My wife believes in the adage safety in numbers, and bought two dozen face masks when our housing association somehow found a source.
The masks are made by a sports shoe and backpack manufacturing company that quickly pivoted when it realised the huge opportunity the coronavirus pandemic was offering.
The masks are jet black and when she wore them my wife looked like an Indian Ninja and all she lacked was a ‘shuriken’, the seemingly innocent looking but deadly, ‘throwing star’, in her hand.
The package arrived, which we thoroughly disinfected. The masks were yellow in colour and when you put them on, you look as if you are pouting like movie star, Priyanka Chopra, in her Instagram feed
She wore the mask proudly and we went for our walk, out of the enclave, down a narrow walkway between a gated community and a wall of an empty lot, and out into a layout that has quaint houses with terrifying masks on the walls.
The masks depict a red-faced demon, with its tongue lolling out, and like a vampire it has two sharp teeth protruding from the sides of its mouth, and two small horns on its head.
The devil’s masks are nailed to the external walls of the houses to ward off bad people’s perspectives (‘Drishti’) as the evil energy (evil eye) can destroy the peace in your home.
“You should get one of these,” I told my wife. “If banging stainless steel dishes can scare away the coronavirus, this will surely do the trick,” I said grinning.
(Incidentally, this snarky comment was to make fun of the fact that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked all Indians to go to their balconies and bang on their dishes in the initial days of the pandemic).
When people wear masks it is obviously hard to see their expressions and even the neighbourhood stray dogs get confused when I whistle at them and they look everywhere.
“I can’t breathe, ” said my wife suddenly, and I could not tell if she had gone blue in the face. “The virus does not strike that fast,” I said to calm her.
“I can’t breathe,” she said again impatiently. “These masks are too thick, I can’t get any oxygen.”
“It would be a bummer if you died due to lack of oxygen, when wearing a mask against a virus that attacks the lungs,” I joked.
The next day my wife went online and ordered another dozen masks from a local manufacturer that promised 100 per cent protection against breathing in the virus.
They came with ventilators in the side, a small hole with a filter and a flap, that allows you to breath freely, and opens when you exhale and closes when you inhale. This mask also does not fog up your reading glasses.
The package arrived, which we thoroughly disinfected. The masks were yellow in colour and when you put them on, you look as if you are pouting like movie star, Priyanka Chopra, in her Instagram feed.
I didn’t tell my wife anything because these masks are expensive and our monthly SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) that I had promised to my bank’s relationship manager, was dwindling.
But I could not resist saying, “Quack, quack”, and she dumped these and ordered surgical masks. Then she realised you cannot wash these one-time-use masks and you have to trash them after each use.
My wife is both a spendthrift and miser. “I will wear them for two days before I throw them away,” she announced.
“The virus will be pleased you are not polluting the earth,” I said, pointing out to the dozens of masks thrown carelessly on the side roads. “Aren’t these supposed to be incinerated?” I asked a bit worried as the masks could still be harbouring the virus.
“We should get gloves,” announced my wife.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi