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‘Feardom’ — The situation where you use plain common sense while making any decisions or before taking any actions in a strenuous situation

Don’t confuse ‘FEARDOM’ with a state of no ‘FEAR’ at all because it’s still lurking around us waiting to strike. ‘FEARDOM’ is about accepting that you are afraid and then using the presence of mind overcoming it. Fear makes us irrational; fear causes panic and panic is the least we need during these troubled times. I am going to modify the following saying by former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw for the purpose of this article: “If a man says he is not FEARFUL, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.” The actual saying goes like this: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.” We all may not be Gurkha’s, but we all are still human beings capable of staying sane even during the worst of the times; only if we choose to do so.

‘Achoo’, I sneezed, and everybody at the neighbouring grocery and the chemist shop looked at me as if they had thermal scanners in their eyes trying to measure my body temperature. Few even moved away covering their already covered noses. I was wearing a mask, but also that wasn’t enough.

‘Sorry,’ I said, smiling awkwardly as I looked around. However, none could see my awkward smile as it was hidden under the mask that covered my mouth and nose. The staring continued for a few more seconds.

‘Sneeze again, and maybe a few standing ahead of you might leave,’ I thought with a smirk waiting in the queue at the HDFC ATM in Sector 7 market in Faridabad in the scorching heat. I was sweating like a pig,

‘Simon says; do it again, and then you can enter the ATM and stand in the AC away from this smouldering heat, SNEEZE,’ Simon screamed in my brain. Simon here refers to Simon Gruber, Hans Gruber’s brother from the Die Hard movies. I love action movies, and Die Hard is one of my all-time favourites. Every time I have the urge to do something naughty, I refer to it as a ‘Simon Says’ situation.

‘Are you alright son?’ someone asked, and I woke up from my ‘Simon’ situation and turned around looking for the source of the voice. Three people were standing behind me, and they had moved farther away from me after the sneeze-gate. I turned back towards the ATM as I looked around proudly was wearing a mask.

‘Wow, the sneeze-gate did work,’ I thought proudly.

‘Maybe Simon’s right, I should sneeze again,’ I thought.

‘Do you have a fever, son?’ the voice from god asked again and this time I looked up towards the sky in search of the source of the voice before looking anywhere else, as if I was looking for god. I smiled and turned around again, and this time an old gentleman had put his neck out of the queue so that I could see him. His face was covered with a mask as well.

‘If you have a fever then go back home and quarantine yourself,’ he said this time stepping out of the queue towards me probably because I didn’t respond the first time so he may have thought that stepping closer to me might get a response.

‘Pollens,’ I said, waving my hand in the air as if there was a tree over my head. But, the old guy kept staring at me.

‘ALLERGY,’ I screamed is when he stepped back in the queue. A few from the neighbouring shop were still staring, but I was in my Simon mode, so I didn’t care much. The guy up front, it seems was trembling. He wanted to turn around but couldn’t muster the courage to do that, so he kept looking upfront towards the ATM.

‘WOW, this shit really works,’ I thought. ‘Maybe I should go to the neighbouring houses and threaten to sneeze if they didn’t cough up the money,’ I thought, smiling inside my mask.

‘Simon, you stinking little skunk,’ I mumbled.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that was ‘Simon’ of my brain for you and, apparently, he’s been more active than usual during the lockdown. As you can imagine from my dialogue with self, aka Simon, the lockdown stress was indeed affecting me.

So, yes, that was the enjoyable experience I had when I stepped out of my house to get some cash and essential stuff. Such is the fear and hysteria due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation that people have become finicky about even the smallest of the things. The other day I stepped out of my house to get a clear signal during a video call, and other guy said, ‘Jasveer don’t step out of the house, there is Corona outside,’ and I looked at his face in my phone. ‘How naïve is he?’ I thought. But, I don’t blame him or the old guy who had asked me if I had a fever when I sneezed; I blame the fear and mass hysteria that has been there of late.

We seriously need to re-evaluate the way we rely on social media and media in general for news and other information. It’s as if we have stopped using our brains, and we rely more on other people to make decisions for us. It has become so easy for us to simply comply with whatever we receive on social media or whatever we see on the TV these days. So, if someone on Facebook or Whatsapp or someone on a News Channel says that we have to stay away from those who sneeze around us than we actually start doing it every time someone sneezes. It’s like moving to a beat, and every time there is a beat you move your body but how long can you run away.

What I endured (not really endured anything I actually enjoyed it, this is just for effects) outside the ATM was the sum total of everything wrong social media and media, in general, has created. Trust me when I say this, and you must believe me J, had COVID hit us twenty years ago, this would’ve never happened. I don’t know about other countries, but if I imagine the same situation twenty years ago, aka in the early ’90s, in India, then people would’ve responded, ‘bless you,’ rather than asking if I had a fever. Call it a hunch, but if COVID pandemic had actually happened twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have been this scared, and things would’ve been much better.

Twenty years ago, social media did not exist, and people had better things to do than just stay hooked on to their accounts ogling at their timelines. Back then, people preferred talking, but now people prefer sharing online. Back then people preferred supporting each other, and now all we do is try to compete with others to look better on social media and share more appealing things on our accounts, and we don’t care about the impact of what we just posted. We simply post for more views and more likes. We love spreading hatred because that gives us more traction online.

And, not that we didn’t have Pandemics or crisis earlier, of course, we did (in the pre-social media era). Take a look at this situation: One of my colleagues moved to his village before the lockdown and even though there wasn’t a single case of Covid-19 in his village or for that matter in the villages around his village, whenever anyone would sneeze in his village he would shit his pants and call me asking what he should do? Should he isolate himself and his family? This continued for a month before I gave him a shut-up call. Now imagine the same situation twenty years ago. I bet, twenty years ago he would have moved to his village post lockdown and would get busy with his everyday work so much that he wouldn’t have cared if anyone sneezed around him or not. Twenty years ago we all would have been so busy with our daily activities, even at home, that we wouldn’t have had time to be afraid or spread rumours.

Today, everywhere I see, I only see mass hysteria and fear, which is ruling us now and those who are not afraid are running amuck without giving rats behind about anyone else’s safety. Forget about the impact of lockdown on the economy; I am more worried about the implications of lockdown on us, our brains. The lockdown was supposed to have controlled the spread of Covid-19, but instead, it has given birth to another kind of virus, the worse kind; Fear.

People are now afraid to step out; people are afraid of those who sneeze around them (not realising that there can be a thousand other reasons for sneezing than just Covid-19), people are so scared of other people, some blooming idiots are even scared of dogs and all this has been bestowed on us by Social Media and the idiots screaming on the TV news channels.

A few days into the lockdown and a friend had asked me to provide some volunteers for blood donation at the Rotary Club in Delhi for Thalassemia patients. It seems that due to the lockdown, they had an acute shortage of blood, and they were urgently looking for volunteers to donate blood. I volunteered along with my wife’s cousin brother, and we donated blood but whoever I spoke to in my circle was worried about only one thing, that they might contract COVID — 19 if they ventured out of the house. No matter how much I tried to convince them, they simply refused to donate blood. Do you see what I am talking about? They acted indifferent because they were worried about their safety. Fear clouded their judgement, and hence they decided against helping others. I admit that some of these were genuine buffoons who did not want to share their blood with anyone else. Still, the majority were stopped by their family members due to their safety concerns highlighted every day on different kinds of media.

The other day my friend shared his predicament about sanitising the sanitiser bottle and the soap dispenser after he sanitised his hands; if you know what I mean? (Too much sanitisation in just one sentence J). Truly, common sense is not common these days, and we decided to give up common sense the day we all got hooked onto the social media believing all the fake news that’s doing round. It seems that everyone’s a doctor on social media and everyone’s got a cure for lockdown stress and to counter such idiots who share and forward everything they receive, we need to live the old fashioned way.

This is just the beginning because sooner or later public stigmatisation of anyone sick will start. However, some cases show that it has already been happening; at a smaller level. In many cases, healthcare workers and doctors were stopped from entering their own houses by neighbours because the residents feared that they would spread Covid-19 in their neighbourhood. The same neighbours never thought that what if they were sick then these very doctors and healthcare workers would save their lives. Has the unnecessary fear, created by social media and media, made us so complacent and indifferent that zombification of our brains has already started? The Walking Dead in the making???

“Your mission: Be so busy loving your life that you have no time for hate, regret or fear.”

Karen Salmansohn

There is an urgent need to de-clutter our mind and stay away from negativity if we are to get out of the Covid-19 crisis with flying colours. I too was under a lot of stress during the initial few days of the lockdown, and I decided to do a few things. Try these it might work for you as well:

  1. Do something constructive every day: An ideal brain is a devil’s workshop. I started devoting more time towards something constructive. Writing worked for me, and my wife spends time painting, see what gets you going?

  2. Avoid watching news channels where anchors and guests shout a lot: I found this to be quite soothing. I now only watch channels that promote only the news.

  3. Make informed choices and make informed decisions with information from the right sources and not from random posts on Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media platforms and, likewise stop sharing intimidating posts on your social media accounts without verifying facts.

  4. Customise the news feed on your social media accounts to stem out fake news. Stop following people who spread hatred and fear.

  5. Stay calm: Before panicking unnecessarily because of news, verify it from various sources, including government platforms.

  6. Help someone: helping goes a long way in creating inner peace. I feed some strays and donate whenever and whatever I can. Try that

Above all, before stigmatising anyone on the streets because they sneezed, follow these precautions yourself:

  1. Work from home is the keyword (if you have this option, use it)

  2. Step out of your house only if it is needed

  3. Avoid public transport (if you have this option)

  4. Keep your nose and mouth covered

  5. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes without sanitising your hands

  6. Sanitise your hands and living space as much as possible during the day

  7. Sanitise the stuff you buy from the market

  8. Be patient with people while you are in public space

  9. Eat healthy to keep your immunity high

  10. Consult a doctor if you feel unwell

If you are doing all this, then don’t worry about anyone sneezing around you. We all may not be directly fighting the virus as is being done by the brave healthcare professionals, police & others who are the first line of defence. Still, we surely can contribute indirectly by ensuring ‘Feardom’ and avoiding any kind of panic in self and everyone around us.

In an unfortunate event when you do contract ‘he who shall not be named’; stay calm and away from others. Isolate yourself immediately wherever you are and take appropriate medical help. Above all, don’t die of fear. Remember that panic doesn’t cure it; it only makes it worse. Feardom is the key. Get yourself tested, and listen & strictly follow the good doctor.

One of my colleagues tested positive a few days ago at his home in New Delhi. His daughter had initially contracted the virus at her workplace & by the time they realised it, unknowingly through her it spread to the rest of the family members within a few days. They had lost the sense of smell & taste. Food seemed tasteless. They should have panicked, but they didn’t. It’s been more than nine days, and the entire family is doing fine now. Their symptoms have started to wither down, they all feel healthy & the food is tasty again. All they did, once they all tested positive, was that they stayed together, supported each other, remained positive, stayed away from others & the rest was taken care of by the medicines. Now I know that the lonely birds are going to cry, ‘who’s gonna support us we live alone?’ Here come your smartphones and computers into play. Use them to connect for a change rather than just posting awkwardly strange videos & photos. Connecting & supporting each other doesn’t require us to be present physically; it can be done virtually. If they can beat the virus, so can anyone. I am not a preacher preaching sound wisdom through FEARDOM. FEARDOM is only about common sense.

We all need to learn to live with Covid-19 until there is a cure or a vaccine. We have to change our lifestyle willingly. Let’s get used to the new lifestyle with FEARDOM & consideration for everyone around us.

The next time you are afraid, confused or stressed just: stop for a moment, relax, think and then act to achieve ‘FEARDOM’…

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