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A hands-on approach to deal with the prevailing pandemic
by Vijai Pant

As the COVID-19 broke out and the world came to know how dangerously contagious the disease is, the handshakes got replaced with fist bumps which, in turn, quickly gave way to elbow bumps to be equally rapidly substituted with the ‘novel’ term, ‘social distancing’. It was then that the world acknowledged and made Namaste, the customary Hindu greeting with folded hands, their own. People realised it to be the best way to keep the coronavirus at a safe ‘distance’ (pun intended).  

While the standards of hand hygiene we Indians display have always been scoffed at by the West, and, probably, with good reason too, (after all we still eat with our hands) the ‘wash your hands’ phenomenon, which is becoming a rage now, have always had its fair share of followers in our nation ever since the pre-COVID times. As it is, we have, till date, never taken very kindly to toilet paper, unlike the West, probably the ‘temperate’ climate and the ‘intemperate’ use of water being the main factors behind it. We are made to believe that a vigorous rub of soap (that reddish piece of cake) is the shortest and easiest way to good health. Hope all of you remember the tag line, ‘Lifebuoy hai jahan, tandrusti hai vahan’.

Some of us while washing our hands are very particular about the way we do it. It isn’t for merely twenty seconds as the preventive guidelines to stay safe from coronavirus tell us, but repeated washing, more in the manner of Lady Macbeth’s guilty conscience in her famous soliloquy, “Out, damn’d spot! Out I say!” In the present scary situation, there are many who are prone to adopting this method wanting to win the fight against the invisible enemy- the virus. 

Then, there are those who wash, not just their hands, but also feet, the latter may be spared the use of soap. They put their feet forward, one at a time, under the streaming water from the tap, not wanting to waste it (this being our interpretation of ‘save water’) while working up a good lather and scrubbing clean their palms, the back of their hands, fingernails and wrists. The lingering soapy smell, having patted their hands dry on a towel, is their reward.

Finally, there are the extremely finicky ones, who would not just wash their hands clean umpteen times but also apply soap and water on the taps, as these become germ infected when opened. They take cleanliness and hygiene to the point of obsessive compulsive disorder, repeatedly washing their hands after touching objects which, presumably, are dirty. And when they think they have had enough, they don’t hesitate using their elbows to put the switches on and off. And, what do the experts tell us in the case of COVID-19? Not to sneeze in our hands, but to cover our mouths with our elbows, because we touch different surfaces with our hands, not our elbows. What say you now?