I spent the day reading a collection of writing by Dom Moraes. This was followed by reading journal entries of Max Frisch from 1972-72 period. Moraes prefaced the collection (edited by Sarayu Srivatsa) with an interesting perspective on history –
All history is a corridor of mirrors, in which adventitious images are recorded for posterity to accept or not to. All these images are to some extent distorted, not so much because of flaws in the mirrors as because of the enormous misconceptions that exist between person and person and between person and event.
This struck me on both personal and professional planes. Even these lockdown diary entries are distorted images in a way. They reflect my misconceptions better. In the course of five weeks, we have seen possibilities that we would not have imagined or believed in. The expansion of possibilities frontier has happened on personal, local and global levels, all at the same time. Who knew that life would enter a clamp down of the kind that would turn cityscapes into a still from a dystopian film. We have all sat in and watched as the pandemic began working on our lives, shaping them sometimes with our wilful participation and other times by the force of inevitability. Maybe, this re-calibration of life is necessary every once in a while for mankind.
It is hard to imagine 165,000 deaths in the world in these times. That is the global death toll as of today, 20th April. We are used to situated and confined violence. When the numbers trickle as installments like the number of people dead in a fire, people perishing in a cyclone, civil war in a country etc, we don’t lose our sanity or are even discomforted by it. We can nod, add a few inane remarks like ‘too bad’ ‘this is tragic’ and move on. The pandemic has brought home realization of vulnerability and death with the calmness of something lethal floating through the air and through our gestures of friendships and affection. That makes it something sinister in a way that a war isn’t. There is obviousness in a war. One knows to duck and run and get as far away as possible. The virus’ violence is in the paranoia that it is pushing people into. Individuals, communities and countries are falling into greater depths of paranoia which is receding so far down that reason and human values can’t reach people any more. One of the incidents yesterday was a mob lynching of three travelers who were in transit, in a village in Maharashtra. Any illusion of us being civilized people is dispelled by the videos that have emerged, of village men clubbing these three men to death, snatching them from police protection. It appears that this paranoia about the virus is prevailing over even human values and ability to reason.
These incidents are making it tough to get through these days without thinking about our collective future. I am thinking of it because I replenished supplies today This is the third time in the past four weeks of lockdown. The sight of food and other necessary items is striking a sorry feeling. The early days of lockdown certainly felt anxious. It took over three weeks for that anxiety to dissolve and give way to a sense of comfort that the virus will get contained. Now, on phone calls and chats we have begun talking about the ‘exit’ and watching dates for resumption of transport services. Assessing our damages, we wish this to end now. And yet, there are eleven days to the official lockdown end date of 3rd May.
I do not recognize the man sitting in padmasana on the floor. These days for about half an hour every morning he performs a set of yoga aasanas. This is followed with the regular variety of physical exercises – crunches and pushups. . It is far from a 100 BPM music playlist with which he used to run a 12 km trail on most evenings. Something changed between the person and the event.