‘We thank Thee for the trees
And the deep blue sea
Oh Lord, we thank Thee’
-From the song ‘We Thank Thee’ by Jim Reeves
These are ‘Covidian’ times. A virus has been on its destructive worst through sickness and death of humongous proportions since late December 2019. It has ushered in along with it a new phenomenon- ‘new normal’. A menu of Measures intended to keep the marauding virus at arm’s length from what remains of humanity that has managed to survive thus far. Man is supposed to keep away from fellow-man by a good meter. Earlier, governments had them behind bolted doors for a while. Celebrations and social functions are discouraged, or allowed with skeletal attendance. Malls, movie halls, places of worship and educational institutions are shut. Only pharmacies and hospitals keep their shutters raised. Unnecessary foraying outside homes is discouraged. Eating out seem historic. Familiar faces are unrecognizable behind masks and face shields. Hands reek of sanitizers. Healthcare workers in PPEs resemble Men and women on the Moon. Man seems to be paying the price for being a social animal!
Even as a healthcare provider it is difficult to hold back my mind from galloping away into the barren fields of feeling low and uncertain. Even insecure. That ‘all’s not well’ often creeps up – admittedly, an exercise in vain.
During free time while working in the cold environs of the ICU, my thoughts gather to places I’ve often frequented in younger days. The ‘new normal’ does not apply to thoughts. at least, not yet! Are ‘new normal’ protocols applicable to those places too? How about the narrow by lanes of Fort Cochin that used to lead up to the Church from where my Siblings, mother and I alighted from the bus on Sundays? Fort Cochin is an idyllic place that still dons telltale insignia of Europeans who occupied it by turn on the excuse of trade. Its streets bear witness to the infiltrative ways of colonial powers of yesteryears. Its streets have been rendered narrow by houses that lack walls spilling onto them. Their doorframes seem to be fixed to the streets, resembling No.10, Downing Street in which the English Premier resides. Modernity and indigenization, however, have added to the crowded nature of those streets along with defiant roots of senescent and canopy trees lining them. Craftsmen, most of them from Kashmir have put up shops to sell merchandise from the distant state. These tiny shops are favorite of Hippy Tourists. I wonder if social distancing has had the shops drop shutter. Most probably yes. Blessed with a luxuriant coastline, Fort Cochin teems with seafood, which dominates the menu served in numerous tiny eating places that dot the streets alongside Kashmiri traders. These too would be doing poor business like those numerous homestays which tourists preferring cheap lodging used to use in the days of ‘old normalcy’.
Man, supposedly ‘the most superior among the created’, and ‘the most evolved’ in the animal kingdom surely has had to cut sorry figure before the virus. Has nature and the so-called ‘leaser among the created’ been called upon to adopt to the new normal?
What about the waves of the Arabian Sea that still roll on to the sandy beech of Fort Cochin? I’m sure the briny short-lived foam the receding waves leave behind on the beech still gleam against the overhead sun. what about the seagulls that used to descend on Chinese nets lining the beech as the nets come up with their catch of seafood? I guess the seagulls still have their share of fresh, free seafood straight out of the nets.
Why should they fall in line with the new normal that must be adhered to religiously by fishermen who toil day and night at the nets and sell their fresh, much sought-after catch on the beach? The occasional dolphin must still be summersaulting showing-off it’s skills under the sun, which must be still setting in the distant West where the backwaters join the sea in embrace, forming the spectacle that only Fort Cochin can claim as her own! While man seem to be ruffled by the viral invasion and the ‘new normal’, I’m sure God’s ‘lesser creations’ must still be following the ‘old normal’.