I have been a very humble person – humbler than Uriah Heep, the cunning and manipulative character created by Charles Dickens in David Copperfield, who claimed himself to be humble. But I am not the cunning or manipulative type. These difficult times have brought out the creative in me and I will not be humble about it.
Most of the daily newspapers that I read have an FAQ section these days where they dispense infinite wisdom about the queries that readers may have on ways to handle the current crisis. At least what they say is infinitely better than what our WhatsApp news channel has been spewing these days where everyone has become an expert on what is right or what is wrong. Though it is not something new – for the past few years, language used by many of my so-called educated friends, when someone even hints at something against their ideology, makes me rush to my wash basin and rinse my mouth with a mouthwash to get the vile taste out of my mouth. But that is for another day.
Someone with abundance of love towards his pet child – the four-legged variety – asked in this newspaper if he could take his dog out for a walk. I was always of the opinion that a dog needs abundant exercise and space to relieve itself which it possibly cannot get inside a house. But the Agony Aunt of the newspaper thought otherwise and was categorical in her curt reply – no, the dog cannot be taken out. I recounted this to my wife who smiled and made a sarcastic statement – dogs will have to be toilet trained and taught to exercise on the treadmill in the house.
Here was a fantastic business option – set up academies for toilet training of pets and train them to have their exercise within the closed confines of the pigeonholes that our modern apartments are. I put on my creative cap and realised that there can be a lot more ideas that may change the way business has been done in the last many years.
The underlying assumption behind all these ideas is that there will be caution of going to such places which have abundance of people crowded in a very limited space.
Thus, people will avoid going to the local barber shop or the salons for fear of catching the bug. Enterprising entrepreneurs will set up self-grooming classes. Each of these trainees will be able to help his or her family and sometimes even the neighbour in case he or she is not in the mood to utilise his or her own training. Our friendly old barber sitting under the tree will also make a come-back, given that he does not have queues to contend with – and in any case it is easier to maintain a social distance under the tree in an open field. Even the affluent will start going to these barbers rather than risking the posh salon.
This can result in these under the tree barbers becoming tech savvy and developing their own apps to cater to the appointments of their affluent clients. In any case, with the business also in lock-down, we may have more of a socialistic pattern for some time to come – hence no affluent class or all are affluent.
We are a social race and love to meet people and bitch about others – we have gatherings at addas, small tea shops, under the tree chaupals, kitty party groups, and many more. This instinct had been largely satisfied with the modern WhatsApp channel in these times of lockdown, but even that mode of communication is under threat now and may eventually die. Enterprising people within the community will develop local apps for community groups to satisfy this urge to bitch.
Enterprising tea shops and dhabas will develop their own apps and promote their products through huge discounts offered for home deliveries during the happy bitching hours and for online chaupals and addas. Even the big coffee chains may catch on to this rage of home delivery in due course. This will be one of the many concepts to be exported by us to the world at large.
Organised industry may not be able to cope up with the heavy demand for alcohol-based sanitisers. Government will then give permissions for people to set up home distilleries only to make sanitisers for their own consumption. This may have a side effect though. Consuming a little of the 60% alcohol content spirit when one is distilling it in the comfortable climes of one’s home will be a temptation which many may not be able to resist. Thus, there will be a major requirement of self-help Alcoholics Anonymous groups, this time created within the community, for the community, by the community.
And there may sometimes be accidents leading to fires in their apartments while distilling. Thus, a stronger fire fighting force will be required resulting in a bigger requirement of fire engines. Auto makers will get more business from this segment than from the small cars which people will stop buying as now they may be mostly working from home and also because public transports will now not be so crowded as earlier – people will be maintaining social distances.
There will still be a natural urge for people to move out of homes if for nothing else than to have fresh air. Now that they don’t have cars, they will have to depend on public transports. The public transport will compulsorily maintain adequate social distance resulting in less crowding and in the process a shortage of vehicles.
This will mean requirement of more trains and buses and tempos and other such means of mass transport. Tempos in many cities like Kanpur, where I spent a part of my life as student, were known to carry up to 20 passengers against a seating capacity of probably 6-8. This again means more business for the auto makers and rail car makers, which they might not even be able to handle. Thus, our friendly rikshaw puller will also make a comeback. He can only carry two or at most three of a family – hopefully – I have seen entire families on such a single rikshaw in the past.
People will no longer flock to mandis or crowded vegetable shops; thus, these will have to come to people. The thelas carrying fresh fruits and vegetables will be now visible even in upmarket condominium complexes with the sweet strains of “taze fal le lo, tazi subziyan le lo,” floating in the air.
People love to occasionally eat meals, snacks and sweets not cooked in their own homes. The chef in the house also needs a break occasionally. This urge was taken care of through dining out or home deliveries in the earlier days. Both these modes may get outdated – one can never be safe enough. This will result in people in the local communities recognising the centres of food excellence within their own community and will love to order from these local chefs to indulge and will collect the food themselves. Maybe people may even open small local community restaurants in their own dining rooms.
So much of economic activity within the community will in time need capital to expand operations. A few enterprising ones in the community will then become the local money lenders, bringing back the lala jis and munshi jis of the earlier days.
The list seems endless and now I am tired of my own creativity. While some of the above can be safely handled by the Jack Mas or Bill Gates or our own Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, here is a big shout out to the potential investors out there for crowd funding for my very bankable, though crazy sounding ideas.
Oh yes, I forgot one thing. People will now be happier and content apart from being entrepreneurs. I for one will be definitely happy that I only have a common cold though there was once a virus which claimed many lives, which was eventually defeated by the combined will of the people to maintain a social distance and personal hygiene, in addition to all those tireless people from the medical sector, the police and volunteers who helped others in those difficult times without caring for their own well-being and comfort.
Three cheers to all these professions. I wish even I was one of them helping others.
Postscript: The aunty in the same newspaper in today’s edition replied that dogs can be taken out for walks for a limited time within the locality in response to query from another reader. Maybe it was a different Agony Aunt or maybe it was a Relief Uncle. Another profession to look at? It can be so easily done by a husband-wife team who always agree to disagree. Right?