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Vol. XXX No. 1, April16-30, 2020

Going Viral: An Open Letter to the Chief

by Ranjitha Ashok

Well, Chief, it’s been a year.

Still trying to process that.

The instinct to make that morning phone call is yet to subside, as is the impulse to share a nugget of a story with your mentor.

What to do, as some people say.

Chief, you won’t believe the mess we’re in right now.

The whole world is reeling under the slings and arrows of unbelievably outrageous fortune and is completely preoccupied with taking arms…well, make those extremely well-scrubbed arms… and hands… against this particular sea of troubles.

Nature’s really gone and done it this time, Chief. It’s like having a Triple-XL-sized, extremely angry Headmistress standing over the globe, booming, “You had to learn the hard way, didn’t you?!”
A Virus-with-a-Capital-V stalks the world, and people are suffering, people are terrified…and being people, many are being completely daft.

“Stay at home and beat the Virus!” authorities thunder. So, naturally, the daft brigade interprets this as a signal to rush around madly in all directions, cluttering the roads for those on genuine errands, and causing law-enforcer-heads to throb with severe migraine. One distraught lawman went so far as to fold his hands in entreaty and literally beg people to please stay home.

Chief, you’ll love this – this behaviour has created a new word: ‘Covidiots’.

There’s something mythic about the way the world has been brought to its knees, and as in all myths, somewhere, deep inside, are massive lessons for those willing to learn.

In the strangest of ways, this worst of times is also giving people a chance to bring out the best within – and it is happening, Chief. Neighbours who never spoke are now helping each other out. People are re-learning the art of real conversation, and are actually seeing each other, having grown accustomed to turned-to-screen profiles for years. And while social media is well and flourishing, board games that gathered dust for decades having lost out to technology, are making an appearance again. Yesterday’s major issues are tossed aside, crumbling in the face of real concerns, while a gradual awareness of how much we took for granted rises to the surface. And yes, although the forced togetherness can lead to meltdowns and explosions, many Lockdowners are rising above the eyeroll, the sharp retort or the Last Word, knowing that this time, they must play the peace card.

Hard times, and the city is coping as best it can.

What would your thoughts have been, Chief?

That Chennai-that-was-Madras will stay strong and come through, right?

As will India…as will the world.

That there’ll be a new tomorrow – a clean, healthy one.
Here’s to that thought, Chief.

As for that Chief-shaped gap in all the lives you touched?
Looks like it is here to stay.

Will sign off now.

Until next time

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