I was shopping in the market,
when they all flee,
Saying, “death by corona
will come to thee”
I stopped by my friend,
who would not see me
Saying, “We are quarantined,
My wife and me”
So, I sat down in a restaurant,
But they did not feed me
Saying, “ We are closed
Until further decree”
Alas, I reached home
& switched on T.V.
Watching lock down news
while the dead counts spree.
(The Coronatime has made me either creative or crazy!)
On the evening of 24th March, India announced a nationwide lock down starting midnight. Back then, I was on a vacation in India so the news brought some stress and worry. Domestic flights were shut. International flights cancelled. Theaters, restaurants, shopping malls, public transport and e-commerce were put to a grinding halt. My return to Amsterdam was suddenly unpredictable. All I could do was wait and watch, in hope that the normalcy would return soon.
That was the time when India had registered close to 300 corona cases and seven deaths. It was hardly comparable to the plight of Italy and Spain. So, I wondered if the lock down was due pandemic or panic.
As it turns out now, it does not matter which one it was, for either reason could have not have changed the outcome – The soaring number of deaths in this country.
There exists no right way to lock down a nation that has the second largest population in barely 2 percent of the world surface. In India, close to 64 million people (almost the size of Italy) live in slums. Mumbai hosts the largest slum of Asia which is so congested that no man can live in more than 2 sq mt space. It is the saturation like this that makes social distancing unrealistic. Hence, many people get infected and some die in spite of a lock down.
While some may die of Corona itself, many more die of its Collateral damage.It is estimated that more than 300 million workers (including landless laborers, self-employed and daily wage earners) are on the verge of losing their livelihood in India. This is owning to the lock down and the subsequent job losses. Most of these people, live hand to mouth and are unable to sustain on their meager savings. Government surpluses can help them buy rations but the surge in black markets keeps supplies out of reach. Cash subsidies can help them survive but since most don’t own a bank account, their fates remain unchanged.
Apart from above two, there also exists a third category of dead in this crisis – People who die in the name of God’. Religion is bigger than science in India. It is for this reason, amidst lock down, thousands gathered in mosques and temples and god knows how many other holy places. The paranoia following these incidents not only spread the pandemic and raised death counts but also queues riots after corona.
Over a month has passed now, watching this existential crisis in India. The country has now more than 70000 cases and close to 2000 deaths. (and numerous unaccounted Corona Causalities). All of this, in the period of lock down. It is not certain how and when the crisis will finally end. Neither can we rely on any predictions. It is also not certain how the country will look in the aftermath of crisis and how normal our lives would be. For all we can do now is – wait and watch, while this alters the course of our history.
© Copyright 2020. Megha Gupta. All rights reserved.