Related stories about the coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus is bringing people together in interesting ways. Couples forced to work out of home are discovering they have been avoiding each other unnecessarily in recent years – the spouse isn’t such a bad thing after all. Parents are getting regular calls from their children inquiring after their health, and that’s welcome too. And of course, people are rediscovering the twin joys of reading books and watching movies on streaming channels.

Lexicographers are happy that new words and expressions are being poured into their laps. Social-distancing, for one. Contact-tracing, for another. Self-isolation, group-isolation, travel-avoidance, hand-sanitisation, home-office – some of these have existed, others are freshly minted.

I see at least one publisher has announced a book titled: How Families Can Live Together in a Crunch. Papa bear, mamma bear, baby bear, baby bear’s husband, baby bear’s baby (grandbaby bear), baby bear’s other baby, all being forced to stay together for various reasons are stretching patience and endurance. But, I am told, families that eat together keep the virus at bay. At any rate, everyone knows where everyone else is, and that’s always a relief.

Of course, the reverse is happening too. Couples forced to work out of home are realising exactly why each of them spends so much time travelling or among friends in a regular week. He finds her too self-involved, she finds him too boring, but they have stayed together for the sake of the pet and avoided confrontation. No longer.

Parents are getting sick of their children telling them what to do, and treating them like they are not just old but dumb as well. Children sometimes feel the same way about parents too, and wish they would not go on and on about washing hands and disinfecting everything from their computers to their pets and even spouses.

Who would have thought that a tiny, microscopic thing otherwise so utterly devoid of any fascinating features could affect everyone and everything we do, including the way we live. Enough to make one philosophical.

For that’s another aspect of it. I have been receiving messages (well, one actually, but it’s the principle) from a long-forgotten acquaintance who held long-forgotten grudges now apologising for whatever it was that started the feud in the first place. Tomorrow I shall write to a schoolmate whose lunch money I stole, and apologise. Take him out to dinner, perhaps, and resist the temptation to force him to pay.

The virus will leave in time. But the ‘normal’ we face when that happens will be different from the earlier normal. Social distancing might continue, which means that at a party to celebrate the defeat of the coronavirus, we might be dancing one metre away from our partner.

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