OPN 200407 Flashlights-1586255427514
Indian army personnel light candles, on an exercise called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to switch off all lights of houses on April 5, at 9 PM for 9 minutes and just light candles, or mobile's flashlight, to mark the fight against Coronavirus, in Poonch Image Credit: ANI

“Am not waving my mobile torch on the balcony for nine minutes,” said my wife, exhausted just thinking about the event to bring the nation together against the coronavirus.

“It’s not like a concert where you wave your lighter or mobile flashlight,” I said. “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked everyone to stand on their balconies or at the front door of their homes and wave the mobile torch for nine minutes from 9pm.”

“It is supposed to unify the nation in these trying times,” I said.

I think Modi is conjuring up the forces of good to fight the forces of evil that have unleashed the deadly virus


“There is some deep, hidden meaning behind these two nines... He’s not doing this just because people are bored to death with the lockdown,” said my wife, which got me thinking and took me to Google.

My research unearthed the fact that the number nine is thought of as a mystical number and one that is also divine and has been associated with various religions since ancient times.

According to Wikipedia, nine is the natural number that follows eight and precedes the number 10. “I am getting into magical, mathematical territory,” I thought to myself.

As soon as Modi announced in his mysterious address to the nation to bring light to the nation to fight against the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic, memes and hilarious theories flooded the social media.

One jokester attached a picture of India shot from space, presumably by Nasa, showing the subcontinent all lit up joyfully as if it were Diwali, the festival of lights, being celebrated.

The opposition party (actually, there is no opposition party in the Indian Parliament as the ruling BJP party has bludgeoned its way into an absolute majority), obviously thought it was a terrible idea; all theatrics and showmanship, and no substance, while thousands of poor Indian migrant workers and those in the unorganised labour sector, are suffering under the weight of the unexpected countrywide lockdown, etc.

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The other reason my wife was vexed was that the lockdown had also locked away the housemaid, and now the housework had fallen on her shoulders, after she is done with Zooming with her pupils.

Incidentally, it is not just my wife, but the “lockdown without a plan” (as it is termed by detractors) has also affected the hundreds of thousands of working couples, where the working wives are now also doing housework and the husbands are lying on the couch.

(“I was told to stay inside my home, nothing was said about doing housework,” is the common plaint of the husbands or partners).

Bringing an audience together

Back to rock concerts, and long ago, whenever the band played a sad song or ballad, the lights on the stage were lowered, possibly to highlight the lead singer. (“Aha, now we know. Mr Modi wants all the attention of the nation on himself,” said my wife).

The shining of the mobile flashlights serves as a way of bringing an audience together with the performer, appreciating and asking for even more, said Google.

In Hinduism, the number nine represents karma (fate) and universal spiritual laws, said another online site. Nine symbolises love and spiritual awakening.

In Islam, Ramadan is the ninth month, when Muslims fast during the daylight hours and seek absolution. In Christianity, there are nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit that the followers are expected to have and the Fruit range from love, peace to goodness and self-control.

“I think Modiji is conjuring up the forces of good to fight the forces of evil that have unleashed the deadly virus,” I told my wife.

She looked at me strangely and went on to the balcony.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi