What exactly do people make of the coronavirus lockdown in India?

Image source: Pixabay.

What people think of the coronavirus-related lockdown is akin to what people think of wearing seat belts while driving a four wheeler or a helmet while driving a motorbike or a scooter.

More than a safety measure, it is a nuisance for them.

Most of the people wear a seat-belt or a helmet — at least in India — is because they don’t want to give a fine.

They don’t use a seat-belt or a helmet for safety because somehow, when they are on the road, being one with the wind, a strong sense of invincibility envelops their being.

They can conquer the world if not for the loutish policemen standing to put a spanner in their works.

Somewhat the same mentality is manifest during the coronavirus lockdown.

Most people are inside not because they are worried about getting infected.

They are inside because one, they don’t want to be beaten up by the policemen who have been gifted by an incontestable reason of the pandemic to beat up people, an activity they love to indulge in without a reason.

Two, they don’t want to be judged by the others. The hashtag Covidiots was trending on Twitter a few days ago, targeting those people who seem to be spreading the virus because they cannot stay put. Coming out on the road without a life-and-death reason, is becoming an embarrassing situation to be caught in.

The ability to move around during the lockdown has become a matter of haves and have-nots. People skip the lockdown, people even flaunt skipping the quarantine, to display their clout. I’m talking about the powerful or those who can buy power with money. The politicians, the bureaucrats and as it happened in the beginning days of the lockdown, some celebrities.

As far as it comes to the hoi polloi, deep down they think that things have been blown out of proportion.

A big reason is the lack of disturbing visuals.

In India people are not seeing dead bodies on the roads as it was being speculated in February-March through mathematical models raked up by some Western doctors and data scientists.

Even on TV news channels, although it can be seen that the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate, so far, the visuals of people thronging the hospitals or dying because of the virus are missing.

Even the constant glorification of “Corona Warriors” is puzzling to many. What exactly are they doing, people ask, since not many people are getting sick, and not many people are dying?

People are joking about who is in a red zone, who is in an orange zone and who is in a green zone.

Remember the visuals from China? Infected people were being hauled like street dogs, actually using poles with the ropes tied to their ends in the form of nooses.

You saw people randomly falling on the streets and dying.

In one gruesome video, a woman dies on the pavement because the policemen roughly handle her while trying to take her away.

In America they are showing that they have run out of burial places. They show that the biggest church in America has been turned into a hospital. There are long lines of people waiting for food.

No such visuals in India.

All you see is, people breaking the lockdown and making merry.

You see people chasing and stoning health workers. You see people beating up policemen, doctors and nurses, and sometimes the opposite. You see markets doing brisk business during festivals while journalists crying hoarse expressing rage and helplessness.

These visuals give a sense of normalcy to the citizens.

The air has become clean. People have had more time to stay at home and connect with their families.

Even the poor who have been uprooted and rendered jobless, are quite disenchanted towards the seriousness of the epidemic unfolding in the world.

Hence, they think that the lockdown is a nuisance.

They also resent the fact that a certain community gets to show the middle finger to the government’s call for the lockdown whereas, they are having to live under it.

The moot point is, the moment there is some relaxation in the lockdown, they are raring to unleash themselves upon the world.

They are asking whether the liquor shops are going to open (they are in fact opening).

Some are asking whether they will be able to call their maids now.

Some are already preparing to send their kids to schools.

Some diehard pizza aficionados got themselves infected the moment pizza delivery commenced and some are eagerly looking forward to splurging on their favorite unhealthy fast foods.

Basically, most people are under lockdown because, well, there is a lockdown.

They are not overly worried about getting infected.

People are more worried about what sort of permit they are going to have to get to go about their activities rather than how they can make sure that they are not infected when they are outside and how they don’t bring the infection home to their kids.

Some are even suggesting that let the world get on its feet and let those who are vulnerable get infected and be done with that.

Their hypothesis is that we should pass through the pandemic with brute force instead of remaining locked down. Let people get infected. Let them die if push comes to shove.

In India people don’t even think that they’re going to get infected and die (who in his or her right mind wants to die or spend a fortnight in a hospital?). They are in their own blissful reverie.

Just as they think that they are not going to get killed by not wearing helmets and seat belts and by taking innocuously wrong turns on the wrong sides of the roads, they think that they’re not going to get infected.

They are too smart. They are solidly healthy. They are the reigning queens and kings of the Lala land.

Important facts like the entire world has been brought to a grinding halt simply don’t register.

At the time of writing this, 65,000 people have died due to the coronavirus in the US alone, with more than a million infected. In Spain more than 24,000 have died with 213,000+ active coronavirus cases. Italy, where the outbreak exploded initially with its greatest intensity outside of China, has lost more than 28,000 people with 200,000+ active cases right now (source).

A conservative estimate of the loss to the world economics is being pegged at $ 1 trillion, according to World Economic Forum (source).

In India, the effect of the outbreak hasn’t been as devastating as feared, at least in terms of the number of people infected and the number of the dead. The cremation grounds are not overbooked. The graveyards are not being overrun.

Since the lockdown has pretty much succeeded in containing the outbreak, people have begun to think that things are not as dangerous as they are being made out to be and hence, at this point the lockdown is an overkill.

Due to primarily a rural economy and our traditional dependence on neighborhood shops, even in terms of the economy, we are not as severely hit as other countries.

Hence this non-nonchalance.

There is a famous saying in India, “dekh kar makkhi nahi nigli jaa sakti” — you cannot swallow a fly knowingly.

The proverbial fly is missing so far. At least, people cannot see it. There is a swarm of flies. People cannot see them. People cannot even hear the buzz.

Whether people realize it or not, whether they accept it or not, our reality is transformed.

It’s not about lockdown. If you don’t want to remain in the lockdown, as recent events have revealed, you cannot be held back.

Ultimately it’s about your interaction with the virus or with the person carrying the virus.

When you get infected, you don’t know how your body is going to react. Every passing day scientists are discovering new, and more alarming, facts about what effect the coronavirus has on the body and how long it survives in various environments and on different surfaces.

You may have just the simple cold and cough. You may get sick enough to be admitted in hospital. You can be paralyzed. All of your organs may fail and you may die. Young people infected by the coronavirus are dying of strokes (source and source). Cytokine storms can make people suddenly drop dead (source).

An assistant professor at the University of Washington who works in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, looked at patients who had the virus for about a week and even appeared to be feeling better and then suddenly crashed. Patterns showed that the crash usually happens seven days into the virus and can occur in COVID-19 patients that didn’t seem that bad and are often young and healthy. The crash is now being attributed to cytokine storms.

As the days progress, new symptoms and after-effects are exasperating the doctors. This report says:

The pathogenesis is not clear yet. We are observing brain inflammation in a subset of patients, and in those we are seeing agitation and a change in behaviour or personality. That’s really interesting, and there are reports coming from elsewhere of some people, including younger patients, suffering stroke. It’s unclear whether the virus is infecting the lining cells of blood vessels in the brain, or whether the patient’s blood is excessively prone to clotting because of all the inflammation, leading to stroke.

An electron microscope image showing spherical particles of the novel coronavirus

Even if none of the above happen, you may simply carry the virus with you, transferring it to your family members, your colleagues, your neighbors, your relatives, your pet, and the people you are having extramarital affairs with.

It’s a chance. It’s up to you whether you want to take it or not.

My intention here is not to sound alarmist and paint a picture of no hope. My only point is, whether there is a lockdown or not, or when you are going to be able to eat in a restaurant, should be the least of your worries.

Your primary worry should be, if there is a chance of you getting infected, if there is a chance of your family members getting infected, especially the children and the elderly, how eager are you to resume your “normal activities”?

When the lockdown started in India, there were probably 1–2 coronavirus cases in India. After 55+ days of lockdown, at the time of writing this, there are 37,700+ confirmed coronavirus cases in India with 1200+ deaths.

The chances of you catching the virus are more now than they were in the beginning of the lockdown.

The lockdown is not your problem. The virus is.

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?