Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, Shilpa Mahajan shares her fears, feelings & experiences from Amsterdam, sadness dipped in relatable humor.
Recently, I overheard a two-year old asking her mother how Coronavirus looks like. It is not difficult to imagine this ‘pain-in-the-neck’ virus as a villain hiding behind a corner waiting to pounce on you, when you reach there. I refer to these recent times as the ‘Era of Coronavirus’ – where handshakes have given rise to elbow and foot taps. And the ever increasing popularity of ‘Namaste’ from the land of yogis.
The Omnipresent Scare
Yesterday, I woke up with a mild pain in my throat. “Oh God! Hope it’s not ‘that’,” a sudden thought flashed my mind. At the same time, I recalled all those people I had met last week and the week before. Maybe the neighbor who just came back from a ski trip in France. Maybe someone in the restaurant where I went last weekend. Can’t rule out the supermarket crowd either.
Just to make things clear, I am not residing in China, Italy, South Korea or Iran. Nor in France, Spain or Germany. I am still in the protected little cocoon in Netherlands, where people are still optimistic, as there are not many cases around (yet). No matter how many countries are under lockdown or preventing Europeans from entering their land, the people here are still basking in the sun and oblivion. (Yes, we have some sun these days!)
How the Algorithms Psyche You Out
So, why am I freaking out? Because my virtual surroundings suggest otherwise. I open one article to read about the Coronavirus situation in the world. And then Google slaps five more articles on the same. One telling me the woes of patients, other the growth rate in various countries, another forecasting the extent of spread, which shows that I will also be soon under lockdown.
As a marketer, I know this is expected. If I am not reading in private mode, I am giving Google the right to assume that of all the things in the world, only Coronavirus impresses me. And it becomes a cycle, till I can only think about the virus and nothing else, and decide to vent my feelings through this article.
As if that wasn’t enough, I am shown a paid Google ad from a mask making company that their masks are the best. Not a surprise that they are so sure about me being their perfect target. After all, it’s Google. It knows you more than you know yourself.
But why blame Google alone! There is my favourite Whatsapp, where every other second, one of my family members or friends shares a meme or two about Coronavirus. Some advisories, some victim stories. Some from ayurveda and yoga leaders, who won’t lose this opportunity to contribute their two cents.
Some memes even portrayed Corona beer and I was compelled to sympathize with the brand. Unless I opened my Google again to read that there was a controversy like this, but actually the sales of Corona beer were not impacted.
Let the Hoarding Begin!
My better sense tells me that I should start hoarding stuff, especially the soaps and the likes, to avoid those toilet-paper fights as depicted in the videos on my Facebook feed.
The status from a friend mentions that these days there is more alcohol in her hands than her stomach. That was the last thing I expected from her, who would never leave a party without losing her sense due to over consumption of alcohol. I am wondering if the alcoholic beverage industry is also facing an alcohol shortage crisis.
I have always been a confused kind, but my skepticism has only increased these days. Should I meet that friend who just came back from my hometown and is inviting me over for a round of homemade sweets? Should I head for the meet-up that might boost my career? What do I hog on the weekends without ordering food from my favorite home chef, or without a trip to that fab restaurant? How do I celebrate my anniversary without a trip to the neighboring country? What about play-dates for my daughter with her friend who is coughing almost 200 days in a year (I never had an issue before).
Will the Coronavirus Change Us for Good?
Amidst these fears, the hubby is secretly grinning about the saved travel costs and the fact that I can’t disappear for a month to visit my folks in India.
Well, my satisfaction quotient has also risen a bit as he is spending more time indoors. No business travels, no parties, work from home once a while when the fear grapples him. And of course, now I don’t need to run after my daughter to wash her hands before eating. She already does it 20 times a day!
Well, I don’t mean to undermine the severity of the situation. I only wish that normalcy be resumed soon, so that at least we get this virus out of our minds, not to mention, from the system!
Shilpa Mahajan is a marketing professional with an MBA in Sales and Marketing from IIM Lucknow (Class of 2012). She has an expert in online marketing, having spent 5 years working with Reliance Jio and currently consulting startups. She also has a B.E. in Computer Science from Punjab Engineering College (PEC) (Class of 2006).
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa currently lives in Amsterdam with her husband and 5-year old daughter. She loves reading, travelling, dreaming and is a foodie. She can be reached via email.