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Tea Leaves

Social distancing -- an Indian nightmare

Isolation is a bad joke in the teeming subcontinent, but a sense of humor helps

Migrant workers try to board a crowded bus as they return to their villages, during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of COVID-19, in Ghaziabad, on March 29   © Reuters

The term “social distancing” seems to have become the battle-cry of the global fight against the COVID-19 virus. But in India, currently in the midst of the biggest lockdown in history with 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home, isolation seems like a cruel joke.   

Believe me, it’s tough. Indians are by nature tactile creatures -- touchy, feely, curious. We’re used to having people breathing down our backs all the time -- in queues, waiting to get off buses, disembarking from airplanes.  

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