We know not whether the person before us is sporting a smile or a smirk and whether there is appreciation or disdain. As we strain our ears to listen to muffled speech emerging from masks, we realize that this predicament is mutual. Yes, the pandemic and the masks covering the ‘emotion-revealing’ portion of our face have made life difficult. We are now forced to look into people’s eyes to decipher emotion with the “look me in the eye” type remonstrations from our growing years coming back with alacrity. This phase reminds me of a spiritual course that I attended where people seated in groups of two were asked to look into each other’s eyes for a specific duration. Some of them broke into tears at the profound emotions opened up through silent “eye gazing” which is supposed to be a process of cleansing. It is another matter that their benign eyes become malignant when they are in the normal world far removed from places spilling over with positive vibrations. Eye gazing and visible masks apart, the pandemic has increased interest in the invisible masks that we all wear in response to people and situations depending on our equations with them. The real person hidden behind multiple masks remains unknown to the world that thinks he /she is the mask.

 We cannot obviously afford to be open books in our worldly dealings wearing multiple masks whether we like it or not. This is an unwritten rule in societies that are overwhelmingly judgmental. Gripped by fear of non-acceptance very few of us have the courage to be who we are and show our real face to the world. It doesn’t occur to us that we can be frank without being hurtful and express our opinion in a guarded manner to avoid conflict.  When we stop giving others the power to judge us and drop the burden of expectations, we no longer need masks. Our invisible masks will then be required only in potentially dangerous situations akin to the pandemic. Right now, our visible masks have a time frame and will be taken off when we are certain that the world is free from the grip of the virus. Invisible, inscrutable masks will go only when we evolve as individuals and reassess our priorities in the wake of the pandemic.