The mask(ing) challenge

The mask(ing) challenge

Rama Kashyap

When asked how prepared she is to cope with the second wave of the coronavirus, a Punjaban answers gleefully that she is all geared up with matching masks ready to go with every suit.’ Well! It is one of those WhatsApp jokes taking a dig at women. Of course, an exaggeration but not completely divorced from reality.

Available in myriad colours, designs and shapes, masks have emerged as a new fashion accessory. Every garment brand has come out with its own mask line being displayed in every store. Mask is a protective shield against the virus, but for many, the emphasis is elsewhere. It is a fact that most masks that we wear are not three-ply as per the specifications.

While experts may recommend double masks in crowded places where social distancing is a challenge, many go mask-less giving a free run to the virus. The second wave is lashing the country, but many don’t care about the Covid protocol, throwing caution and masks to the wind. To beat this deadly wave, we ought to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. We have to wear a mask in public, or I may say, bear with the mask, howsoever uncomfortable it may be. Universal masking in public is a necessity, but despite the danda and fines, there are dare-devils in public places shorn of their masks, risking their own life and that of others.

The reality is that hardly anyone wears the mask properly to cover the mouth and nose. For the majority, mask is down, resting comfortably on their chin or hanging from the neck. There are some who prefer to dangle their mask on one ear; others keep rotating their mask with their finger. Hats off to the ingenuity of our people to have discovered innovative uses of masks! I saw a person using his mask as a handkerchief to wipe his sweat. The most outstanding was the use of mask by a rickshaw puller to cover his eyes as he slept with his mouth wide open in a crowded market place.

The other day, when I entered a grocery shop, the owner, as usual, had his mask slid on his chin. I signalled him to pull it back on his mouth. He obliged. His helper was sans his mask. I asked him, ‘Where is your mask?’ ‘I have one,’ he grinned as he took out a dirty crumpled mask to cover his mouth. At least he complied with my request, but there are many who refuse to listen. ‘There is no corona, shorona,’ is how our door-to-door garbage collector dismissed my plea when I confronted him for not wearing a mask.

I could hardly argue with him. ‘Where is the pandemic,’ I mused. If the images of thousands attending election rallies and lakhs taking a dip in the Ganga at Kumbh without social distancing and masks are anything to go by, the country cannot be in the grip of a serious health crisis. At least, this is the signal people got.

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