By Adarsh Madhavan
It’s like being almost invisible. You see them, they don’t. You walk past them, burning them with your eyes; staring them to death. Perhaps they may stare back but they don’t know who you are, what you are. But, you, you know all about them. And, more importantly, you know who they are.
Symbol of anonymity
For people like me, the mask, the anti-COVID mask that is, has become a symbol of anonymity. Or, even obscurity. It serves as a camouflage and you can travel incognito (as though you were a masked Michael Jackson practising moon walking on a sunny Sunday morn, hoping no one would recognise him).
Slide past people
You can glide past people whom you know and don’t like, as though you were a ghost (who walks). Let them feel your icy stare on them but they don’t know it’s you.
No shame, no fear
You can float in front of them and even then they don’t recognise who you are. You can slide past them like an apparition. And you can plonk yourself right in front of them with nary a fear or shame, even if you owe them money!
You can stare into their eyes and they may stare right back at you but then turn their eyes away. They are not going to come running after you.You may even go knock knock on their heads and ask them, “hello, hello, hello, anyone (or anything) in there?” and they may not bat an eyelid.
Aura of invisibility
No one recognises you and it is a boon, a blessing as you become an ethereal being. Sometimes, you may drift around town like a dark, unnoticeable cloud, which has the capacity to burst, but don’t; you are right in front of many of whom you don’t want to see, and you can bounce around like a balloon in a cloak of anonymity. You may bob up and down in the wave of people in an aura of invisibility.
‘Blessing’ in ‘disguise’
Masks have become a real ‘blessing’ in ‘disguise’. You can, in turn, haunt these ghosts that had haunted you before. Follow them discreetly. Watch what they are doing. You can spy on them in your mask. You are a masked man in a world of people with masks. And no sorrow if you ain’t Zorro, simply bury yourself in a crowd and disappear.
‘Mask’uerade as a friend
You can ‘mask’uerade as a friend to enemies and you can whisper bitter nothings in their ears and roll off like you are holding a sneeze, while all you want to do is burst into loud, senseless laughter. Just hold it in and
wheeze past this silent mirth. I have no plans to abandon the mask as it has served me well as an invisibility cloak. Many claim that a mask is a “potent symbol of our changed reality”.
Force field around me
Maybe it is because I am the mousy, nervous type, who prefers to hide under the bed, especially among the roar of social beings. And for people like me, it is such a relief to feel anonymous; to have a force field around me – all with a simple surgical mask and for best effects, a cloth mask over that and a cap shielding your eyes. And that does the trick – no one ‘sees’ me.
I can sit right next to those that I want to avoid and discreetly sip a hot brew, taking care to unmask only when they are giving full attention to the vadas on their plate.
Behind the mask
But, as the man behind the mask enjoys these snatched moments of privacy, he is also thinking. As far as I am concerned, all of this becomes a mere charade as I know that even if I tear off the mask and throw it away like a liberal protester against masks, no one is going to recognise me. Mask or no mask, I remain anonymously anonymous.
Who is that laughing?
He was wearing a mask.