Normalising the New Normal

Hatirjheel coming back to 'normal'
Hatirjheel coming back to 'normal'
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My phone lit up. A friend sent a meme where it shows hundreds of kitten coming out of kitten house in a rush. The text of the meme says that this is how Bengalis are going to go out once the lockdown is over. I laughed hard. And forgot.

Now that my home-office blessings are gone and I am attending office regularly, I understand the true meaning of that meme.

"Coronavirus is a myth. Everything is fine now. And, there is no death nowadays due to the virus. I don't think there ever was. People kill people out of their vengeance in the name of coronavirus," said Shahadat Hossain, a CNG-driven auto-rickshaw driver from the Badda area, wearing no mask. I gave him a mask. He could not refuse to wear the mask as I might choose not to travel by his vehicle, so he ‘enlightened’ me with this little ‘delightful’ knowledge.

Unlike John Lee Hooker's song "I want to hug you", we now would like to say "we want to maintain the distance", as the lockdown is over and we are trying to normalise the new normal. But the road reality does not let me miss the ‘old normal’. At least my observation from inside the cage of the CNG articulates that.

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Talking of old normal, nostalgia attacked me here. Everyday traffic, screams of the hydraulic horn, hot-headed drivers screaming at each other (imagine all that swearing meaning "I will show you"), traffic police receiving the ‘token of love’ from the bus drivers in the middle of the main road, meanwhile, amidst chaos motorbikes are making their own space like a selfish solo wanderer, and our boys are teasing girls on the footpaths. Ah! Those were the days! And, back again! When we proudly say old is gold, we mean it.

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Separation of lovers, separation of friends might have been difficult throughout the lockdown. Maintaining social distancing seems more difficult now. Meeting a friend and wearing mask are other difficulties. However, how would one survive only by meeting and not seeing the face of the beloved? How would we recite "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways," seeing the half mask-covered face of the beloved?

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In my mind, I thought, the romantic idea of holding hands, public display of affection, and falling in love at first sight have gone with the corona-wind (laugh out loud). One of the common scenarios of Hatirjheel is that young lovers are sitting in a romantic setting, amidst Krishnachura and Jarul on the banks of the lake while inhaling the stench of the lake water.

I understand that the lockdown separation might have tormented them. But, by now I have realised, we might have fear of God's punishment but the biggest sin is that we love the idea of being in love on earth.

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We have survived one Partition, one Language Movement, one Liberation War, many more protests, and revolutions. On top of that, we have survived lockdown and did not kill each other at home (many may have attempted, I do not know) yet. We are now struggling with the tragicomic story of human frailty. We will survive this too!

If Shakespeare were a Bengali and alive today he would write Hamlet now and Hamlet's ambivalence would be choosing between two sets of ambivalences "to go (out) or not to go" or "to wear a mask or not to wear a mask." We do not have a Shakespearian hero, more's the pity! We have Himu and his ambivalence is "to wear sandals or not to wear sandals (let alone face mask)".

The writer is Communication and Advocacy Manager, Obhibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), and, trying to cope up with the old normal as always!

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