There’s speculation that the lockdown might be extended beyond these 21 days. The PM suggests that we must have a ‘staggered exit’.We will see in the days ahead what this means. Meanwhile, Bengaluru’s highest ranking police officer is busy issuing directives on twitter. His tweets sometimes end with cocky sentences. It would have done good to his office if he was not bent upon replying to every criticism that was directed at his department. Moreover, there is a relatively privileged, narrow subset of the city’s residents that are found on twitter and engaging with him. The state of public services and systems in the city and most of the country is such that it is difficult to decide rules of use, access and exclusion. Amidst all this senior officers in charge of these functions often have lost their minds. A consequent social impact is that there’s a dispensation for rough justice handed out by every one of these decision makers. This must change.
Back in our town, we harvested a crop of wheat today. It was a good yield. Our first of wheat. In the village harvesting work is going on through this week. The rains have been unexpected and many wheat growers were concerned about the damaging effect of rain on ready to harvest wheat. Over the last year, watching the agriculture ecosystem has been a tremendous learning experience. It would have been nice to be on the farm for today’s harvest. Harvesting was done by a harvesting machine. In places where it could not reach, the plants will be cut manually by women workers. The social patterns of village life and farm work is intricately linked to household functions and farming cycles.
In other hours of the day I read Hindi poems by Sohanlal Dwivedi and Harivansh Rai Bacchan. Watching Tighmanshu Dhulia’s ‘Slow’ interview I recollected journeys through cities of Uttar Pradesh – Lucknow, Aligarh, Allahabad and the smaller town. It was fascinating to hear Dhulia speak of the agent that changed the cultural, social and professional character of the city single handedly – a train connection between Allahabad and New Delhi. The Prayagraj Express could bring people into New Delhi overnight and this opened up the capital of the country to the highly accomplished and capable lawyers of Allahabad. Students and other professionals followed. Delhi was no longer a place far beyond. It was a night’s journey away. This is all too familiar. Fortunes of the districts in Central India changed with a railway line. My family’s story of migration moved on the same rails. It is an imprint that stays and makes the framework of our current life and location. The town where the family decided to put down its luggage and make a home, is identified by a railway bridge – its transliterated name in English would be Bridgetown. A locomotive’s shunting sounds in the distance, horns of trains passing through, the rumble as a long freighter crosses the bridge and the sight of returning railwaymen in their tired walk has sketched the landscapes of summer holidays. Every summer ended with a train journey into the city.
In the fight against Coivd-19, Indian Railways has refurbished some of its trains to function as hospitals and fever clinics. This is certainly an appropriate response with the kind of resources, population distribution and capacities that India has. I saw those early photographs of the train hospitals with a mix of affection and pride.
Day 9 is on us. Soon it’ll be the half-way point and we would tip over on the other side of the lockdown. It is an uncertain phase ahead. If the global numbers are to go by, it seems a difficult situation. Italy and Spain have crossed 10,000 deaths. Worldwide, we have lost over 50,000 people.