One of the ways of keeping yourself content, the ancient Stoic philosophers used to say, is to find happiness not in what ‘could be’ but in what ‘is’. For example, rather than pegging your happiness on attaining things that are not within your control, like a promotion at work or things that you hope for but are likely not to happen, like Kings XI Punjab winning the IPL, one should strive to be thankful for much smaller delights – not having a toothache, or having a place to go to work to. It’s not that these things are trivial; you realise how important they are when you lose your job or have a painful cavity. Just that when we are healthy and gainfully employed we consider these to be part of our ‘ground state’, and do not consider them blessings to be thankful for and happy over.
Covid has made me realise one of those other things that I never felt I should be thankful for, was a privilege. Crowds. Yes crowds. As Diwali and Durga Pujo come close, and the coronavirus epidemic shows no sign of abating, it is plainly evident that things will be different this year, or rather should, if we don’t intend for the body count to keep rising. How can the holiday season be the holiday season without people, not just people we know, friends and family, but also strangers, the happy din and noise, the smiling faces? It just won’t be. You can play cricket in front of empty stadiums and televise it, it’s not the same but at least it’s a compromise we can live with, but Durga Pujo without the pandal visit and Diwali without socialising? No, you can’t do that.
Which is why, now that they are no longer there, I want crowds back in my life, within my personal space, the sweat of other people’s armpits soaking through their shirts to stick to my back, the uncle who stomps on my toe with his hard shoe, the disembodied hand that I suspect is trying to reach for my wallet or my phone. And once the pandemic resolves itself, which I hope it will, I promise to be thankful every time I get coughed in my face when packed into a small place, even though that breath might smell of cigarette or food rotting in the crevices of the teeth, because at least it won’t be the arrow of death from the quiver of Yamraj. Thanks to Covid, my expectations of the world have been recalibrated. I think I will be a happier person from now on.
DISCLAIMER : This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.