No walk in the park, this
With resumption of walking tours to heritage sites, our sutradhars wonder whether the local babus will be able to ensure social distancing and other SOPs are strictly adhered to
As Sir PM headed towards his friend, Lady Flora, he could spot that she was annoyed despite wearing a face mask. Her forehead was twitchy and tense. Her wide, round chestnut brown eyes were giving him the GLARE. In panic mode, he thought of doing what he did best - pretend like he had not figured it out, and yes, talk about the weather. "Happy Sunday, my lady. Hope the inclement weather isn't upsetting your routine. It's that unpleasant month of the year – October – when rain, shine and storm show up in unpredictable ways," he said, trying to distract her. Lady Flora was unmoved. She turned the other side. This, he couldn't ignore, so he went back to his old, worried avatar: "Is anything the matter? You seem upset about something...?"
Lady Flora is furious
"Pheroze…" Lady Flora thundered, "I'm disappointed in your judgement. Of all the people, I wasn't expecting you to join this bandwagon of covidiots." Sir PM's face turned into a whiter shade of pale. "Lady, what are you talking about? Did I do something to offend you or someone else, for you to cast such aspersions on my character?" A tense minute of silence followed; it was broken by Lady Flora's sharp reply, "I spotted you the other day around Ballard Estate; you were hanging around a group of Indian tourists who were part of a walking tour. I noticed that you weren't following social distancing norms. I saw how you tried to get as close as possible to the guide and some of those participants who were carrying those fancy large cameras. What were you trying to achieve, really?" Sir PM looked stunned. 'How did she spot me, that hawk eye?' He told himself, quickly trying to salvage the situation, "You got it all wrong. I am hard of hearing. So I had to take that extra effort to catch every word of the guide. And about the cameras; well, I was hoping I would 'accidentally' be part of at least one photo with the Port Trust Memorial, or even Britannia & Co. It was a bad idea."
Lady Flora wasn't convinced. "All of this could have been avoided, Pheroze. You and me fall into the senior citizen bracket, as much as we'd like to deny it. So many of us have been catching this virus; you cannot afford to be so careless, especially with the rise in cases. I hope our dear Dr Viegas is successful with a desi vaccine sooner than those stuffy Oxford researchers," she snarled. "I spotted a short time during the walk when you had even removed your mask. I wish the guide had called you out in public!"
Tourists, guides and masks
Sir PM had messed up, and also underestimated his friend's investigative skills. "If you must know, I am aware that tourists and guides must wear masks, and that participants need to certify that they are not carrying symptoms of the virus in the weeks leading up to the walk. Oh, and yes, no high-fives, hugs and fist-bumps are allowed. You've got to believe me," he pleaded. "It was an off-moment." Silently, he was touched by his friend's concern, but also afraid of the scowl he could gauge beneath her mask. Time for his next favourite ploy – to offer expert advice. "Lady, I am more worried about the repercussions of this decision when every tour group begins operations, especially around landmarks like the Gateway of India. Social distancing will go to the dogs, if numbers are not kept in check, without strict adherence to the need for 'small groups.' We will pay a heavy price in our enthusiasm to revive the local tourism industry."
It seemed to have worked. Lady Flora was all ears. "Tell me, Pheroze. But why are your former bosses in the BMC not being firm? Shouldn't more powers be given to the police to slap heavy fines on offenders? Look at how the low fine on non-wearing of masks is leading to zero impact on the people, I mean the covidiots."
Sir PM decided to turn on the charm quotient. "Lady, I promise to behave like a responsible citizen. Now, can you please wipe off that frown and sip on some Irani chai that the missus sent for you in this flask, along with these homemade mawa cake slices? After all, it's your birthday tomorrow, isn't it?"
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