Today’s update, or well, yesterday’s, comes a bit late. Sunday, 22nd of March will be remembered by the Indians who witnessed it forever.
To start of with, let me explain to you what the day was supposed to look like. It was a self quarantine asked for by the central government (Prime Minister Modi) spanning from 7h00 (7am) IST to 21h00 (9pm) IST. A small dalliance would be at 17h00 (5pm IST) where all citizens were asked to clap, ring bells or sound conches to thank the tireless foot soldiers – everyday workers, owners of grocery shops, doctors, nurses and volunteers. All the people that are fighting against the virus.
There was not much of a difference in my day per se. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more and more acclimatized to my daily routine. In addition to the sweeping and mopping of my room and the attached bathroom, I disinfected the clothes and washed them, spreading them out to dry in the sunlight that graces my room.
I also signed up for a course on Coursera to better my French. Hopefully, it can keep me busy while I count down my days in self quarantine.
I played online games, read a few short stories online, followed the news and had a quiet restful day.
At 5pm, I was on video call with my dad (we’re in the same house but no one is allowed into my room) when I heard the sound of bells ringing. I realised what was happening, and almost immediately we ended the call and started to clap, my mom ringing the bell she uses for prayer.
I don’t think I can explain what it felt like to hear the bells and the applause after a day of empty streets, no sound and an apocalyptic feeling creeping up on us as our vibrant city was deserted.
The heart wrenching feeling of togetherness, the surreal sound of the bells merged with trembling hearts as we stood alongside each other, proverbially. We do not need to hug, shake hands or visit to signal togetherness, I learnt that yesterday.
The bells signified solidarity, a billion people ringing bells, clanging vessels and clapping until they couldn’t feel their palms anymore – it reminded us of a very important factor.
We are not alone.
Each one of us has had to maintain social distancing, but it doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned each other. Simply because we no longer meet up at restaurants and bars does not imply that we are drifting apart. Each of us is consciously choosing to protect ourselves.
As an Indian, the inclusivity and warmth of our culture is something I have been immensely proud of, on March 22nd, we stood strong again.
The happiness was dampened a little when we found out that some people had flocked to the streets for this action, which was against the very concept of the curfew. I urge people to stay indoors, India cannot combat a pandemic the likes of which I have seen in France.
India’s battle is far from over, as announced later, multiple districts and entire states have gone into lockdown and Section 144 – which dictates that not more than 5 people are to be seen together at any time was implemented.
It is important to note that India, and specifically Mumbai’s lifeline is the public transport system. For the first time in my 25 years it has been almost completely shut down. It is a reminder of the grim and bloody war that we are yet to face – the likes of which most of us have never even fathomed.
We cannot afford to lose hope, we cannot afford to be weak. We cannot afford people loitering on the streets spreading this deadly virus to unsuspecting individuals. We cannot afford to fail right now, because if we do, we fail ourselves.
1.25 billion people clapped, rang the bells and blew conches yesterday. Let that be our battle cry and instead of heading out to war, this time, we fight the battle from within.
Stay safe, stay indoors. Jai Hind.