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Vol. XXX No. 17, January 1-15, 2021

Short ‘N’ Snappy

–(Wo)MMM

Hello 2021 – A ‘new normal’ Wishlist

The new year is here, and one hopes the covid vaccine will also be here soon. The Woman from Madras Musings has been reflecting on how strange 2020 has been. While one is happy to bid it – and the coronavirus – goodbye, one can’t help but hope that some changes stick on in 2021, too.

Take social distancing, for instance. (Wo)MMM feels it would be nice if people continue to maintain one-arm distance from each other, pandemic or not. After almost a year of social distancing norms, (Wo)MMM has grown rather fond of her personal space – it’s not going to be easy to revert to untidy queues and milling crowds that push and shove, especially when one’s elbowing and dodging skills are rusty from disuse.

(Wo)MMM has also come to prefer the trend of digital meetups in the ‘new normal’ that we live in. It’s surprisingly easy to carry on a conversation online rather than in person, she finds – one isn’t quite so conscious of one’s body language (what does one do with their hands while talking?!) and the option to switch off one’s video is so useful on bad hair days.

(Wo)MMM has become quite grateful for work-from-home systems, too. Frankly, it’s getting harder to rationalize why one even went all the way to office in the first place. For one thing, working from home allows one to avoid the annoying daily commute. (Wo)MMM knows some who use the time to do productive things like read books, listen to podcasts or even take meetings but she isn’t blessed with that kind of attention span, unfortunately – she ends up wasting time gazing outside the window the whole trip. And then when one does reach office, what does one get? A seat that one is generally confined to, unless summoned to a meeting. When one works from home, however, a universe of possibilities opens up. One can solve a crossword puzzle with paati to take a short break. Eat healthy, freshly made meals on time. Or one can work from the garden, instead of a boring cubicle. Actually, there are quite a few reports showing that employee productivity hasn’t decreased because of working from home – in fact, some studies are showing that people do more when working from home. As for collaborative work, digital technology is enabling teams to work with each other from home, helping them meet their deliverables.

In fact, office meetings haven’t changed all that much in the new normal, if one thinks about it. They’ve gone digital, of course – but apart from that, most meetings are as joyously digressive as they are in real life. On one memorable occasion, (Wo)MMM recalls, the attendees spent a lively half-hour discussing the markers of an authentic mishti-doi from Kolkata.

(Wo)MMM quite likes the freedom to be able to join in meetings from different venues – on days that she visits the parents, for instance, she can log in from their home and continue to work, easy peasy.

And of course, it can’t be denied that in the past year, hygiene has improved in general with regular hand washing and sanitizing and the like. Public hygiene, specifically, seems to have become so much better. (Wo)MMM is rather glad to see that the habit of spitting in public seems to have become taboo (high time!) as has the practice of coughing without closing one’s mouth – at least, these instances don’t seem as common as they used to be, in (Wo)MMM’s observation. In these pandemic days, these are rightfully looked upon more severely as a public hazard.

The Woman from Madras Musings fervently hopes that we don’t let go of the good things we’ve learned from the pandemic. Work-from-home luxuries apart, it’s well worth holding onto good habits like hygiene