he turned the lights off. Coz I obviously must have left them on. This particular habit drives me insane to this date.

“Papa, could you put the lights on?”, I said, slightly annoyed. “Oh! You’re in the room? I didn’t see you!” came my Dad’s deep voice. Lights still off. “Could you put the lights on please?”, I repeated, turning red. I could see my friends looking at me questioningly, blinking in the darkness.

“I can put them on, but they won’t fit me!” came the reply, followed by the booming laugh I knew so well.

I was mortified. The last thing I needed right then was Dad jokes to ruin an evening where my reputation was at stake. At an age where one’s self-esteem is at its most fragile, I didn’t need questionable humour to make me possibly more uncool to my friends.

Growing up, I was subjected to many such gems. “Your face looks like a Martian landscape!” I was told, about my acne volcanoes and craters. “Are you working hard or hardly working?” when I wanted some time alone for studying. “You have your breakfast when everyone else eats dinner!”. And the cringiest of them all “I’m not Reddy (ready), I’m Roy!”. *Shoot. Me. Already* My reaction differed each time, on the scale of one to Wonka, according to the situation, the number of people around and the life stage I was at.

By my 20s, I would say I had become inured. I was off to college and from a distance most of these comedic stunts seemed harmless, some maybe even endearing. It was also the realised I was not the only child who had the honour. Obama’s self-admission as a Dad jokes expert, made them something of a genre of its own. If Sasha had to face this in public, who am I to complain right?

Over time, the obsession with corny Dad things seems to have gotten way out of hand. Dad sneakers, Dad hats, Dad bods and the casual use of the term Daddy issues have become phenomena of their own. What is it about this berated section of comedy that keeps making its way into mainstream pop culture? I think the answer lies in the reactions they garner. Just like kitsch art, they’re so bad they’re good! A Dad joke isn’t good if not groan-worthy. I mean, what do you call a fish with no eyes? Fsh. Seriously? I mean the toddler who may have found that funny has grown up, Dad.  

So that’s it folks, a Dad joke doesn’t care if it’s politically correct. Or inclusive. Or non-sexist. Or even whether it’s actually funny or not. But all’s good in bad humour. Maybe this Father’s Day, let’s go shopping for jokes.