I have seen numerous channels of media exclaiming constantly the myriad ways in which the pandemic has been a massive inconvenience and bother to humankind all over the world, and in a similar vein I too had a gripe that cannot be held back any longer.
The Prime Minister didn’t need to come on the TV himself and tell me to stay home all for months at a glance, I thought to myself as he did. The lockdown was not a lifestyle change for me at all from how I had been living before, and unlike some people I was not going to let the gloom distract me from the fact that I was essentially on a state-sponsored vacation doing what I loved most in life: isolate myself in a room all day and binge some garbage constantly while being on a high horse about my service to humanity. Of course, I will be telling my children about my supreme sacrifices later in the day, but that’s another lifetime away.
The peace was broken two months later when in June my father decided we needed to get out of Hathua gaon, Bihar for a hot second and go back to our home in Santiniketan, which I am tired of explaining to people is a famous place. If it needs explaining, it isn’t famous, mom. My dad convinced me that the whole way was a green zone and the district magistrate would personally welcome us back home. There was no reply to my asking why he would do this. I was loaded into the car along with the luggage and some plates so that we’d not have to stop on the way for food, and we set off.
Immediately my disappointment was measurable. Social media had influenced me to think that the outside was a wasteland that looked right out of Fallout 4, what with all the wildfires, plagues, riots and Tik Toks being waged on humankind outside, I was actually quite excited to go on an expedition to this lawless land that was the outside. Especially considering we were setting off from Bihar, which in itself has a particular personality regardless of the weather, I was most deeply displeasured to note utmost respect and good behaviour from everyone we encountered on the road, from the check-post guards to the fuel attendants. Hassle me a little, gentlemen, these are not normal times!
If I expected the mood to change after we strode into Jharkhand, I was again to be proven wrong, as Jharkhand had in fact more infrastructure and people outside than when I had been there 4 months before. What a shame to be deprived of scenes that I could have described so eloquently to my grandchildren, of me literally traversing through a desolate ghost land akin to Chernobyl, but worse, and surviving unscathed with pure will and honour of the heart. Pssh, the only thing noticeable was when I saw a person not wearing a mask in a market.
With my day so far being spent in a stupor also because of the motion sickness of our car, we were stopped at the Bengal and Jharkhand border checkpoint. Ah, I thought, finally time for some action, a little hassling, a robust talking down about the perils of traveling in such perilous times in a manner that could have periled all of us. No, we were told to wear masks inside the car at the Jharkhand checkpoint, let go, and then 2 metres later told to remove them for identification at the Bengal checkpoint and given a happy wave bye.
Reaching home, the town’s police SP was indeed waiting for us, as I saw to great anticipation, but he was there to tell us the district had just been declared a red zone and we should stay home for 14 days, voluntarily of course. No danger otherwise. What a dud this lockdown has been.
At least I had soda after three months. However, I must let you know as my duty that even in these times Pepsi is no substitute for Coke.
Written by: Trayambak Chakravarty
Image Credits: Jan Buchczik