The way that India embraced lock down was quite intriguing. While there were protests about locking down elsewhere in the world, the generally undisciplined and risk embracing population in India successfully implemented one of the strictest lock down. What really happened? Was it fear? If that was the case, it is hard to reconcile with the complete disregard for life and safety that the population displays on the roads everyday or the way good street food is pursued and taste regularly triumphs over hygiene concerns. So what’s going on here?
The clues lie in some of the spontaneous behaviours and safety practices that we see all around us. People were told to wear masks and keep a physical distance but who told them to reduce intake of meats, eggs and outside food, even when affordability and availability were not in the equation. Certainly, you need to wash or sanitize your hands but why are shoes and feet being sanitized? We are certainly exceeding the brief. Even more telling is the fact that there is little protest and push back or lamenting in personal conversations about staying at home, doing without maids, not going out after 9 pm, weekend curfews, restaurants open but not serving alcohol, not spending on fashion and a host of other things that they wouldn’t imagine doing without four months back. Re imposition of lockdown is not met with much protest and in many quarters fairly welcomed and enjoys popular support.
We seem to embrace and almost welcome the austerity and hardship that lockdown life has imposed on us. We don’t feel deprived or at least don’t dare say that aloud. The simplicity of the stay at home COVID induced lifestyle has all the ingredients that make for a spiritually uplifting lifestyle. We stay at home in close proximity with our family members without even the legitimate escapes to work. There hasn’t been a bigger celebration of the great Indian family since Sooraj Barjatiya and Hum apke hain kaun. The only human contact that most people have had in the last few months is strictly family. And millennials and others for whom friends were the new family, have had fairly isolated lives. It is quite amazing that whatever we heard growing up is coming true. We were told that in the final analysis it is only family that counts.
The other thing that we heard was that fashion was flaky and going to beauty salons was vain and wearing make up was a corruption best reserved for showbiz. And now voila! We are mostly wearing ghar ke kapde. Dressing up on a regular basis and shopping for clothes the year round is a thing of the past. Mostly we don’t venture beyond the neighbourhood or step out only for functional or transactional reasons. Formal clothes or even basic make up seems excessive. Tracks or jeans and t shirt will do. You rarely see anyone dressed up on the street. Ordinary people dress ordinarily now. Our little tryst with fashion where we were beginning to get fairly proficient has been rolled back. The Coach handbag acquired on a trip abroad seems a little excessive and redundant. Handbags themselves are beginning to feel like relics.
We were always told that mornings were for exercising in the open, preferably barefoot to feel the grass and connect with nature. This would not only keep us healthy but raise our spiritual quotient as we did our suryanamaskars while facing the rising sun. We are back on the path of goodness. Our walks in the mall have been replaced by a regular walk in the park and the heat ensures that we catch the early morning rays of the sun. Going to the park as a form of outing or entertainment had begun to seem like an anachronism before the lockdown. It won’t be long before we dust our plastic picnic sets and go for picnics on Sunday because quick weekend getaways are being frowned upon by all neighbouring states.
Hanging out at the bars after work and clubbing are now part of the lifestyle of the decadent west, where even during the lockdown you could buy alcohol as part of the grocery shopping. Not here. We have had a chance to mend our ways. We are not even loitering in the streets after 9 pm. We just don’t go out for dinner. We have minimized ‘outside food.’ We are back in time to have dinner with the family. Generally, a simple vegetarian meal because the other stuff may be of unsanitary origin and the chances are that we will soon develop a genuine taste for seasonal vegetables like tinda.
My mother would have been very happy to see that the population in general has seen such a spiritual upliftment. All vices that were ever listed have been expunged, including that of visiting the cinema. We have dutifully watched re runs of yesteryear serials, Ramayana and Mahabharat. For a moment we will ignore all those who have watched everything on Netflix. There were always a handful of kids who were a bad influence.
Mostly our blameless lives over the last few months have been a story of returning to the fold. By embracing the restrictions and not complaining about that or the complete dwindling of prosperity, we have shown the world who we are. We have purged the excesses of consumerism and the post liberalization prosperity. We have reclaimed the spiritual higher ground by not protesting the simple, virtuous life lived within very modest means. Thank you COVID for showing us the way and cleansing our soul of all corruption that we had accrued in this modern globalized world.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.