Monday, August 17, 2009


First it was the Japanese who always went around the World wearing masks and gloves long before this new bug called H1N1 came along. Now, it seems Indians have panicked (thanks to the high decibel, repeated screeching of anchors on news channels there) and loads of them were seen wearing these masks without knowing whether the masks they had on were really going to stop the infection from hitting them or not. I saw "normal" Indians, even couples in downtown Bangalore wearing these funny contraptions. Why funny? Let me tell you why. There were people with kerchiefs tied around their noses, there were those who had these single layer masks and there were those with dupattas around their faces looking like The Taliban had enforced a dress code. Of course there were regular masks all around too.

Went to the Bengaluru International Airport to catch my late night flight back to Singapore. Saw more varieties of masks there, mostly on Indian faces. What bugs me is that the wearers don't even know if they are protected or not. One should check on guidelines and there are sources on the net also, such as the Center for Disease Control, USA that explains what works and what won't help. The masks, the different variety of ones that are available in the market in India, are ineffective in preventing the wearer from contracting the disease. They are only good in the sense that they stop droplets from spreading all around when the wearer coughs or sneezes. So, while it may not protect the wearer, at least the chaps around are safe to a certain extent! The N95 respirator "mask" is the one that is approved by CDC and health officials around the World. Not the mickey mouse contraptions that most of them were wearing. The mask manufacturers are laughing all the way to the Bank as they make a "killing", selling them like hot cakes.

Let me briefly describe some of the masks I saw on many faces at the Airport. There were these green surgical ones you see on TV medical shows and at hospitals. Then there were ones that are labeled "Duck billed" (even on CDC website!), I swear this is the funniest one. Some looked like birds standing around because they were yellow in color (the masks I mean!) There is a definite beak shape, just like on Tweety Bird. I thought that was the funniest until a couple walked by, both of them wearing, what would have come straight from Star Wars. I am not kidding you, they looked like the ones Darth Vader would wear to the beach. These were large, dark, covered a lot of the nose, mouth and cheeks, had round discs jutting out from both sides of the mask like Oxygen regulators and they looked like what some one would wear in a chemical attack. Maybe effective against H1N1 too, no?

On the Aircraft, some of wearers decided to give it a rest and took them off and put them back on whenever they felt like it. Catering arrived and soon all the masks were off to eat and drink! Some people are deluded to think that H1N1 is only floating around when they are wearing these masks. For me, I was just pleased. Firstly because the person next to me sneezed, while wearing the mask and so I did not have to hold my breath till I turned blue in the face...and secondly, these mask wearers were a source of entertainment, just looking at some of them and their behavior with and without the masks made my night!

I have to end this story with something really funny, without disrespect to anyone. Many of you would already know this I think, although it may not be politically correct. Anyway, what I heard in Bangalore was that the sales of padded Bras were going up in the city. Not because more women had come into town all of a sudden leaving their wardrobe behind but because half a padded Bra works wonderfully well as a mask! This it seems, is a fact, and not a joke as it had been mentioned in some media. Thanks to H1N1, Bra manufacturers can also laugh all the way to the Bank! I kid you not.