In conversation with Ms Covid

Caution: This is a tongue-in-cheek piece of fiction and must be read with dollops of humor. No offences meant whatsoever.

My mother’s hard knock on Sunday morning woke me up from my deep sleep. ‘What is it?’ I asked, bleary eyed. ‘Someone to see you’, she said. Who? I wasn’t expecting anyone. Remember, we are in a lockdown. No one rings the doorbell anymore.

I went to the door and there she was. An ethereal figure in shades of white, green, purple. With poky arms and cone shaped fingers. ‘Sorry, do I know you?’

‘Hello. I am Ms. Covid. May I come in?’

I literally freeze. I didn’t want Ms. Covid (MC) here! Before I could think of an excuse to shut the door, she spoke again:

‘Do not worry. I have not come to befriend you. I have come to seek your guidance.’

‘What guidance would you possibly want from me?’, I questioned.

‘Well, I am worried about my reputation and the way it is getting sullied daily. Since you are a veteran in PR & Comms, I want your help in managing my reputation.’

‘You are all over, you are the most hated entity today and no one seems to know where you will be next…what is it exactly about your reputation that needs to be managed?’

‘Look, I want us to turn this round. Instead of focusing on my negatives on how I befriend people and kill them, can you not develop messages that focus on my attributes?

‘And those are?’, I ask now totally flummoxed.

‘To begin with, it is due to me that the term ‘social distancing’ has come into fore and become the new normal. I should get my due credit for it. Until I arrived, no one even knew what that meant. You can gauge the power and awe I command with globally every country now espousing ‘social distancing.’

MC continues, ‘Second, it is also because of me that people are rediscovering their lost hobbies and forgotten relationships.’

‘Hold on right there’, I say. ‘Social distancing by force has no meaning for the world and more so for India where many stay in cramped places. So, get over it. It is one thing to have all these online posts on rediscover your lost passion, learn a new skill, blah, blah…. It is quite another to actually have the time to do it! This is such an overrated and completely fallacious attribute! I am tired juggling household chores and work from home, my nails have chipped, my hands have become rough, I am now the cook-cum-maid-mother-mentor-professional…and what not…I do not have time to breathe. I don’t subscribe to this thought of yours at all. Sorry, this won’t work.’

‘As for renewing forgotten relationships,’ I go on, ‘I am more worried and concerned about the growing number of domestic violence cases because of you. People feel trapped in their own homes with no escape. This is a horrifying situation and nothing to gloat about.’

‘What about exercising? I saw the other day even you were scanning various You Tube videos of yoga, Zumba, walk at home…Come on, you can’t deny me this one. I am the one making people conscious of the need for good physical health – finally.’ MC was certainly in her element here.

‘You have destroyed our mental well-being! If there is no peace of mind, how can one even concentrate of exercises? Most of us are already in pieces and the hot lines of shrinks and counsellors are the busiest today. You are no good. I repeat. You. Are. No. Good.’

 MC is crestfallen. But not the one to give in, she makes another try. ‘What about bringing you closer to your family and loved ones? Earlier you used to crib you have little time to give to your family. Your daughter would always say you are not around. Look now. You are around. With them. For them. Isn’t that wonderful? And all because of me!’

I scream my loudest – ‘I have lost touch with my own self, my own soul. I have not time for myself. I need my space! If you do not leave now, I am going to scream even louder and bring 1.3 billion voices with me to throw you out of my country. You have no attributes to talk about. Shoo!’

And I wake up to my mother’s voice shooing the bad dream away…thank God, this was just a dream.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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