In India, billions are in lockdown. The great metropolises of Delhi and Kolkata have, overnight, given up their extraordinary street-life to a national effort to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Mala Mukherjee observed her country's progress from normality to isolation, day by day, and along with those around her found space for a little fun.
I live in New Delhi, the National Capital of India, for work purposes, but I came to my hometown, Kolkata in the east of India, on urgent personal business the week before announcing the lockdown.
I came here on 13th March, but at that time domestic passengers were not going through thermal screening. People were using masks voluntarily. I spent the weekend in Kolkata and everything was normal. I had worked on Monday, it was done smoothly and on that day a rumour spread that a young man from London came on Sunday and that he had tested Corona-positive.
Kolkata traffic. Photo by Alfie Temple Stroud
The disease spread in other cities as well. On Friday, The Prime Minister asked for a one-day trial lockdown or 'Janata Curfew' and from today we are in complete lockdown. We are using mobile data, there is a TV, but no latest serial episodes. There is panic buying: we are having trouble getting vegetables, and especially drinking water.
My office in Delhi is also closed, and I cannot enter there before 31st March, but Kolkata only has a lockdown up to 27th March. We are watching movies, chatting with friends on phones and spending holiday leave.
Yesterday though, we had fun. We clapped and rang bells to thank the medical personnel. Some people made processions as well. Though it was a foolish act, it was fun.