Covid Conversations: Why People Don’t Wear Masks

This world has a death wish. It is not just America that is refusing to wear masks, India is following the suit. This rebellion against logic baffled me when I read that 1.75 lakh people were fined in Ahmedabad for not wearing masks. People say, careless, my psychology degree says, death wish.

We can only imagine how many people are getting away with not wearing a mask. Shubham Tiwari, a final year engineer student at TIT College Bhopal has a story I fear will become the new normal of our times.

“I was headed to Satna from Mumbai after the surgery of my uncle. An old man around the age of 60 tried to sit in my seat, when I told him to maintain social distance, wear a mask and ask the TC for an empty seat. He was furious, questioning if I know how to respect the elderly.

He said Covid-19 is a hoax, a trick to control us. We are fools to believe in anything. It got worse when the TC asked me to share my seat and respect the old man. The TC was bribed in broad daylight by the old man to let him do what he wants. The people around were either clueless or they didn’t want to get involved.”

As much as we would like to be The Bad Guy in Billie Ellish’s next music video, not wearing masks is breaking the law, under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Now, some want to be criminals, some just want to make the most out of whatever challenge they face. The capitalists falsely advertising about their masks being better than yours is not helping anybody. It is only feeding the hoaxes of how this pandemic is a lie to sell us something we don’t need.

We covered criminals, and opportunists, let’s talk about the Aam Janta, what do we do? We adhere to the rules when we are being watched. On other days, the mask is a hat, most people wear it as if they were kids with developing brains.

Dr Bhavi Patel, a 23-year-old, pursuing her MMBS, worked at the Corona Ward in GMERS, Baroda shares her hopelessness, “Patients don’t wear the masks properly, they don’t take it seriously. They wear it around their necks, their masks don’t cover their noses and they call it an inconvenience. When asked to wear it properly, they snap at us. I recently saw an old man die, it is upsetting to see people not doing their bit.”

Inconvenience is one thing, using the concept of fate as an excuse is another trend. Fate is stronger than a virus and it will only affect those who are meant to be affected by it.

Dr Afsha Dakhni (MBBS, DND and COMS), in her 40s, a mother to five children, has her setup at Dr. Abuzar Dakhni’s Diabetes and Weight Management Centre; where people show up without a mask on a daily basis, she shares one of those encounters with TheVibe.

“They are not only putting themselves in danger, they are also endangering the people who are working here day and night. A patient who was getting treatment for PCOS here, her husband refused to wear a mask. When asked why, he said, ‘If it is in my fate, I would get it anyway.’ I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his denial. I asked my staff to not allow anyone without a mask.”

I didn’t know this was a meant to be kind of thing, might as well lock myself up in a coffin full of flesh-eating beetles and let fate decide.

This negligence is causing an uproar. At Vasanth Nagar in Bangalore, Sofia Pannakar, an architect, saw a police officer hit two men racing away on their bike with his lathi. They fell and everybody watched from their balconies as the officer and the men argued in Kannada. “The officer sounded so frustrated, he was yelling, ‘What will it take for people like you to take this seriously? Does your family have to die for you to do something as Sanna (small) as wearing a mask? You are not wearing helmets too!’”

Helmets, condoms, and now, masks, are people self-destructive? There are posts on Reddit that tap into this feeling of doom.

Zareen Immanuel, Asst. Professor of Psychology at GCCW in Bangalore, disagrees, “It is a sudden change, we are asking everybody regardless of their religion, gender or caste to wear a mask and take precautions. It hurts their ego, they cannot bear that they have to make changes to their routine because of someone else’s fault. I would say, they are acting out like children.

In a time where everything is uncertain, it helps them feel more in control even if it is at the cost of their health or someone else’s. It is a simple fight or flight response; they think they can fight this. This delusional behaviour comes from what we call Hot Cognition, a process that takes place when people are threatened. Your emotions fueled with hormones and take the front seat while logic is thrown out of the window.”

What can we do?

Dr Priyanka HP, a 24-year-old, who just completed her MBBS and is working at Government Maternity Hospital in Bangalore, expressed her helplessness, “Here because of the people who don’t wear masks, the new-borns are at risk. Violence or anger may be the immediate solution, but the root cause is their overconfidence, ‘We have gone through worse, we will manage.’ I keep telling them, ‘It is not about you. Where is your empathy?’ If people don’t have empathy, there is nothing we can do.”

Is it a defense mechanism or the lack of empathy? Are people cruel or in denial? Is fear the only way we can getting humans to do something?

There are many answers for this question. In the words of a poet and advocate, Nidhi Loya,

“As fully grown adults, with a mind that remembers to do only what it is asked it to do,

Why is it so difficult for you to process this:

Simply covering your mouth to save YOU the time you might spend in a hospital bed,
If this was the right time to start a rebellion against logic?!”

Feel free to share your conversations with people who refuse to do their bit.

All images used in this article belong rightfully to their original owners.

©️ 2020 Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.

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