This entire January I had been rigorously reading about COVID-19 on Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. At first, it seemed like a new epidemic that was identified in Wuhan, China, a far off place, that even a travel freak like myself would not ever be interested in visiting. A city locked down, thousands quarantined, a deadly outbreak with no antidote – didn’t effect my life. It was like the news on T.V., that we listen to every day, browsing through the different news channels. Ponder over, on the toilet seat, forming an opinion. Discussing with peers, as if it were the most important thing on earth. And finally, do nothing about it.
While most of my thoughts were occupied with the anti-CAA, NRC protests, revocation of Article 370 & 35(A) and the atrocities of fascism, a part of me wandered around the vigorously spreading Virus. The world now being better connected than ever, both virtually and conventionally, does have exceptional and enormous advantages. Like the omnipresent cosmic duality of masculine and feminine, sweating summers and shivering winters, the north-facing shade and the south-facing brightness, even connectivity has a notorious corrupt edge. While its digital edge kills with fake news, vendetta politics and communal hatred, the conventional one has engulfed more than half the planet with panic and fear of the newly discovered, highly contagious, fatal COVID-19. On 22nd March’20, the country observed a self imposed curfew from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. implored by the Prime Minister of India. The purpose being to break the canny chain of transmission of the pale and crafty COVID-19 virus. With the number of corona infected citizens rapidly increasing to almost 300 and 4 already dead, social distancing remained the only weapon we could win back the planet. The problem with my countrymen, more than poverty, illiteracy and population is an acute lack of understanding and self discipline. In this complementary, interconnected and interdependent community, there wasn’t a soul that wasn’t aware of social distancing, especially after the P.M. spoke about it, in his 8 p.m. announcement. Yes, in India we have these 8 p.m. announcements by Modiji, in which he addresses the nation. Owing to his paramount popularity, every Indian whether living abroad or in the remotest rural village in India, gets glued to the television set. That is why I can assure you that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the country is aware of the pandemic and it’s devastating ways.
On 24th March 2020, at 8 p.m., there was another apt, much required yet sudden announcement of a nationwide lockdown of 21 days to contain the spread of Covid-19. Though the move is much appreciated, I’m fearful, achieving the sort of distancing that countries like Italy and China have maintained will be challenging for India. Many of our citizens live in tightly packed slums in mega cities such as Mumbai and Delhi. Many of the countries poorest earn the money they need to buy food, the day they eat it. Also there are videos floating, of thousands of daily wagers stranded, walking the national highways, trying to reach home as they are out of work. There are kind hearted locals trying to help with fooding, to as many they can reach out. Certain states, like my very own, West Bengal have competent empathetic C.M.s like Mamta Banerjee, who have effectively arranged food and shelter for the poor rural workers stuck in the city. The lady has earned respect for sure. She has also converted a stadium into a quarantine centre preparing for the worst. Honestly, I’m happy to be a Bengali, at least by place of birth, if not by origin.
Amidst all the chaos, like all law abiding citizens, our family is happily quarantined. Family, here includes the legally wedded husband (who like a typical brave and protective Bollywood superhero, boarded the last flight to reach us before the lockdown), our seven year old daughter and my magnetic self. The beloved in-laws are at the farm. Even we had the option to leave the city and stay with them, but then flying there, meant vicariously exposing the mighty Dad-in-law to the virus. Which would have been very unsafe as he had a surgery and the couple is aged, though rainbow hearted.
Like I earlier stated, every positive aspect has a notorious negative node, the vice versa remains as veritable. A nation wide lockdown for 21 days meant
21 days of not stepping out of the house
21 days of household work for the urban middle class women, who are used to part time maids or full time domestic help. Here in India, household work is generally treated as an entirely women zone with few exceptions.
21 days of no partying
21 days of not doing much productive work, money wise
21 days of realising that some of us (excluding me) have no hobbies
21 days of being bored of T.V., discovering that it actually is an idiot-box.
21 days of non stop Netflix, Amazon Prime and ALTBalaji
# 21 days of Ramayana and Mahabharata, both at home and on T.V.
21 days of not shopping online as the deliveries are deferred
And above all,
21 long days of getting tired of staring at screens, looking for something apart from Facebook Twitter, Insta and of course WatsApp statuses of random people.
Well, to me it was
§ just 21 days to ponder what life is all about
§ just 21 days to my family with no intruders
§ just 21 days to write my heart out
§ just 21 days to slowly read a Murakami that I borrowed from my younger brother just a week ago
§ just 21 days to do the MOOCs
§ just 21 days to to decode the diet chart that Priya Agarwal had given me
§ just 21 days to sing all my favourite songs
§ just 21 days to teach myself how to design an online course
§ just 21 days to set goals and plan life for reaching the stars
§ just 21 days to wonder which instrument to learn next
§ just 21 days to treat my daughter’s tanned Indian skin and doll like hair with all kinds of kitchen remedies.
§ just 21 days to to be myself in my titter-tattered clothes, without being fashionably judged
§ just 21 days of self assessment and self procured philosophies flowing meticulously and almost uninterruptedly
Just 21 days that would vanish, gone with the whistling wind and I shall be, perhaps reluctantly or may be happily back to my normal super busy lifestyle. Acknowledging the blissful side of the lockdown, I decided to circumvent lethargy and jot down a lockdown routine for the daughter and myself.
…to be continued
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