The climbing casualties of COVID-19 bring into sharp focus our innate fear of loneliness.
The lockdown is redefining love and lust. Passion is changing its optics. What shocks us, what excites us, what turns us on or off – all are undergoing a sea change. The language of love is looking for new alphabets. How we navigate our touchy feely terrain from here on is up to us.
Once upon a time potential partners were met at work or play. Boy does not meet girl anymore, not literally, not on the streets, not across a crowded room, not in a strange country. I want to hold your hand, that old Beatles song, now seems like a new-age Lochinvar’s war cry. It is a huge decision, whom to take off your gloves for?
Amour is in the process of getting over-simplified amidst the daily deaths. The general gray outlook has put some of us on hold, while fast-forwarding the rest. We must declare our love now or walk out when there’s still time. Endless waiting around to declare feelings is no longer recommended.
The climbing casualties of COVID-19 also bring into sharp focus our innate fear of loneliness. Marriage and family were invented to stave off personal isolation; there is only so much company a club or church can provide you with. And now with solo deaths the new normal, where you get to be the corpse and sole mourner at your own funeral, one does not want to live or die all by themselves.
Same-sex alliances and senior citizen romances should tumble out into the open like never before, because honesty in personal relationships will take precedence over needless hypocrisy. On the plus side, teenagers will be trained to not go ewww when one geriatric French kisses another. Ageism, casteism, racism and all other isms that are living on artificial life support can now go off the ventilator.
Despite the climbing stats on domestic and child abuse, one hopes the vulnerable will emerge more aware of their rights from this exile. In view of the worldwide circumstances it would be wise to go down on a knee or talk to a lawyer to expedite or extricate. Awareness of time running out has never been keener. Some relationships were just never meant to go the distance.
Historically speaking, many major events have defined human ties – moving from joint to nuclear family, women voting, women working, the birth control pill, rise of the single woman, etc. The pandemic is the latest in that list. Some of our previous prejudices will turn irrelevant, and we may lower our judgmental eyebrows once and for all. Gossip alone won’t sustain us, not when philosophical foraging leads us to questions of life and death.
The heart is not the same, emotions have turned upside down in these apocalypse times. With this new killer virus loose on the streets, we pare down our intimacy needs to bare minimum. Signing up to relearn lessons in interactions is the only way forward.
With masks firmly in place and social distancing rules being observed, eyes must continue to meet eyes. Trust love will find a way.Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.