But Indians in Unlock 1.0 seem to be proving that change in our behaviour or interaction, if any, won’t only be temporary but also limited to controlled environments. Any innate change in the way we conduct ourselves in public spaces can be ruled out.
This coronavirus pandemic is, after all, a transitory phase and the collective experience will be safely stored as a ‘long-term scary memory’ in our minds to spin tales about for the future generation.
As India’s coronavirus cases rise rapidly — more than 1 lakh positive cases were registered in the past 10 days — the coronavirus is already beginning to look like a long-forgotten memory in the minds of an average Indian.
Social distancing who?
Even before the lockdown was first announced on 24 March, there have been repeated reminders in various media to practice physical distancing — including through ads and prompts before phone calls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had raised it in his nationwide addresses — but everything seems to have failed to make a dent on our sensibilities.
It was evident from the beginning that the average Indian doesn’t give two hoots about social distancing norms. We made good use of every opportunity to huddle up since day 1 — case in point, the processions during the taali-thaali campaign on Janata curfew.
Today, we’re flocking melas, mandirs and markets without a care in the world, our masks just about covering our mouth while letting our noses breathe freely. Apparently, it’s also time to reclaim our turf the way we have taken back Marine Drive from dolphins in Mumbai. The good old jog in sea breeze is much more important than contracting some invisible virus that has wreaked havoc all over the world.
Marine drive this morning 🤦 pic.twitter.com/vmFF17AujJ
— Arjun.. (@iamZoomie) June 7, 2020
Physical distancing in narrow gullies of cramped houses wasn’t possible to begin with. Robbed of livelihood and forced to walk to reach their hometowns, India’s labourers from the beginning of the lockdown couldn’t prescribe to this virtue anyway.
But the crowd violating the norms right now can certainly do better but people just don’t seem to care anymore. For many, the frustration of the long lockdown exceeds the imminent danger of contracting Covid-19 at a time hospitals in the country are overwhelmed. As long as they can have chuski while doing some good old footpath shopping, nothing really matters.
And is there anything to be afraid of? After all, the Modi government has strictly maintained there is no community transmission. So why should green, yellow or red zoned privileged folk give a damn? Just chant ‘All izz well’ over and over and the coronavirus won’t touch you.
The fear of contracting Covid-19 seemed much more real in the beginning of the lockdown, and PM Modi would address Indians frequently. Remember ‘jaan hai toh jahaan hai?’ Where is he now? In his absence (from TV screens), people seem to have forgotten this turn of phrase. Is the situation not serious anymore? Because if it were, PM Modi would have addressed the nation at least once in the past month.
But the situation is indeed quite tense. There are numerous reports of people dying because hospitals are refusing to admit them, because, among other things, they are running out of beds. Private hospitals seem to be exploiting this opportunity to make more money and the courts have refused to intervene.
Shockingly, the warmth created during the nationwide mombatti jalao campaign or the noise created on the Amavasya of taali–thaali failed to kill the coronavirus, as is clear by now. But not so shockingly, few have learnt any lesson. People, still seemingly optimistic about ‘winning’ the coronavirus war, go about their day, waiting for another masterstroke.
Views are personal.