Love, Life and Lock-down in the times of Corona.
On day one, the kids were jubilant – “I am working from home” – they flooded the social media, even as they transported themselves to some la-la land where they wear Bermudas and drink beer as they key in on their laptops, alternating between you-tube videos and tick-tock snippets. Life in new India, I was told, is better than it is “back-in the states” and Corona was not even a blip in the horizon of hippie happiness.
Then came day two and things got even better, as them, India’s demographic dividend, joined the bovine-refuse-drinking un-dead, to clap and bang utensils – ostensibly cheering the essential medical service providers, but mostly, blissfully unaware as to why they were doing what they were doing. Some were even of the opinion that the commotion that was created was actually enough to scare the dreaded Chinese virus away. New, improved India, I was told, was drawing on her five-thousand-year-old “scientific” legacies. Let’s not get into the “scientific” hocus-pocus about Jupiter aligning with Saturn giving rise to a one in a million-year moment to exterminate the evil-eye’s curse – Corona. What really mattered was that WhatsApp was swamped with video clips of “the” sinister “dragon” being clapped away. Inebriated with the knowledge of vanquishing our enemy, we went to sleep. Yes, we had flashed our Red-eyes to the not-so-red commies. Faith had triumphed, again!
Day three was a kind of a dampener. Somehow, the lone voice of sanity that we are so used to lampooning, was becoming louder and the fact that the Nation was under complete lock-down began to sink in through the cow-dung with which we had refurbished our immunity systems. The stock market had, somewhere down the line, done a belly-up, which was a bit of an irritation, though the fact that we did not have enough testing kits for Corona, leave alone quarantine facilities to treat the ailing was not. Besides, we still had our faith and the “sentiments” were positive, said every broker who was smart enough to ignore the abject lack of fundamentals.
Now imagine an economy that is not in the pinkest of its health, being forced into a prolonged shut-down. Economists will tell you that prices of essential commodities will spiral as shops and markets down shutters, supply chains are disrupted and too many hungry mouths chase too few goods. And there will be baton wielding cops enforcing the curfew, ensuring that one stays locked up. But that really doesn’t concern the yuppie brigade that was so excited about either “working from home”, or was seen vehemently banging utensils from their sensitised (and sanitised) distances. That (read hunger and such other unromantic, pseudo-urban stuff) is for the poor, besides the “economists” are mostly with them, not us!
What lockout means to them, mostly DINKS (double income, no kids), is that they cannot swipe their cards and have home-made lasagne and paneer Sashimi (another oxymoron, but who cares?) in their 2BHK abodes in the sky. They cannot chill it out in the pub or have sleep-in’s with friends. They cannot taste “Real India” as they “rough it up” in their yuppie-mobiles in the countryside (in most cases just outside their walled-in apartment complexes). They cannot while away the blues, shopping in the multiplexes. Television (even 56-inch flat screen ones) they realise after one simple hour, is called the idiot’s box for a reason. And working in different time zones, they are forced to comprehend to their utter horror, actually has its benefits, which hits them with a ka-boom that lifts holy matrimony straight out of the stadium. Sharing twenty-four hours with your spouse, is, after all, a stress that not many in this jing-bang is used to suffering. Now multiply that by twenty-one days and you will know what “Working from Home” entails. Throw in a kid for good measure and the tantrums will be worse than Armageddon.
For the seamy underbelly of the economic miracle called India, the problems will be totally different as they (the economically challenged) maintain “social distance” crammed tighter than sardines in common places with overflowing sewers, infirm parents, relatives from the village and wailing kids. Accessing the basic amenities, a challenge on a normal day, will become even more difficult as the savings run out and the friendly-neighbourhood shopkeeper smilingly passes on the hush money paid to remain open and many such imaginary costs on to the hapless consumer as top-ups. With nothing else to do and with no money to spare on protection, can you imagine how deafeningly big the bang will be when the population explodes albeit post apocalypse?
But that will be at least a few months away. More immediate will be the fallout when the neighbourhood grocers run out of stock, the Corona virus bares its ugly fangs scaring away the excuse that we are calling our “response”, and the employers fail to make the payment for the work that you may or may not have done from home. Bills, my friends will still need to be paid and two square meals have to be arranged.
And we are not even a week into the lockdown.
I wish you well and hope that you guys wash your hands like Pontius Pilate did and take up a hobby to live through this rigmarole called life – may I suggest a fountain pen?