Update: As of now, confirmed corona cases in India crossed 150 with two dead.
Chennaiites continue to go out and shop and socialize in restaurants not heeding to round-the-clock warnings by government in tv channels and in phone messages advising the public to maintain social distancing to discourage the spread of Covid 19 in India. All the medical advice seems to fall on deaf ears. God knows what is in store for India in the coming weeks. Well, by the way our temples are still functional drawing devotees by hordes who are undeterred by the corona virus. You simply cannot reason with these people. A friend is determined to visit Tirupathi saying, ‘if it has to happen, it will happen!’
However schools (except for board exam candidates) and universities and anganwadis (creches run by municipal authorities) remain closed. Also all fitness centers, swimming pools, clubs. Most IT staff work from home and banks are encouraged to deal with clients online or via phone. Man-to-man contact is tried to be kept minimum. There was a media report claiming that the vegetable and the fruit wholesale markets of the city are shut. Not sure how far this is true as there is no news in local tv channel confirming the same. Petty hawkers and small traders are already hit, no doubt, but what to do.
Crowds are milling as ever at T. Nagar, the middle-class shopping district of the metro , and Saravana Stores is doing brisk business in their nine floors saying, the ban is applicable only to malls and cinemas and not to smaller establishments like proprietary stores. Trains and buses are full as usual. I finished my fifteen day grocery shopping yesterday and stocked my fridge to full capacity. I missed getting only long life milk as I have fresh regular supply at doorstep. Other than that, I am fully equipped for even a one month complete social distancing and house arrest, should need arise. Last noon, I shopped only for most essential items and topped up my medical supplies from pharmacists. Still, I could not find a single face mask N95 for protection on leaving home. I did with a chemist, but he quoted an exorbitant price so I ordered the same online. Same for hand sanitizer so I got handwash instead.
The fate of my nation and my state and my city have me worried. I don’t want to panic but it is impossible not to think about this when there is so much of ignorance even among the educated here. Government should penalize the private showrooms selling textiles and merchandise like in T Nagar, Anna Nagar etc., who do not have a concern for the greatest catastrophe that is waiting to strike India if we don’t stay alert. Profiteering even at trying times like these. If the system collapses, none of us stands a chance but who cares.
I would like my government to enforce rules and regulations more severely and strictly, restricting movements.
I understand that with a population of 1.3 billion, India’s medical facilities are already on the verge of being stretched to full capacity. I am told, testing is done on priority basis only because the testing kits and supplies are also limited. No use in blaming the government that is increasing production of masks, sanitizers, testing kits, antibiotics, everything, all at the same time. Hats off to our medical fraternity who are working twenty four hours nonstop and to Modi government and our respective state governments for all that they are doing in their capacity to keep the nation going. God be with you!
My only visitor is my housemaid who lives in my next street. I have educated her on sanitizing. Her two college going kids are home and her labourer husband has to still find a job everyday, so that is precisely India’s problem. The lower middle-class. Daily wage earners. Most of them have to necessarily work every single day to earn the bread for their family. I tried to convince my autowallah to take a break yesterday but he refused. At last he obliged and came to a compromise saying that he would tie a cloth towel over his mouth. He has to necessarily work from morning 8 to evening 8 to keep his kitchen fires going. I can understand his situation perfectly but there is no way I could drill into him the precarious nature and condition of Covid 19. As every other Indian citizen/Chennaiite, my automan believes the corona virus will bypass him or he would survive it anyway even if it strikes. To him, it is like any other flu. He can’t understand what the fuss is all about.
Under these circumstances, all I can do is only pray. Pray, pray and pray.