Post Mortem

The new normal: Cultivating a COVID-19 lifestyle in tribal context

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/1/2020 1:30:48 PM IST

 The coronavirus pandemic has changed all known ideas and definitions of reality. Every day we learn something new and introduce it to our ‘new normal’ routine. While everyone is hoping and praying for the coronavirus pandemic to leave soon and normalcy to return in everyday lives. Many have not yet realised that things won’t go back to normal anytime soon. As long as the world has found a cure or a vaccine for covid-19 we may have to adjust to a new normal, meaning a new way of living and going about our lives and with other people. I would like to bring out some New Normal in our context. 

Death of the Handshake: Shaking hands is standard in almost all areas of human endeavour in western culture which tribal people also adopted in their social life. We shake hands to say hello, goodbye, congratulations, to demonstrate respect, loyalty, trust, cooperation and to signal our confidence and character of strangers, acquaintance, friends and even foes. Before the advent of Christianity or British rule in Naga hills, handshake was not known among the tribals but later on the tribals learnt the habit of handshake from other culture. Shaking hands with strangers or acquaintances would show that they were not reaching for their swords. The up and down movement would then shake free any weapons hidden up a sleeve. But could the handshake of the past be the same to post Covid-19? Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House pandemic taskforce have pondered that ‘t’s time the handshake be squeezed out in favour of reducing the transmission of viruses and bacteria.’ After all many of us don’t generally practise proper hygiene, the one innocent handshake may infect the disease. Through the years, shaking hands has become the universal gesture for greeting; unfortunately, even these simple gesture can lead to possible contamination. To convey our emotion without the risk of infection here are few new normal alternatives to handshake such as Namaste, age-old gesture in India, join our hands together in front of our body and bow our head a little. Wave, waving seems simple enough and convey a casual greeting for friends without touching involved. Hand on Heart, a sign of respect as well as greeting, this gesture only requires you to place your hand on your heart and bow your head. Etc. There are plenty of options to greet someone better than the handshake and it’s a challenge to cultivate the new normal. 

Masks are here to stay: Masks were initially derived from the western hip-hop and thug culture in the black community. To cover up their faces from CCTV cameras when they were committing crimes, that’s how the wearing of masks started in the west which followed into hip-hop. Long before the coronavirus pandemic took its tool on the world, mask became a part of fashion but now it has become a protective measure upon us. People have just started to wear mask because it is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the outbreak. To the tribal if anybody closes his/her mouth while talking, passing by, or socializing it was considered as something abomination or disgusting or unmannered. But today if anybody don’t wear masks on the markets, streets, social gatherings etc they are considered as abomination or uncultured. Now we know that it is the best protection we have and that we all need to wear a mask to reduce spreading of diseases. Wearing masks have become a new normal for all. 

Hygienic Hand wash: Never before have so many of us been so attentive to the cleanliness of our hands. Often tribal people washed our hands when they are dirty or for meals but today hand washing has been a focus under covid-19. Washing our hands even when they are not dirty and sanitising often has become the new normal to prevention from diseases and live hygienic life. 

Lesser Visitation: The tradition of visiting friends and relatives were very common and good old tradition among the tribals that brings closeness, love and affection. Visiting each other help us to know and care for each other. It helps us to build stronger and better relationship and concern for one other. But unlimited visitation or visiting while they are busy would rather bring annoying or irritation to others. Therefore limited visitation is very important. The present covid-19 pandemic, has enforced us no visitation or less visitation and this is going to be a new normal in our social life. It will become dying tradition or forgotten tradition because the lesser you visit, the safer you are today. Lesser visitation is not only safety measure for us but it also gives more quality time with our family that build better relationship. Lesser visitation and quality time with family will be the new normal. 

Social Distancing: Social distancing which everyone is practising to curb the spread of the virus, will be the new normal in times to come. Social closeness or public gathering has become a great threat to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. The government have ordered that we should maintain social distance or should not gather more numbers. It’s a great challenge for the tribal that most tribal community regularly organize large traditional gathering to mark special events or festivals. In the post covid-19 such gathering or celebration will be limited with fewer numbers. There will be lesser number in wedding, funeral and other social gathering as new normal. Everyone should make social distancing a part of their lives, even when the pandemic ends. 

In conclusion, with no vaccine and no cure on hand, what is the solution to the problem are we facing? We have one solution that is ‘Prevention is better than Cure.’ Nothing prevents the covid infection. In this endeavour we all need to now develop and cultivate what I call a Covid Lifestyle and make it our New Normal. 

S.Wati, Discipleship Bible College


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