Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 24, April 1-15, 2020
Those of us who experienced the 2015 floods thought we had seen enough for a lifetime. And then came cyclone Vardah. Now we are living through one of the most unusual situations – a city in lockdown to fight a virus, not for one day or two but for three whole weeks. The only consolation is that we are not alone – there is a whole world out there doing the same. And yet there are many who have probably never felt more alone than at a time like this. What are we going to do about them?
There was no option but to lockdown for social distancing and basic hygiene are the only ways in which we can handle this epidemic. And there could have been no other way than a total clampdown either. The affluent and the middle class, more particularly the young and healthy among them, or those with enough of a support framework are the least impacted. They stay at home and post their entertainment ideas and jokes on social media. There is nothing wrong with that – a society in lockdown needs its outlets to keep the spirits up.
The bigger problem is of those who are incapacitated, elderly, live alone or need caregivers. Still bigger is the challenge posed by the poor – depending on daily wages, living in crowded homes and neighbourhoods. The biggest issue concerns migrant labour – left high and dry, with no place to go to, no recourse to food and no means of travelling back to their home territory. What is the solution for each of these categories? This is where the State Government can become more inclusive and reach out to volunteers for help.
The Amma Canteens and the noon meal centres are all working at present. And according to those in the know, they are doing great work, the latter especially in reaching food to all the anganwadis that depend on this supply for children under their care. These facilities can be asked to handle larger quantum of food for distribution. Besides, there are factories now closed in the city, which have canteen facilties that can be used as well. What is missing is the distribution network to reach food to those who cannot make it to these locations. Can the Government reach out to a list of volunteers who are willing to take this on?
Even as the city is grappling with the lockdown, it is the officialdom that has to bear the full brunt of it and this includes interacting with the public and the media apart from handling logistics and providing support. While this may not be manifest to a larger public, it does pose a strain on the administrative machinery. This is where the absence of an elected corporation council is making itself felt. Had there been one in place, the task of fanning out relief measures and hearing people in distress would have been that much easier.
Well, Chief, it’s been a while, I know. What to do, as some people say. The whole world is reeling under the slings and arrows of unbelievably outrageous fortune and is completely preoccupied with taking arms… well, make those extremely well-scrubbed arms and hands against this particular sea of troubles.
Nature’s really gone and done it this time, Chief. It’s like having a Triple-XL-sized, well-muscled, extremely angry Headmistress standing over the globe, booming, “You had to learn the hard way, didn’t you?!” People are suffering, terrified…and being people, a whole bunch is being daft as well, causing law-enforcer-heads to throb with severe migraine. One distraught lawman went so far as to fold his hands in entreaty and literally beg people to please stay home.
Yesterday, I went to Chembur to stock up on coffee powder before somebody decides good old Ganapathi Stores is a global CV hotspot and proactively closes it for a month. BSTS, I thought – Better Safe Than Sorry!
A very enterprising Dharavi fellow – I *love* their ingenuity and business sense! – had hit upon a huge business opportunity in face masks. He had converted his stock of female undergarments into makeshift face masks, complete with adjustable straps, padding, underwiring and the works! I guess the workers had been busy stitching on faux Victoria’s Secret labels until the smart owner whacked them on the head and swore at them in Tamil (Arivuirukaada!).
It’s good to be home and be welcomed by a glorious sunrise. Today is the second day of my self-quarantine. We are all going through a dreadful situation right now which is beyond our control. I had to make a difficult choice a few days ago, whether to stay with son and family in New York or come back to Chennai where I live alone. I chose to return because I feel safer here.