Why we should celebrate 2020 as the year of the ear

Ears are having quite a year. Suddenly designated the essential-service workers of our bodies, they are everywhere. Masks hang off them, earphones for the Zoom calls that keep our world spinning on its axis are jammed into them, spectacles are propped up on them—in short, they are doing amazing stuff. I possess notoriously underachieving body parts, so I cannot verify this personally, but reports of ears answering the door and making anda bhurji are now fairly common. I bet William Shakespeare of the, “Two little eyes to look around, look around, look around, two little eyes to look around” fame is feeling super silly that while he wrote at least ten thousands of poems on eyes, he didn’t include a single one on ears.

The other essential in the covid kit has been an Instagram account. You’ve had to have especially bogus pandemic pursuits for any other platform to have done them justice. While I cannot recommend lying in bed eating tender coconut ice-cream and watching Netflix highly enough, making it worthy of the ‘gram has been beyond my abilities. But for those of us who have bravely overcome our gluten intolerance just in time to bake the most perfect sourdough bread and gotten rid of priceless Persian carpets to grow quinoa and avocados in the living room, would any of it have been worthwhile if the output had just been a lousy Whatsapp broadcast? Essentially, it comes down to this: those who haven’t shared their lockdown achievements with flattering filters and inspirational hashtags on platforms that have made other people weep with envy can hardly claim to have lived through this period in our history.

Cycles are also having their 15 minutes of fame. In the pre-covid era, when civilization hadn’t yet crumbled, cycling was the preserve of brave, body-confident men who had the nerve to wear clothes that outlined the exact shape and size of their spleen, pancreas, and every muscle. This worked very well, because having to render every internal (and some external) organs to full view of every punter on the road was a natural entry-barrier to this activity. But that was in the good old days. Surely, this is a new definition of kalyug, the final aeon—that being mowed down by a group of recreational cyclists performing their very own version of the socially-distanced Serengeti-stampede is now the leading cause of death for people venturing down the neighbourhood lane.

Nothing has done more to keep families together in covid times than high-speed broadband. Earlier, families could just look up without the distraction of a screen and say anything they felt like to each other. Which, let’s be honest, unless your family’s whatever-they-feel-like utterances are far removed from the norm, would lead to some disagreements, swiftly followed by bloody warfare where actual limbs were dismembered. Now, covid has mandated high-speed broadband and individual devices for every family member. That means that no one looks up at each other and nobody speaks—except to say, “Is the internet suddenly slow for you too?”—and a long, prosperous, peaceful era has descended upon the kingdom of families.

Another covid staple for intellectuals who have more than two brain cells to rub together has been TikTok. Its name seems derived from two Chinese characters: tik, which means dance for 30 seconds, and tok, which means especially if you have zero natural ability to do so. Bob Hope said that growing up with his six brothers taught him to dance—he had to wait for his turn to use the bathroom. Thankfully, India’s population-to-toilets ratio doesn’t seem to have improved our skill levels, which means that there is hours and hours of mesmerizing, if slightly retina burning, content available. My own TikTok addiction has been one of the highlights of my lockdown. I have spent entire months slack-jawed in admiration of the swaying hips and overall courage of the brave souls on the app. Tragically, TikTok is now banned in India, and the government will probably be sorry once the overall IQ, fitness and flexibility of our population plummets as a result.

As per a scientific survey that involved polling seven random people, these are the other things that people have found critical during this time—vacuum cleaners, vacuum cleaners that run themselves, vacuum cleaners that have bags, vacuum cleaners that don’t have bags but carry totes instead, and other assorted vacuum cleaners that perform major household tasks. Some people have confessed a renewed attachment to their ovens, their home gyms, and Nutella.

The most amazing finding, however, is that a significant number of people have proclaimed their No. 1 lockdown essential to be baking soda. Apparently, these deviants bake with it, make deodorant with it, and even keep it in their fridges. What they are baking in their underarms and drinking with ice-cold baking soda from their refrigerator will be a mystery to me forever. But not as big as the biggest covid mystery of all: While in every economy, manufacturing seems to have ground to a halt, or turned sclerotic, our production line of crazies still appears to be going strong.

Vatsala Mamgain is a glutton, cook, runner, tree lover and storyteller

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