Half a century ago, in our childhood, the elders and relatives would occasionally pull an ear momentarily as a token of love or appreciation for any pleasing act. During the school days, among more than one dozen punishment protocols, at least four involved ear pulls (kaan pakad) of varying magnitude in physical and mental pain. The least painful was to stand up in the class, hold the ear tips with thumb and first finger and verbally express words of apology and assurance not to repeat the same mistake. Somewhat more severe punishment would additionally involve a forced exercise of stand up and sit down on knees (othak baithak) repeatedly till the teacher would be satisfied. The exercise would generally last beyond ten minutes. Third procedure with increasing severity was to squat and pass hands round the knees from behind and hold (pull) ears for a protracted period. The next type of ear pulls additionally required the physical efforts of the teacher. He would hold and persistently twist or roll the ears of the student till the crying and sobbing produced scare among the classmates.
With the unfortunate arrival of Covid-19, the ear pull phenomenon has been revived not only for the students but also teachers, well-wishers, ill-wishers and everyone. It is now mandatory for everybody to wear a face mask. Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission and save lives. For proper and continuous stay over the nose, the mouth, and the chin, leaving no gaps on the sides, the strings of the mask are placed around the ears. Although the elastic strings of the N-95 type masks are fixed around the neck but are routinely used only by a small proportion of the population. The strings in different brands of the masks available in the market and used by majority are generally of same length. People with comparatively longer ear-to-ear distance are proportionately more uncomfortable with these masks. For Kashmiris generally with prominent or hawk noses, the distress has to be of higher order. People dependent on spectacles face additional problems. The exhaled air full of moisture blurs the glasses and the mask has to be pulled down over the chin again and again. The foggy problem is directly related to the length of the face-to-face interactions, the phase when the need of an effective face mask is maximum. After the second wave of the Covid-19 that spread across the country few months ago, the use of double mask is advocated. Placing the second mask of similar size over the one already negotiated with difficulty, tightens further the noose around the ears. All these issues add to the intensity of the pull, the strings of the mask put around the ears. In the long run it may lead to persistent irritation in the skin, rashes, acne etc. In case this kaan pakad continues, the cartilage may develop difficult-to-heal lesions or permanent bend and thus the functions of the human ear may get affected. Rashes and skin breakdown over the bridge of the nose can also not be ruled out. If timely modifications are ignored, the over tight masks may lead to several issues.
In the domestic mammals, unlike man, the auricle (external ear, pinna) can be moved in different directions independently by the coordinated activity of several ear muscles (without the need of simultaneously turning the head). Thanks to Almighty; our ears lack that advancement, otherwise the mask that may become integral part of our dress in times to come could at times become too tight or too loose (with every movement of one or both the ears), adding to the miseries faced due to Covid-19.
The ear pulls of our beloved teachers for our mistakes was temporary just to guide us and with the noble intention of shaping our future. The Covid-19 is from the creator for not obeying the laws of nature and science and provides an opportunity to shun greed and destruction of the environment, and to rejuvenate thinking and actions suitable for long term prosperity in life, here and hereafter. The only way to defeat Covid-19 permanently is to follow the standing guidelines and SOPs religiously, update/modify them regularly as per evidences pouring in, till this global target is achieved. Let us deserve love, not punishment.
Mujeeb Fazili is a faculty at SKUAST-Kashmir