So far only four nights have gone under “lockdown”; another seventeen nights await such a passage. But the two of us, my wife and me, both senior citizens are already undergoing a sentence of lockdown till our very end. For the last so many months, especially after the two older siblings passed on, we have been under a lockdown of sorts. With nowhere to go, nothing to buy off the shelves we don’t even have to go shopping. Our vehicle sits on its four wheels in the complex most of the time. Virtually everything is home delivered. And, payments are made online. With Modi’s lockdown, therefore, our life has not changed one bit. We continue to stay at home and keep taking in the marvelous view of the Lake and the green hills beyond from our big and wide windows. The peaceful sight is enough of sustenance for us. Perhaps, it also helps us to keep COVID-19 at bay.
This is an unprecedented lockdown the like of which we had never experienced before. It is not like the blackouts during the wars or even like curfews during civic disturbances. The “Janta (people’s) Curfew” of Modi was bad enough. This is much worse – a country-wide lockdown, with no planes flying, no passenger trains running and no buses plying. Each district has become an island with only essential services running. Repeated advisories have been issued to people to stay at home. The government obviously does not want to allow here what happened in Italy, in England or in Spain or New York or California. This deadly virus, it seems, can be neutralized by only social dispersal of people. They have to quarantine themselves in their respective homes.
The civic authorities have a problem there. Oldies like us will willingly stay at home if everything of our needs is delivered to us. That, however, is not a template to be emulated by the young generation. With no work and, hopefully, a paid holiday for three weeks they want to enjoy it – not cooped up in the generally overcrowded houses but by biking around on the motorbikes on traffic-free roads or even walking on empty streets. They are giving a tough time to the law and order machinery.
Perhaps, it is impossible to keep more than a billion people confined to their homes. Television, that ubiquitous entertainer and a godsent for times like this when there is a massive clampdown and everything is at standstill, keeps one abreast of everyday happenings in the country. It is here that one sees every day by the hour how the cops are losing weight by trying to check those whom the current circumstances have made vagrants. There could be compelling reasons for them to be out on the streets in the times of a clampdown. Perhaps, their houses are too small for the family, maybe it is dark and dingy, or perhaps it lacks hygiene and sanitation. Or, perhaps, there is no place where they could hide and most probably there is no money salted away for buying provisions.
No wonder, as the TV screen shows, hundreds of people are marching down expressways in an effort to get back to their respective villages. Obviously, they feel that if they have to die of hunger or of COVID-19 it is far better to do so among the family in surroundings that are familiar and not in a strange city they have no stakes in. The concept of “social dispersal” that Modi was talking about the other day to prevent the spread of the contagion thus got a massive setback. Those who decided to leave their temporary homes or shacks couldn’t care less for high sounding concepts which they could hardly ever live by. For them, as for almost all of us, survival is more important and in times of difficulties nothing could be more comforting than the lap of the family. The governments, therefore, have swung into action and are providing succor to the hapless migrant labour, are arranging buses for these people to avoid the harrowing march of uncharted miles to their villages and travel in relative comfort of omnibuses – thus breaching their own decision of lockdown.
The newspapers that are available are full of COVID news. I am not able to get the Delhi editions of most papers as transport for them is just not available. What we get these days is locally printed ones of which only the Times of India is a national newspaper with multi-city editions. But even it missed the news of the wildlife bazaar that is run in China. It sells from pangolins to bats which appear to be farmed like poultry, and snakes, rodents, geckos, lizards, insects and what have you. China is where the wild animals are collected and then dispersed in the countries of South-East Asia. Our depleting numbers of pangolins apparently have been ending up in the stomachs of S-E Asians. One can only wish that after letting loose a pandemic China winds up the trade in exotic animals.
While deaths due to COVID and its new victims are in the papers every day the havoc caused by the pandemic is also being reported. The Bombay Stock Exchange had a steep fall from which is yet to fully recover. Its SENSEX 30 fell from above 40000 to 28000 and has only marginally recouped the losses. The essential commodities like vegetables, if easily, accessible are selling at jacked up prices. Indians like to profiteer in good times and bad – perhaps more during the bad times as people would hardly have any alternatives. By and large, it seems India is still better off as countries in Europe and the US are suffering far more than our people. Clearly, COVID – 19 is quite a leveler.
As I was running out of medicines we had to plan getting out of the house. We had not been able to replenish our monthly stock from the government dispensary. So we had to get them whatever might be the risks. This morning we did just that. We did not go to the government dispensary but bought medicines from chemists’ shop. They, being essential, have to be kept open. That is where the pharmacist told my wife that no curfew passes are being issued for local commutes; one needs a pass only when one wishes to go out of the district for good and valid reasons. We realized there was no curfew but only “lockdown”. Perhaps, that is what “containment” of COVID-19 is all about. Though there is no curfew one could not be on the streets without any valid reasons.