Low touch life: From the Macron-Merkel namaste to homely Ganeshotsav celebrations

It’s a paradox but it’s true. Humans are creatures of habits that develop over years, decades and generations; humans are also capable of adapting to seismic changes swiftly. Take the handshake, whose imprints date back to ancient vases, gravestones, Homer, and which through the past century has become the essential seal of business, politics, general goodwill between friends and strangers alike. And yet when the onset of the pandemic demanded it, this global behaviour got a global burial in a historical nanosecond. In a bonny illustration, when the French President and the German Chancellor met last week they greeted each other with an un-handsy namaste.

Indians of course have grown up with this greeting so ditching all handshakes for it is not a big deal. But other necessary changes are more bothersome. Like keeping a mask for hours on end when one is outside the home, or at office maintaining a physical distance from colleagues with whom one has worked shoulder to shoulder for years, or indeed curbing the usual touchy-feely revelry at gatherings ranging from weddings to religious festivals.

But everyone must switch to this low-touch social economy because that is the only way to get the virus under control, turbocharge jobs for the adults and schools for the children. It is in this light that widespread effort towards Covid-sensitive Ganeshotsav celebrations needs commending. For example, what is being attempted in Maharashtra today could show the way for Durga Puja in Bengal tomorrow. Physical distancing at the pandals, live-streaming of the prayers, good mask hygiene and more homely celebrations are some notable goals. And everyone should heed the BMC appeal of following all the guidelines of safety while welcoming Bappa into our homes and hearts this year.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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