The year 2020 was the bleakest in my life. The pandemic named Covid-19 had started killing people all over the world when I turned 60 in April. The Prime Minister of India, whose ambition was to become the world’s Guru, was still confident that the “twenty-first century belongs to India.” He imposed lockdowns one after another on the nation. More people died on the roads of North India while walking home from their workplaces – walking hundreds of kilometres just because their ruler decided that “no one will move from where they are from this midnight.” The Prime Minister said he was requesting the nation. But he was as imperial as ever. More ruthless than the pandemic. He assured us that India was going to be the best country in the world under his leadership.
A special of package of INR 20 lakh crore was announced in May 2020 to make Atmanirbhar Bharat in Covid days. Cottage industry, home industry and MSME will benefit, the PM said. But only Gautam Adani seems to have benefited. All others stayed put in their homes, enfeebled by a microorganism.
I took classes online. Half the students were not attending. They were playing games online with their new smartphones bought by parents who were struggling to make both ends meet. The young ones were not mature enough to make appropriate use of their freedom. They were given grade certificates at the end of the year without any assessment. I wonder where they have reached today, three years later. How many of them are on the way to getting medical and other professional degrees?
The odour of sanitiser liquids wafts in the air as I recall the Covid days. Wherever we went, we ensured that we sanitised our hands with that odour. Our faces were masked. A real mask over the virtual ones which we were more accustomed to.
There were some policemen outside my house at the junction where two roads met each other. They put up a barricade on the road and stopped every vehicle to check movements during the protracted lockdown days when we were supposed to become atmanirbhar by sitting at home. On the very first day of the police watch, some policemen came to my house and demanded that I provide them with light at night. My brother and I together got the wires and bulbs required. Soon they, the policemen on duty, would be demanding tea and snacks from us. We learnt a lot of atmanirbharta in those days.
Cleopatra, our beloved cat, kittened achieving atmanirbharta in her own way. Brownie, Dessie and Denny began to fill the void created by the pandemic with their little pranks. No one came to adopt any of them because the police were always there right in front of my house. They, the police, were always hungry for something or the other like our governments.
Brownie and Dessie grew up and kittened multiple times. Cleopatra died of bleeding after her second parturition. Denny circumvented the police and went his way. Never to return. I wonder what happened to him.
Finally, after many months, when life returned to a semblance of normality in spite of the masks on people’s faces, the world was a different place altogether. Young students didn’t know how to behave in classrooms. Most of them didn’t know anything at all. The situation hasn’t improved much even to this day. I wish they had acquired at least the greed of our policemen and politicians. Absolute indifference is good for sages, not for young students.
Brownie and Dessie are going strong. They kitten every four months. Right now Dessie’s two kittens are just ten days old. The world goes on in spite of pandemics. But some mutation has taken place. The classrooms give me that impression too strongly. Brains have been transferred to artificial intelligence.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 454: Looking back at the Covid lockdowns, what do you think now? #CovidDays