What could be more French than choosing the perfect baguette, or the long lunch in a Parisian café? It’s the kiss – a kiss (sometimes more) on each cheek with which the French have greeted their friends and relatives for centuries. Until the arrival of the new coronavirus. Around the world, Covid-19 has not only killed millions and flattened economies, it has also stranded people on self-isolating islands. It turned the little rituals of conviviality – the hug and handshake, the little chat with strangers, and the community feast – into deadly dangers. In France, the kiss, a sign of affection and even of brotherhood, has become a victim of the pandemic.
The vaccine turns out to be a kiss of life. With more than 70% of the French population now vaccinated, the French are coming back to kiss and greet. Even President Emmanuel Macron, who had urged his compatriots to restrain their instinct to shake hands or kiss at the height of the pandemic, has been seen tossing an aerial kiss or two. In India, where social hierarchies make it difficult to touch and where universal vaccination seems remote, all this turmoil must appear to be a first world problem. We’ve found a way to restore our social life – whether it’s the add-on to the tearoom or the leisurely stroll through fish markets or revenge tourism at hill stations – armed with nothing more than complacency. dangerous and a mask on the chin.
But it turns out that, like all habits shattered by Covid-19, turning back the clock is not easy. Who is to blame if some French people shudder at viral loads and exposure when pulled into the wind? However, if the muah-muah is back, can our old lives be far behind?
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 30, 2021 under the title “Kiss of life”.