The kind of inequality existing in our society post or mid-COVID-19 is visible for us who understand the meaning of inequality and invisible for them who created this inequality. Two types of the population are living currently in our country (We may also assume as in the world), one who is fighting against disease and basic needs, and second, who are confused in choosing among luxurious equipment (Mask, Sanitizers, etc.). The ones who are sitting in the AC decor home and posting pictures of work from home status and the other are standing or working on the streets with bare cloths to cover nose and mouth. Some people are looking for the best professional psychiatric for counseling on the other hand some are on the cue to get food packets.
I was at home during the lockdown period and back to Delhi as unlock began. I am staying here in a rented room and waiting for my institute to open up. I am witnessing a fast change in society in a very short time (Hardly six months). I get the update about COVID-19 from a news app on my mobile, social media, and e-newspaper that I read regularly. Like many others, I also left following mainstream TV news channels because for them COVID-19 cases are just numbers. But these are not just numbers or data, it is the outcome of our 70 years old health system, it is the outcome of the failure of the government’s strategies to handle the virus.
The disease brought by the rich or elites is taking the lives of the poor. They (Elites) invited the virus and got quarantined in a luxury hotel room or home and left a virus in the streets where the poor were affected by it and now struggling between life and death. They recovered and started working from home but a poor affected is afraid to go to the hospital for even test because he/she is well aware of the functioning of the system. I know many people who are unwell but do not want to visit the hospital or doctor due to fear of this dangerous disease. Their life is in real crisis where they lost their job and not even consult doctors.
The migrant laborers who recently reached home are set to get back for work or half of them are already back to factories or construction site because they cannot work from home and if they, do we won’t be able to enjoy packed food with hot coffee (See the manufacturing dates of food items you eat, you will get the idea). So this big picture of current Indian society exposed inequality again. The kinds of memes and jokes made on lockdown, pandemic, or current situations are showing our inhuman perception towards this big population who are struggling between life and death.
One day I was roaming around the Munirka market and saw a shop named ‘COVID-19 kit’ where a variety of masks, different flavored of sanitizers, and colored hand washes were available. Not only in the market but in online sites a new e-commerce industry has suddenly bloomed up. While we are fighting against the novel pandemic, these industries have occupied a stronghold in our lives. In the initial days when lockdown began, due to scarcity in masks and sanitizers the local corner stores of pharmacists started selling the masks, sanitizers, hand washes, and sprays but now due to these bloomed up industries the corner stores again got cornered.
The attractive and creative ways of selling safety kits became a ‘new normal’ in this post or mid-pandemic time and industrialists found another way to doubling their income and suppressing the poor. Just getting the caste identity of these industrialists would make us clear who are they? Why only from one particular group? They are providing masks that appropriately match your clothes, a variety of masks according to the occasions to wear, and printing on masks attract you to buy; it is like wearing your attitudes.
The more you pay, more comfortable the masks you wear and the more you pay the more easy breath you take. You can wear masks of whichever fabric or clothes you want to be, money is the only thing that matter most. Slowly you will see the status would be judged based on the mask you wear like we do when someone wears three pieces of blazer get high status everywhere without any suspicion. So wait and watch your mask soon decide your status in this hypocritical and Brahmanical society of ours.
This is not the only case of masks but the same with sanitizers and other safety kits, all became fashionable. You can get sanitizer flavor/smells of your own choice and liquid color. There are different kinds of sanitizer in accordance with their uses like different sanitizer for your hands, to disinfect vegetables, to disinfect water bottles, to disinfect groceries, to disinfect clothes, to disinfect even idols and same with other regular uses items from your key chain to hand watch to mobile to laptop bags. So the kind of safety you want to ensure also shows your understanding of recent fashion trends. Like we try new trends of spray the same way we are going forward in case of uses sanitizers. It is a different case that still more than half of the people in our country smell their sweats while working on different sites.
Have a look at a street vegetable vendor, he keeps sanitizer on his cart but hardly uses that because he can’t buy that again and again, they only keep it with themselves due to police threats. See the inequality, one group has reached to choose flavored sanitizer on the other side one big group can’t even think to buy a normal sanitizer. Still, if this inequality is in-visible to you then the thought process about humanity is no more in you.
My intentions are not that we quit wearing the mask but to see capitalist society’s intension behind providing fashionable things in the name of the fight against novel coronavirus. These safety kits are really necessary to use to fight against the pandemic but at the same, we must also look around us to see growing inequality based on different social determinants. We must open our eyes around and see how this paradoxical society of ours has transformed masks and sanitizers from the essential needs of the time to an entity of luxury world or symbolic status in society.
You must not forget how this market, capitalized world is again suppressing your mind and convincing you to wear things of their interest but not for your safety. My mother knows tailoring so she sewed some masks for me to wear in Delhi. Once, I went to buy milk, and the shopkeeper said, “kya bhaiya fifty rupees me styles or acha mask mil jayega market me wo pahan liya karo” (Brother you can get good and stylish masks in just fifty rupees, wear that for safety and style). The general perception of buying expensive things means a guarantee of good quality and protection, and that is helping the markets to suppress our mind again and again.
In my opinion, this transformation of essential necessities to luxurious objects will just keep us occupied for our peculiar happiness and divert us from larger concerns. These market strategies of wearing fashionable masks and using flavoured sanitizers would keep us self-centric and establish their market on our minds. The larger concerns like daily rising cases of COVID-19, growing unemployment due to lockdown and other steps, regular death due to malnutrition and food scarcity, eye-opening migrant labor on the road, issues of farmers, issues of students, corruptions and failures of governments, misleading media reports, etc. are out of our mind because we have occupied ourselves in individual-centric happiness.
This individual-centric happiness is distracting us from the real and long term issues that will impact our livelihood and widen the gap of inequality that is already too much. This individual-centric happiness is avoiding our minds to see the pain of people suffering from the pandemic. So this short term happiness is going to impact negatively on our long term happiness.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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