BENGALURU: Once — just once — when I was about six, I had resorted to some daredevilry that now appears foolish in retrospect. I had climbed the railing of our second-floor balcony and swung on it alternatively on the outside and inside. I continued doing that until my rump was stung by a sharp impact just when I had hauled myself inwards.The pain, the sound of a tightly rolled-up newspaper (not TNIE) impacting my hinds with a sharp “phut”, the pinkish-purple mark that remained on my rump for days, and the hollering from my father’s booming voice worked up such a fear in me about going close to balcony railings that the incident returns to my mind often when I step into balconies even today, 47 years later.
I am able to look back because I am alive to do so. Had a hand slipped during the act, it was a drop of some 25 feet to a hard, concrete surface, and I shudder to imagine what my condition would have been had I even survived a fall. It wouldn’t have mattered had I not.Lines between bravado and foolishness are very faint, sometimes even allowing the two to merge, as in my balcony railing experience. That I survived was because of the fear instilled in me which inhibited me from trying an encore of that daredevil act.
For a good reason, I am tempted to compare my balcony railing experience — and its impact on my mind and rump — with the current situation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially post easing of lockdown restrictions.I see masked people sitting together on park benches and taking selfies (bye-bye to social distancing!); I see crowds of commuters rushing into a BMTC bus at a stop, many with their masks hanging under their chins; I see people standing with arms on each other’s shoulders at street corners with their masks sticking out of their trouser pockets; I see people resorting to the traditionally preserved Indian habit of spitting or urinating by the roadsides; I see people coughing or sneezing without covering their mouths. And when I notice all this, I am reminded of my own bravado all those years ago — one slip of the hand, and that is that!
There are two kinds of fears. One that is sufficiently instilled to take care of oneself to keep out of harm’s way — viral infections included. The other is of an extreme nature which easily allows a disturbing form — called panic — to set in. While the latter needs to be kept away by all means, I feel we have allowed it to set in already, a hefty section of the society has no fear of the former kind, probably out of ignorance. And that is disturbing too.
As we are dealing with a virus that is known to be resilient and highly infectious, that too without a formalised drug for cure nor a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the least we need to have is a certain level of fear (but not panic) so that we take care to avoid the virus, at least to the best of our abilities.So, keep that mask on, keep the distance, and keep sanitising your hands. Remember, just one slip of the hand is enough to let the virus in. Why take that chance with bravado? Stay safe!