BENGALURU: For someone who has been a reluctant social media user for several years now, I really enjoy getting forwards from friends on WhatsApp and the occasional Twitter meme I come across. There’s scarcely a family member or even a colleague sitting close by who has not caught me breaking into a smile as a cartoon gets downloaded or — if I am really unlucky that day — watched me chuckle loudly on watching a funny video. Not of late though. I don’t find anything funny about Covid-19. It wasn’t so a few days back. I even plead guilty of forwarding some of those word-play memes.
Not anymore. Maybe the realisation of the situation has dawned on me slowly. Maybe I was living a lie. Maybe I was too hopeful. Maybe... The rising numbers (or is it the lockdown?) probably gave a jolt a few days back, as if shaking me out of slumber. Something in my head has started screaming that it’s a dangerous disease. And nobody should be making light of life-threatening conditions. It’s one thing to keep one’s sense of humour intact in perilous situations. It’s quite another to laugh at a calamity the world is struggling to comprehend, let along tackle.
So not for me, the graphics with innuendos targeting the Chinese. The breakup videos showing a partner coughing. The jokes about the police caning those caught roaming on the streets. And certainly not the cartoons that make it seem that quarantine is only about men doing domestic chores. One of them shows a wife asking her husband to clean some utensils while he washes his hands. Really? Is it still funny that a man could be washing vessels at home? Another one shows a distraught man carrying a duster, imploring his wife that this is not what ‘work from home’ means.
Come on, isn’t this exactly the daily routine of every woman who is expected to work from home after marriage or childbirth? Many of these messages even try to make light of concepts like quarantine and social distancing, like the one that shows a couple, with the man sidling up to the woman, but not before covering her in cling film! Some of the forwards I have received try to be more philosophical, talking about how we should take the experience as a lesson, and continue to implement these learnings once the quarantine is over. But such profoundness can also lead to absurdity.
I came across a verse on social media that was almost an ode to the virus, thanking it for making us realise a whole bunch of things that are wrong with humans now. Maybe it’s the newness of the issue that we are staring at which is making us react like this. Nobody, after all, would be thanking cancer for making us value life. Well, as someone who has lost several family members to malignancy, I certainly hope so. And just as we won’t crack jokes about Alzheimer’s or tuberculosis, there’s no reason why Covid-19 should be any different. Maybe, before you react to the latest meme with the laughing- with-the-titled-head emoji, you should think of those who have lost a loved one due to the pandemic. Yes, break the chain. Of insensitive viral content at least.