It was only ten days, ago when I checked on a popular delivery app for some groceries to stock up, thinking it is a smart thing to do. It is then that I realized most of the 5kg packets were out of stock. We, in our current location are a family of three, I like to stock up the pantry once in a while with family packs because I hate the delivery guys constantly ringing the doorbell. Toggling between few such apps made me acknowledge the panic that had taken over the people around me, as most showed a similar result. Long queues and empty shelves were what everyone was talking about. The entire human race was as if gearing to retreat in their burrows, but unlike worker ants, we were not ready to leave a trail for members of our colony to find food which we did not need.

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Of course, the “out of stock” band did freak me out a bit, perhaps a lot, there were a lot of “what if” scenarios that the mind conjured up. Since then I have ordered stuff online, went to the nearest supermart to stock up on a few essentials, freaked out more when saw the shutters were closed. But the fact that the subconscious had switched to the panic mode long back, hit me last Friday when in the morning, I didn’t find the milk packet in the bag. The first thought was, is it the beginning of the end? However, I did get the packet an hour later.

The entire human race was as if gearing to retreat in their burrows, but unlike worker ants, we were not ready to leave a trail for members of our colony to find food which we did not need.

So, is this just a dramatic response to even more dramatic events which are unfolding around us? Till last week I could not believe that India can go under complete lockdown, my mind kept on telling me what would happen to the millions in this country who can put food on the table only when they go out and work, do they have the privilege of social distancing? But today it is a reality and as the PM announces 21 days of lockdown let’s face it, even if we have not hoarded, we all have gone on a panic-buying spree, which we may choose to call emergency supplies.

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Maybe it is the fear of the unknown. I remember how as a new parent I would never accept I had enough diapers in stock. There is no justification for hoarding and depriving the needy of the essential supplies. However, coronavirus is not a hurricane or a flood that we have an idea of what we are up against. Panic buying supplies maybe just a way of coping with the uncertainty, it is a way of having control over very small but certain part of this ordeal. With everything around, spelling gloom and doom, flights getting grounded the uncertainty of whether we will be able to reunite with the rest of the family, it is probably a way of self-preservations that this is how we can keep safe.

Panic buying supplies maybe just a way of coping with the uncertainty, it is a way of having control over may be certain very small things.

It is very difficult to accept overnight a changing world which says you should not pick up the newspaper at your doorstep as it can be a fomite (a word I didn’t know in the pre-COVID-19 world). I want to be an optimist and believe this too shall pass, but let’s acknowledge that world as we knew it is changing rapidly and people will find their coping mechanisms. I am sure, at least in our lifetimes we won’t be able to “excuse” people for coughing and sneezing in public places, anymore.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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