The human cost of coronavirus lockdown in India
The human cost of coronavirus lockdown in India Image Credit: Stock image

Thanks to technology, video and phone calls, WhatsApp, television and the like came to this writer’s rescue to know how the countrywide lockdown has impacted life in different social strata in Lucknow and elsewhere.

Collating information requires a physical survey but that was simply ruled out. The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered most journalists immobile, who are otherwise supposed to be in the thick of the action. So despite limitations, I noticed certain phenomena that were taking place for the first time making you exclaim, ‘Wow’.

After all, the virus was unknown and gripped almost the whole world by surprise. Till date more than 2,70,000 people have perished globally due to COVID-19, with upwards of 3.8 million infected. Hospitals have been overwhelmed in developed nations, while travel and business around the world has come to a grinding halt.

Here in India, the lockdown continues. Most people find it hard to idle time away. It is bad manners to peep into your neighbour’s house from your balcony but when you are in isolation in your own dwelling, you unintentionally get roaming eyes.

You cannot cut corners. When you are eye to eye with your neighbour, you pretend that you were looking out to greet him. That would end the matter there with smiles.

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One morning, I noticed a 70-year old who had headed a huge department, stealthily sweeping and then cleaning the floor. Like elsewhere, his cook and the house help had also been locked down. His aged wife has her own quota of domestic chores to manage and which was too cumbersome for her. Their offspring are working abroad where they are also in lockdown.

Seemingly, the retired bureaucrat first tried to steal the glance but realising that all of us are in the same boat, brought a smile on his face. I wished him, asking, “How are you?”

“I am fine,” he replied. Then he shot back, “How are you?” My reply was, “I am ALSO fine’’, with an emphasis on the ‘also’. Both of us had a hearty laugh.

Another senior citizen holding a walking stick was staggering towards a milk vendor waiting outside the compound. His son and daughter are away working in Bangalore and Chennai. Their aged parents need them most in this hour of crisis. But they are themselves holed up. Video calls are keeping morale high on both sides.

What surprised me most was a young resident with a Zero haircut. With all the salons shut, where did he get it?

“Uncle, I have a barber in my house – my spouse! I do not have a trimmer so she did it with an ordinary pair of scissors,” he replied with gusto. Another occasion for twin laughter.

And there are some who are perforce growing their beards because with markets closed, they don’t have shavers. So many Bollywood stars are going the same way so why cannot we?

I cannot reach them but I hear that our poor domestic helps are languishing in their dingy accommodation with the scorching sun roasting them from above.

No less pitiable is the plight of stray animals that are also going without food. They are not getting the scraps anymore. People are saving every grain of food as precious pearls for the uncertain morrow. Stray dogs are lying cuddled up because there are no automobiles to chase and bark at.

Compounded by the day temperature, the pandemic-related hardships are making people lose their cool and mental peace. The trauma is driving many into depression. Yet, they are confident of coming out of the mire someday.

— Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.