Day after day dozens of disconcerting pictures of the lockdown and its impact come up. One begins to think about the odds that the people who are suffering have had in landing in the situations as those seen in the photographs. The inequality among people is alarming.
In this week here are the kind of events happening in India – a cyclone hitting the Eastern coast displacing people in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh; floods in Assam and other North Eastern States; a massive locust attack across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra; and over 40 workers’ special trains lose their way on the rail network and do not reach their destinations. The situation of workers remains a story of misery and tragedy all through.
It rained heavily in the evening. For the first time since the leg surgery I went for a walk in Cubbon Park. I walked five kilometers – the usual perimeter that I do several loops of, on weekly runs. As I rode on a friend’s bike to the park, I saw the city as I usually did, after eight weeks of being completely cut off from it. There is litter piled up along the Cantonment Railway Station entrance. The park appeared fresh and quiet from the long absence of people.
For those who worked in the city, their faith has been dented. Those who left it, disappointed in its ability to hold them safe, will probably have empty days in their hometowns to recover from this striking turn that life has taken for them and process this disappointment. The city has abandoned them. Will they feel welcome to return or be compelled to retrace their steps back when the pandemic has passed? The workers left in the worst of their situations – hungry, scared and abandoned. The floor for worse circumstances could not have fallen any further in terms of human dignity. For those who have lived through this, they have lived the worst. What will make them get on the road to the city again? Denied of the status and care they deserved, the choice has been made for now. The city of 2020 is not home and does not seem to be the route to upward mobility.
There is a constant meaning making effort going on through the pandemic. As we make sense of the situation and its consequences, mistakes are being laid bare. There are plenty of them. Many governments have responded remarkably well and tried their best to mitigate the impact of the virus. Yet, it has fallen short in many nations. Where do we go from here? Meaning making and lessons gathering must continue for every aspect of our lives as citizens, community members and individuals. Only then, can we hope to build back better. Much of India prefers denial right now.