Thursday, April 09, 2020

A lockdown letter from where I am


My eyes barely left my phone screen. It was like being in a tunnel where the roof has fallen in, our collective hands bloodied from trying to dig out despite a lack of tools. All tunnels have ends, of course. Perhaps it will be three months, not three weeks. Or three years. Everyone says to brace yourself. On the other end of the tunnel could be a mess of an economy and millions of starving people with low immunity. And who knows what the spring harvest was like? How much were farmers able to store? Was the government able to procure enough grain?

It became impossible to read or write about anything outside of this. My mind turned circles around words like decency. Dignity. Equality. It returned to warm spots of memory—places blue and burnt sienna, sprawling libraries. It also sprang towards terrifying stories of famine from the last century.

For some reason, I also kept returning to the image of a maze: the Bhoolbhulaiya in Lucknow’s Bada Imambara. It is full of sunlight glancing off honey-tinted stone walls. People must have had a taste for perplexity back in the day. Perplexity can be charming, unlike the grim certitudes of a tunnel. Not everyone makes it out though. I caught myself thinking of a chakravyuh—a military formation whereby you are encircled and trapped. With surveillance and restricted mobility becoming acceptable in the name of public health, was this the beginning of something more dangerous, more discriminatory than a virus?

Read the full text here: 
https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/04/08/letter-from-mumbai-covid-19-coronavirus/ideas/essay/

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