No matter how bad the times are, what is it about us Indians that we somehow find a way to bring out our creative quirkiness for everything — whether it is coronavirus pandemic, Balakot or demonetisation. We just won’t let tough times keep us down. Through memes, songs, pop art campaigns or even food, Covid-19 has done the same with Indians.
The fun started with the ‘Go Corona Go’ chants and has now gone beyond what we could have imagined. From that Bengali sweet shop to Amitabh Bachchan to Gulzar to Bappi Lahiri – lockdown has let loose everybody’s imagination.
Sweet and salty ‘corona’
The coronavirus disease, which has killed more than one lakh people worldwide, has not killed the quirky imagination of Indians yet. That’s why a sweet shop in Kolkata came up with sweets shaped like the coronavirus — spikes and all. Think about it — people sitting in their homes to stay safe from the attack of the virus while savouring delicacies shaped like it.
One could see this as a symbol of victory over the virus — by ironically eating it. Someone went a step ahead and prepared a ‘corona pakoda’ too. Well of course, Indians need both varieties of ‘corona’ — sweet and salty.
A lyrical crisis
Music is an inseparable part of our culture and lifestyle and we love it. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a ‘corona bhent’ went viral. FYI, bhent is a form of devotional music that is sung in the praise of and as an offering to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Famous bhajan singer Narendra Chanchal is seen singing ‘kithon aaya corona’ (where have you come from, corona?) in a viral video while people groove during a jagrata (the night of bhajan singing).
In another video, women are singing “corona bhag ja, bharat mein tharo kaai kaam (go away corona, you are of no use here in India).” If coronavirus were an actual human being (with some self-respect), s/he would have left earth long ago because of all the mockery and humour.
In Kerala, 24 women doctors of S.K. Hospital performed a cover of devotional songs at their homes, to give a message of unity, and prayed for God to lead the way for the medical fraternity during the Covid-19 crisis.
How could Bollywood celebrities — the reason why we are so over the top — remain silent in these unique times? First was Big-B — Amitabh Bachchan — who penned down a four-liner to create awareness around Covid-19 and shared it on social media. “Kehu kahe kalunji peeso, kehu amla ras. Kehu kahe ghar mein baitho, hilo na tas-se-mas (somebody recommends grinding fennel flower, somebody asks us to drink gooseberry juice, while others say don’t move and stay home).”
Noted poet-lyricist-filmmaker Gulzar too shared his nazm written in his characteristic style urging people to stay home. “Waqt rehta nahi kahin tik kar, iski aadat bhi aadmi si hai, (time stays on its toes, just like human beings), aap ruk jaiye, yeh waqt bhi nikal jayega (you stop, this time will pass too),” he wrote.
But no one can top Bappi da.‘Disco King’ Bappi Lahiri too composed a melody to lift people’s spirits. “It’s a tough time…Let’s not forget that we are all together in corona, ” he sang.
Not just food and music, there are other ways in which people are channeling their creativity during the lockdown. Whether it is people dressed as Hanuman or Yamaraj to create awareness about the virus or painting roads with the ‘virus demons’, or ‘corona kavi sammelan’, (poet gatherings), people have left no creative medium.
One may argue if taking the virus in a light-hearted way and indulging in mockery when millions are going through their toughest times can be justified. I asked one of my friends, who wished me Vaisakhi and Noboborsho recently, if festivals or celebrations really hold any meaning during this time.
He said, “The war should not unnerve us. During the Second World War, every concert hall in London remained open to the public. Whenever there would be a respite from German bombing, the Londoners would rush to the music halls. Music helped them to preserve their calm in the face of abject devastation. Similarly, we should not forget to celebrate our festivals, even as we accost the direst crisis in memorable history.”
I would just leave it here.
Views are personal.