There is not much to write about these days in terms of the direct effect of the pandemic – locked cities, restrictions on movement and a sense of anxiety appear to have faded out. Most countries are busy ‘opening up’. Even as this is happening, infections and deaths continue to happen at different rates around the world, but that no longer makes the headlines on the planet. Even as India’s number of infections and deaths have begun soaring, Indian cities and towns are reopening. Here, in Wardha people are busy getting back on track with its work that was abruptly shut down two months back. The trickle of people returning from the cities has been steady. Some of them are on an indefinite plan of staying back here. They may have lost jobs and decided to roll back to their town because it is easier to survive. The combination of little money, charity, tolerance and prayers go a long way here. The landscape looks tired and of quiet activity.
Life and one’s course through it can sometimes receive such a battering that a small increment towards getting better can go a long way. Sometimes we mistake this for resilience. It isn’t. It is the course, just as water flows down a gradient, never up. This town has spent decades in increments and has only a six-lane expressway to show for. A kilometer long neem tree avenue that one had to go under to enter the town in earlier years, now sits squarely on the marked width of a four lane road. They will have to make way. A brighter Wardha with spacious roads capable of carrying more traffic and people is on the cards. But people will continue to drive the way they feel like, darting like small, blind arrows in every direction. Public behaviour is incremental too. A little change is a decadal process.
In a way the current pandemic and prevailing development issues of this country have become woven together. The fabric is coarse. There is years of neglect of the healthcare system at the core. Then there is town and city planning that has only been tweaked over the years for value extraction by politicians and bureaucracy. Over the course of the pandemic weeks, many researchers and public intellectuals have written long pieces on invisibility of labour in the cities. We never intended them to have a respectable place in the first place. Urban planning is a manisfestation of that intent. There are so many threads that hang loose from the fabric of this country right now that one doesn’t know where to begin, that is, if one cares to. For the rest of us, things are moving towards business as usual.
Even though these entries are made according to dates, the observations have been on processes that have unfolder over a longer duration. In a way, the dates have turned less relevant as we enter the fourth month of a global crisis.