Anxiety and angst as Indians mark one month of lockdown

New Delhi: It has been a month. Of life slowing to a crawl, of going back to the basics, of recalibrating equations with family, friends and colleagues and waking up, as if from a dream, to the vast inequalities and commonalities that underlie Indian society.
India went under a lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus on March 25 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement the evening before. In the days since, 1.3 billion Indians, wealthy and poor, in the heartland and in distant corners, have faced up to the fear of a pandemic spreading across the globe.
No one was spared the anxiety of the lockdown, extended till May 3, that kept most of India behind closed doors, not corporate biggies in gilded mansions, not the middle class inside their homes and not part-time domestic workers in claustrophobic tenements.
That was the equaliser, but the inequalities also hit home almost immediately. As India went quiet and millions snuck into their homes to wait out the lockdown, migrant workers and daily wagers, stranded miles away from home, stared at an uncertain future without money, food or jobs.
Most middle and upper class families found it challenging to spend so much time with their immediate families, and many isolated without them spiralled into depression.
The journey of getting used to a new way of life – without domestic help, without the necessity of dressing up to step out and just staying cooped up indoors — has been out of the ordinary, equal parts good, bad and ugly.
According to Preeti Singh, clinical psychologist at Gurgaon’s Paras hospital, the lockdown has encouraged people to differentiate between a need and a want and helped them “prioritise their requirements”.
“It has helped people realise that one can survive with a minimalist lifestyle, and the futility of all the materialism that drives the world,” Singh told PTI.
From these 30 days — that will go down as one of life’s markers, an always-to-be-remembered month — emerged innovative ways of social interaction, celebrations and even mourning in keeping with the need for social distancing.
It has been an extraordinary time of looking inwards to rediscover reserves of strength and sometimes hidden talents, said many people. Chetna Beniwal, a customs inspector posted in Madurai and now with her parents in Gurgaon, said the lockdown has been an opportunity to discover the joy of simply talking with her family.
“Due to my work, I hardly get to visit home so I have actually been enjoying staying with my parents. I have realised that when you spend more time together, you get to know the small issues of the house,” the 28-year-old told PTI.
For some, the challenging part was to spend most of the day confined at home with a close relative, even if one hugely loved, be it parent, child or spouse.
“I am finding it hard to be around my father 24/7,” said Kolkata-based Indrani Paul.
“I have realised that staying within the walls of your own house can be as difficult as staying 10 hours in the office. It is as good as being under house arrest,” the 29-year-old said.
Families, however, have come closer too. Mahender Sahni, a Delhi-based plumber, was in his village in Bihar when the lockdown was announced. He hasn’t earned a rupee since March but said he has become closer to his sister, who has been helping him and his wife out with ration and food.
“She has been very kind to us,” the 56-year-old said. Jammu-based Kamla Devi, 71, said she is happy her sons can spend time with their children but the future of their restaurant and catering business fills her with anxiety. (PTI)

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