Cooped up in the isolation wrought by Covid, where with a sinking GDP and the shooting-up in the number of the infected, we live in what Ravish would call a ‘darr ka mahaul’ (an environment of fear), I find myself pining for that which I never thought I would miss: the stress of human interaction.

Well, what’s that, you ask? It’s the tension of deciding what to buy, when you are invited to someone’s house. Once upon a time, gift buying was easy. In Bengal, you would go to a sweet shop, and buy sweets, rosogolla or sandesh depending on the season and how far you had to travel, and people had figured out a secret algorithm for how many rupees of sweets to buy for relatives, factoring in I suppose what they bought when they were the guests. Things aren’t that simple any more, buying milk-based sweets somehow is passé. You don’t want to spend too little and look like a penny-pincher. You don’t want to spend too much, and then have the host think that by buying something this expensive, you were trying to make a point, about their own gift-giving when they came to your place. And the last thing you want is to buy something that makes you look like an idiot. Like a golden picture frame with a picture of a rhinoceros in it.

There is the similar stress of when you go out to eat in a large group. Meal over, the waiter comes with the bill, and throws it in the middle like a live grenade. Should you excuse yourself to the bathroom at that time? Should you big-heartedly reach out for your wallet and pick up the entire tab, hoping that people say ‘No no’, and if they do, how much should you protest, and what if you protest too much and end up paying it for all? Should you fumble for your wallet, hoping that by that time, someone else makes the first move? Or should you just say ‘Let’s split the cheque’ knowing that there will be people at the table who will be thinking ‘But I didn’t have appetisers, why should I pay for an equal split?’ or ‘I ordered vegetarian, he ordered shrimp’, not that I think like this ever myself, in that I never order vegetarian.

But now, these small little social dilemmas seem a universe away, made insignificant in front of more fundamentally existential questions, like should I breathe this air in front of my nose or should I not? People, I miss you.

DISCLAIMER : This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.

Remember when … We used to actually visit each other’s houses and eat out in large groups

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