The International Pandemic Year continues apace, and before we know it we will be in April. And after 45 days of April, we move on to May when we are told, we will be just one month away from the virus packing up and returning to wherever viruses return when their job is done. I suspect that by then we would have to relearn how to shop and how to walk in parks and what to do when we see another human being.

In preparation, I am working out a system. The poet Rilke wrote, “I live my life in widening circles”. My plan is just the reverse. I shall live my life in narrowing circles. Concentric circles. Currently, if I stand in the centre of the circle, I need to ensure that for a radius of six feet no one shares my space. That is fine till we get to the end of the year, which is ten months away.

But I need to send out messages to friends and relatives and the man who delivers the newspapers on where in the concentric circles they might stand in relation to me.

“Please ensure you are 60 feet away from me at all times,” I shall message a friend who drops in only to borrow books, which he never returns. “As a special case, I am allowing you to get within 120 feet of me,” I shall tell the postman whose approach is preceded by a cough or a sneeze or both.

Then there is my neighbour. “Please mark out 240 feet, or better still, 500 feet within which you are not allowed to come near me.” It is a good rule, because he complains a lot, and my patience has been used up waiting for the virus to leave us alone. In fact that should apply to all those who meet me only to complain – the farther away they stay, the better for my overall health and happiness.

Living life in narrowing circles can be fun. Tell that pesky relative: “The doctor has advised me not to let anyone within 50 kilometres of the house.” Or, “I will meet you in Mumbai,” knowing fully well she stays in Chennai.

To the more artistic, I shall quote the actor Geoffrey Rush: “I have always been in the outer concentric circles which is a good place to be.” I have mangled that slightly, but the essence remains – the outside circle is the most exciting.

Meanwhile, I hear the International Calendar Federation is planning to end the year in June so that we can get rid of 2020 in half the time. As everyone knows, things will be better in 2021.

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