Deccan Chronicle

Shobhaa De | Forget Omicron: Get into the TINA, MITA, PITA groove...

Deccan Chronicle.| Shobhaa De

Published on: January 7, 2022 | Updated on: January 7, 2022

Even if Omicron is a 2022 version of the common flu, it's certainly far more infectious

Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. (DC Image)

Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. (DC Image)

Merde! I know it’s not polite to begin a brand-new year with a cuss word! That too, in an alien language. Maybe I have been binge-watching Emily in Paris (and hating myself for my pathetically low standards), but an emphatic "Merde!" sums up my mood perfectly. "Merde" (literal translation: excreta) is a feminine noun in French, and generally covers a lot of ground. It is particularly effective when used in utter frustration over a crappy development one has zero control over. Like this Omi-whatever wave that is once again threatening to totally disrupt our lives.

The new year, in this context, is the same old year, only worse. 2021 was cruel enough and we lulled ourselves into believing that the worst was over, as we looked forward to ushering in 2022 with a sense of hope and optimism. Boom! Crash landing! As I key in these words, an alert warns me about the highest one-day spike in India, and I freeze. Most of us are unsure and confused about the sudden appearance of a new menace called Omicron. How vicious is it? Should we be cowering in fear once again and staying cooped up waiting to hear that dreaded word "lockdown" after we thought we’d experienced the last of it?

Two years seem to have disappeared from our lives, leaving traces of tragedy and loss. Surely, we’d prayed, 2022 will spare us? At the moment, nobody is "safe". Being a jaunty sort of person, I tend to pay more attention to experts who say what I want to hear — like the Israeli doctor who told us to chill because Omicron was nothing more deadly than the common flu, which we all endure and survive. I still want to believe him! But nearly all the people I interact with on a regular basis are either in quarantine, or in hospital. I am experiencing a crisis of faith — what I perceive directly, contradicts what I want to accept as the truth.

Even if Omicron is a 2022 version of the common flu, it’s certainly far more infectious. The flashily dressed mayor of Mumbai, Kishori Pednekar, a former nurse, has sternly warned Mumbaikars about a possible lockdown in the offing if cases cross the 20,000 barrier.

Meanwhile, Denmark’s chief epidemiologist insists that we’ll "have our normal lives back in two months". Betey, tere muh mein ghee shakkar, and pastries, too!

Everyone has reached a breaking point — emotional exhaustion has robbed us of critical judgment. Speaking for myself, I have stopped tracking Omicron’s deadly march. I cannot keep up with the new rules and restrictions, which are "mutating" as rapidly as the virus. I have stopped reading circulars from building societies and forwards sent by well-meaning friends who relish sharing doomsday forecasts.

All I know is that I am sulking. And am more than a little cross. This bloody Omicron paranoia is getting to me big time. I cancelled a birthday celebration in Pune, which I had planned and planned and was greatly looking forward to. I bitched about my annoyance to the children, who ticked me off — and worse — lectured! "Come on, mother… think of all the people who are battling the virus… think what they must be going through." Yes, yes, yes… Agreed, I sound like a small-minded, selfish woman cribbing about a cancelled birthday get-together. But… what the hell… why rob me of my angst? It’s all I had left once the disappointment was dealt with. Grrrrrrrrr!

A friend called to console me: "Look… you don’t want to be labelled a super-spreader, do you?" Nope! Avoidable! Today, we have all become so self-conscious about what we say about the wretched virus — everything becomes personal and is taken in a deadly serious way. I have stopped cracking jokes about Omicron or discussing my honest views. No point. I get stared at in a hostile way, or am made to feel like an irresponsible delinquent lacking in sensitivity. I accept all the barbs and put-downs. This may be my way of coping and not giving in to panic and fear. Each one of us is searching for that little something to hang on to… any straw will do.

Till we get through this nightmare, we can distract ourselves with TINA, MITA, RITA… In case you are flummoxed, here’s a quick decoder: TINA stands for There’s No Alternative (referring to Narendra Modi), RITA (Rahul is the Alternative), MITA (Mamata is the Alternative). To this illustrious list, may I add GITA (Gadkari is the Alternative)? Going by all the not-so-subtle hints being thrown around by folks like the governor of Meghalaya, it certainly looks like the RSS bosses are busy grooming their own, handpicked candidate for the job of Prime Minister. There is a big "If" of course which is being overlooked — what if the BJP doesn’t sail through in Uttar Pradesh? That verdict will be known shortly.

In case it does not wholly go the BJP way, then the general election in 2024 will automatically get a whole new spin. History has demonstrated over and over again that unexpected times throw up unexpected leaders. Why are we stuck on Rahul or Mamata? Left to a lot of sane, thinking citizens, the field is wide open.

Even if the chances of what I am proposing are remote and impractical (I am a dud at doing the maths), wouldn’t India just love to see Naveen Patnaik occupying the all-important PM’s kursi? He is 75 years old, which maybe the only tick against him. But look at his latest humanitarian gesture of responding to an SOS from the Missionaries of Charity, whose funding was abruptly halted and bank accounts frozen by the Union home ministry. The CM of Odisha promptly sanctioned Rs 78 lakhs from the CM’s fund, and once again proved his secular credentials. Sister Stanley Rose said: "The Almighty will take care of our needs." Till that happens, there’s Naveen Patnaik reaching out to aid more than 900 lepers and orphans — helpless people — who the rest of the country has preferred to ignore.

Blame it on Omicron… maybe I am simply disoriented and delusional… but seriously, what is there not to like about Naveen Patnaik? My vote goes to PITA!

About The Author

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to

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