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Breathing easy

With Covid-19 not in any hurry to depart, it looks like the face mask is here to stay, and all hopes of breathing free and easy rapidly retreat.

Published: 23rd February 2021 04:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd February 2021 04:54 AM   |  A+A-

Illustration Tapas Ranjan

Express News Service

BENGALURU: With Covid-19 not in any hurry to depart, it looks like the face mask is here to stay, and all hopes of breathing free and easy rapidly retreat. The itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny extraneous sartorial element became part of the wardrobe over the past year, and even spawned a cottage industry of sorts. Of late, it has acquired the status of accessory. 

Itsy-bitsy the mask may be, but it makes for a troublesome purchase, with many deciding factors – size, shape, layers, breathability, durability, elasticity, look, comfort...I have spent a small fortune, buying and discarding ill-fitting and uncomfortable face masks. Right from the early days of the surgical mask to the scarce N95 – when we were glad to have something to cover the offending face and mouth with – to branded ones, we must have a pile of rejects – too thick, too tight, too loose, too homemade... 

Buying masks for a family of four with varying tastes and sensibilities is no joke, especially as the mask doesn’t come in sizes, and neither does the nose. After months of poring over e-commerce sites, I have come to the conclusion that it’s much easier to buy shoes and even innerwear, with a size chart as point 
of reference.

The man of the house, endowed with a size L hawkish beak (of which he is inordinately proud), finds most masks a jam. The younger man, size M, is worried about the spread of acne, while the women, size S, are worried about the spread of lipstick. 

Now, with the a mind-boggling variety of masks let loose in the market, the task gets tougher. The brandwalas have jumped in too, marketing their wares in suave catchwords, and rebranding the humble mask as a ‘face cover’. And with various Unlock phases came work wear, in corporate stripes and checks, party wear in silks and sequins, and wedding masks in bright jacquards. 

There have been been minor clashes too over this essential piece of cloth. Like when the young one points to my Sanganeri and Ikkat prints, and scoffs, “You have such elderly taste, so typical journalist type. They look like the wrong end of a pajama,” as she straps on her Victoria’s Secret (yes, mask). Well, to each her own. Or friends who prefer wearing the ‘naqab’ smugly say that the pandemic has not changed their lifestyle, when they see me come up gasping for air like a frightened fish. Once again, to each her own.

The experts weighed in with their expertise: Which is the best material? How many layers is too many; will they hinder the supply of O2? Are air vents kosher? Which are the best ear strings? Can we use earphones too... And as we process this pile of knowledge and hunt for that perfect mask, we may just get used to rationed air, and forget our right to a mouthful of sky.



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