The news that night curfew will continue till May 31 hit men very hard, but for a majority life continues as usual. “Bhai [brother], this coronavirus is a curse. Life has become hell on earth for me,” said Amjad Mian (fake name), speaking to a reporter, and who did not wish to be identified because of safety issues (his safety).
“Every day after night prayers, my wife sets up the table and opens the Ludo board and we play this silly game till dawn. She always wins. Then her mother calls and I have to listen to the whole maddening conversation while my wife rolls the dice.”
“May God never curse anyone to a life like this,” he said, his eyes turning moist as he recounts his misery. But Amjad believes that there are others whose lives are even much worse, his neighbour’s life for instance.
India’s lockdown 4.0 continues until May 31, and the night curfew from 7pm to 7am will remain in place. People over 60 years of age are not allowed to be out in the open now
“Pasha Musbooth next door, is suffering even more than me,” says Amjad. From the courtyard of his home he says he can hear the former Mr Hyderabad, playing carrom with his wife and teenage daughter.
“I think he is losing muscle and his mind. He can’t go to the gym and he can’t get a dozen chicken legs for his breakfast, then his wife and daughter never let him forget that he was beaten [at carrom] with both of them striking with their left hands, though they are right handed.”
(For those who do not know what carrom is, it is a board game and its rules are similar to pool, snooker or billiards, but without the cues, and you strike with a small, round plastic, well, striker).
Life before coronavirus
Amjad remembers life before coronavirus. He breaks into Urdu poetry and the words subtly come into play, involving his liver, his heart and Hyderabadi ‘chai’ and the last drag of his Charminar cigarette.
“Ghafoor and I would sit at Abid’s Restaurant and discuss life over a cup of tea. Sometimes we would order salty maska [butter] biscuits and talk till it was time for the evening prayers,” said Amjad.
He says the “wretched” virus has turned his life topsy-turvy. “I now speak with my wife God bless her soul) for hours. I had never ever spoken to her so much in my life.”
But Amjad’s wife [Reporter’s note: Amjad never mentions his wife’s name and speaks about her only as ‘my homemaker’] never stopped him from going out in the evening, unlike Pasha Sahab’s wife who had put a curfew on him (even before coronavirus) and he now conducts his real estate business from home.
Amjad said Pasha’s ‘feminist’ teenage daughter taunts her father, in English: “Who is the toughie now, she mocks him, and speaks with an accent like Swara Bhaskar’s [actor and activist],” he said.
India’s lockdown 4.0 continues until May 31, and the night curfew from 7pm to 7am will remain in place. Not only has it ruined the mental balance of many men, but to add insult to injury, people over 60 years of age are not allowed to be out in the open now.
Amjad said his father, who is 82 and who would ride a cycle to the market earlier to buy mangoes and red chillies, now just sits and watches TV debates the whole day. “I am afraid he will die of a heart attack and we might have to bury him in the empty lot next door, in the night,” he said.
“We are living in strange times,” said Amjad, and quickly but politely said his goodbyes as a shrill voice in the next room called out for him: “Curfew”, it said.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi