(Following is a humorous op-ed piece by Indian American writer Hemlata Vasavada.)
People say, “Our lives will be discussed BC (before Corona) and AC (after Corona). To this I would like to add DC—during Corona Virus, with its moments of anxiety, wonder and life lessons.
The social distancing taught us that we are all Achhuts or Untouchables, and we are also Brahmins or the highest caste. When we walk six feet behind a person, we are Achhuts. When we are six feet ahead, we are Brahmins.
The younger generation can manage isolation as long as they have their buddy “Cell,” but it is not easy for us. Our children used to complain about Indian parents being strict, now these second generation immigrants are imposing curfews on us. My husband and I might have set a midnight curfew when our daughter was growing up, but she has a 24-hour curfew for us.
Our daughter and son-in-law offered to buy everything for us. They don’t realize my need to use manufacturer’s coupons before their expiration dates, my need to touch and squeeze fresh eggplant, smell cilantro, and look for sales. Finally, my husband and I figured out when our quarantine enforcers were going to be in a Zoom conference, and sneaked out to the store.
When I went to the paper aisle, for the first time in my 50-plus years in the United States, I stared at the empty shelves. Did COVID-19 cause upset stomach, or was it because toilet papers take the place of security blankets during a crisis? I guess we could go back to our Indian way of toilet hygiene.
I couldn’t get hand sanitizer or canned soups either. It was understandable that people would hoard these items, even alcohol, but when I read that gun sales are booming, I couldn’t see the logic in it. Did the gun and ammunition collectors plan on shooting the virus? President Trump had assured us there was nothing to fear, this virus was a “Democratic Hoax.” No wonder the gun lobby panicked that Democrats will confiscate their guns in the name of Corona.
When our Dear Leader noticed that this “Democratic Hoax” was getting bigger and better, he started his own Corona Show on television. We could have watched Governor Cuomo’s fact-filled news updates, but who needs facts in the time of Corona? The president’s show made us laugh, and laughter is the best medicine. President Trump is so proud of his newest form of campaign rally that he bragged that his show has better ratings than The Bachelor. We learned from the show that the president knows more than the doctors from CDC and NIH. He has a gut feeling (that explains the toilet paper shortage) that a malaria drug can cure COVID-19. He said diagnostic tests are available for everyone. In the absence of National Security Agency’s Office of Pandemic Response, we have to trust the president.
The next lesson I learned wasn’t funny. When healthcare providers needed ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Jared Kushner declared that the masks in Federal stockpile are theirs and not for the states. I wonder if he would be hoarding his (Fed’s) weapons if any state had been attacked by a foreign power or terrorist. To obtain PPE, the administration created a free enterprise system where the states had to bid against each other and outbid the Federal Government.
I learned that we are no longer in the United States of America, but in the divided states—red and blue, states with Republican governors and states with Democratic governors. President Trump wanted to send PPE to Florida but not to New York, California or Washington State. Although scientists and doctors said we needed to continue social distancing to contain the spread of Corona, President Trump tweeted that cities must be “Liberated.” Georgia eagerly opened “essential businesses” – hair salons, massage parlors, and tattooing places. When asked if it was safe to do so, Dr. Brix, from the President’s Corona Virus Task Force, replied, if they wore masks and maintained six feet of distance, it should be fine. I imagined a massage therapist with a long stick maneuvering it on the spine of her client, the kind of stick which held our sparklers during Diwali when we were children.
Among these negatives, I learned positive lessons from several Heroes. Many thanks to the selfless work of our health care providers, first responders, grocery clerks, pharmacists and their staff, postal service workers, food banks and their distributors, restaurants that deliver meals, teachers who reach out to students online, and volunteers who sew masks. I salute these heroes who are rising to the occasion during these difficult times and keeping the country going. But I must stop. It is time for my entertainment show—The President’s Corona Virus Briefing.
(A resident of Pullman, Washington, Indian American Hemlata Vasavada has had her articles, humor essays and book reviews published in various newspapers and magazines. From 12015 to 2017, she was one of the Town Criers (op-ed writers) for the local Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Her novel The Cascade Winners was released in 2014.)