The Internet Personified: The Wash Your Hands Edition

No, I mean REALLY wash them

Dearests,

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There’s two feelings about living in the time of a pandemic: a) god, I hope I don’t get it and b) this is sort of exciting in an everyone-pulling-together sort of way. I don’t mean exciting like a birthday party, but you know when there’s a crisis, minor or major, that affects a lot of people you know, say a common friend died, and in the early days of that death, all you are doing is holding shit together and organising stuff. (Which is why it takes a week after the death for you to process your own grief and anger.) Or, a less-morbid analogy, you’re helping your friend plan their destination wedding. That kind of thing. I consider what we should buy in bulk, K’s ideas are easy: rice, let’s get 5 kilos, it won’t go waste anyway, and Wai-Wai noodles, which he discovered only recently, and loves above all other Indian noodles. I am more Hydra-like about what I’d like to buy in bulk, as in, no sooner do I decide to get one thing, than several other options grow out of that one decision. Coffee? Then: steel cut oats so I can make my own oat milk for that coffee? Sugar? Then, sugar leads me to biscuits? Hoarding is not a socially good thing to do, it might even border slightly on evil? But I would share my biscuits with you—well, until I’m down to the last packet, and then I will pretend like they’re over, but now you know, don’t you. Also, I don’t plan on hoarding-hoarding. Just buying one extra of everything. Restocking our basic household medical kit: painkillers, antihistamines etc.

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If it even gets that bad.

We said the same thing in January, discussing it at the closing dinner at JLF, when we could still laugh about it. If it even gets that bad. I have a note in my day planner, where I’ve started putting down one line about news, so when I flip back I can see what sort of year we’ve had. January 28th, right next to back to Delhi, is a note in my blue ink, sort of carelessly scribbled down: coronavirus fears intensify. I thought I’d look back over the year and be like, “Oh yeah, that weird flu everyone was talking about for a little bit.” I didn’t know, none of us did, that it would be like this.

I’ve been home a lot recently, eleven days by my last count, it would have been twelve, but I had to leave the house before I literally walked down the stairs backwards, The Exorcist-style, on my hands and knees, so I called a nearby friend and went to her house for a coffee. I was also on antibiotics for a strep throat, and since I equate socialising with alcohol, and I couldn’t drink, I had decided to stay home, that is, after the first few days of feeling shitty when I didn’t want to leave anyway. It’s weird, to realise that you feel that way about drinking. I could manage a whole evening on herbal tea, in fact, I had plans for a party that same week, but that got cancelled too, so I didn’t even have to challenge myself in that regard.

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I started to think about self-isolation and quarantines, and my life is generally self-isolation. We don’t go out to work, and the weeks in which we make no social plans, we only see each other and the maid, and we sit comfortably at home, not needing to leave at all. Basically, we only seek out people by choice, usually. This is also not great for anyone wanting more than one political opinion in their life for example, or just learning to deal with someone who aggravates you but is in your life, for better or worse, like that annoying colleague of yours, two desks down. I don’t think I’m very good with difficult people any more. I tend to just unmoor myself and drift away quietly. But, on the other hand, I actively engage on the internet, so if that counts as having many different people and opinions shoved in your face, then I have loads of people around me all the time.

Do we have a duty, I wonder, to be nicer online, since we’re slowly inching towards shutting ourselves indoors till this passes? Do the internet rules change when internet socialising is the only socialising you’re doing? And does that mean we have to start treating internet socialising like regular socialising: nothing before 6 pm and with a select group of friends?

What’s also funny—and I mean funny in a grim chuckle kind of way not like funny ha-ha—is that the people who were merrily running around without pollution masks are now all strapped up, when I can bet they’re not changing their masks every day, which is the only effective way to wear a mask, says my friend Sam and also the WHO. (Germs on the outside of your mask, you touch the mask, you get sick.) Pollution is still making people sick and also killing them in Delhi, but it’s not a pandemic, so I guess it’s not as sexy. Ironically, while their disposable masks will not protect them from the coronavirus, it will protect them from pollution, so there’s a small win in all that.

Anyway, life goes on as normal from my part of the world, except yesterday I walked to the tailor and I was going to buy some fruit on my way back home, only the usual three carts of fruit sellers were absent, and normally at 5 pm, our local market has all sorts of people hanging out but it was so empty and quiet. It felt odd. I went home and washed my hands.


This week(ish) in Indian publishing news:

Simon & Schuster India is tying up with Yoda Press, but also Simon & Schuster is being sold, because their parent company want to focus on streaming services (doesn’t everyone?) so busy month for them.

David Godwin speaks to Harsimran Gill at HuffPo:

What is abundantly clear is that all the publishing people know each other very well. Many of them worked under David Davidar at Penguin, then they went their different ways. So actually you’ve got probably about 30 people who move in and out from one publishing house to another. So, in a way, I don’t know if the imprints are particularly distinctive enough.

And a piece in Firstpost about the problem with Indian publishing:

A publisher who sells 10,000 copies of a book can claim the book to be a bestseller, much like one that sells 100,000 copies of another book. “The bestseller category is something that has come in [India] really from outside,” says Butalia, adding that with no centralised parameter to quantify the success of a book in the country, “these categories are just made up out of nothing really.”

Plus a few new reviews on my bookish Instagram account, minnareads

Nice cosy historical murder mystery. Will not knock your socks off (but the same author's My Sainted Aunts definitely will, it's one of my favourite books of all time) but the language is evocative and the characters feel real and it's c o s y so there's that under the quilt feeling, a plate of biscuits at easy reach, some lurking menace but so far removed from you in horrific present day that it's rather nice. I'd recommend it for a day when you want MM Kaye but with some murrrderrrr thrown in. #bookstagram #120in2020
March 3, 2020

Extra long link list for your self-isolation time:

Where do you go if you get coronavirus?

I went to Hogwarts for seven years and didn’t learn maths or spelling.

So I’m reading the newest Hilary Mantel—the last years of Cromwell—and I am still obsessed with Tudor stuff, so I came across this writer on one of the Reddit threads I follow. She’s done a bunch of (funny, smart, brief) essays on ol’ Harry’s six wives, but I liked the Anne of Cleves one best.

Two longreads that became movies: the private life of Mr Rogers and what it was like to work at the Coyote Ugly bar (written by Elizabeth Gilbert! Whaddaya know.)

By the time you get to the second paragraph of this article on talking dolphins and elephants you’re like wtf.

And finally, Paromita Vohra is hilarious in this piece about someone asking her to do something for Women’s Day.

Have a great week!

xx

m

Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.

Who are you?Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.

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