IT’S STILL VIRAL ALL AROUND…

The Government Horticultural Corporation outlet came back to life on March 31 retailing potatoes, onions, tomatoes…and Ponjekars queued up wearing masks and keeping social distance

BY TARA NARAYAN

And most are feeling safe at home!Memoirs during the times of coronavirus scare in Panaji by Tara Narayan…

ONE WEEK at home was bad enough! But second week running and I’m going stir-fry crazy. Is there going to be no respite from the coronavirus scare in the air. Where is it? Reportedly it’s now air-borne to drive the fear of death in every mortal soul. Initial disbelief had to give way to serious thinking and anxieties. Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a nationwide lockdown from midnight of March 24, 2020, the chant all around is stay at home, stay at home, stay at home, you idiot…or else. Nobody wants to know or else what? Everybody, everybody but those who have to work for day-to-day existence knows all about or else what!
These are the days of the coronavirus and nobody up or down there know when it will end. To recap the story a bit coronavirus fever started to rise four months ago in China and hit India by the beginning of the year but did we take it as seriously as we’re taking it today? No. Take your time, no hurry. Then it was here pronto with all those wake-up, wake-up horror scenes of coffins in Italy making the rounds on social media and we in India were running around like the proverbial headless chickens…at Centre, State governments and at the level of the people.
Or maybe not so, we are told various people are doing a great job of containing the runaway pandemic or rather epidemic in Delhi (take a bow Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal), Kerala (take another bow Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan) and Maharashtra (one of the worst affected states after Kerala)? Also here in Goa where everyone is counting their heartbeats at home hoping that there is life at the end of the tunnel of being incarcerated at home from March 21 really, home second week with nothing to do but clean, cook, stop talking to the hubby and asking him to do something….I dare say déjà vu can be as deadly as corona virus infection. And I can be so ungrateful!
Home becomes a veritable prison. It’s as if one’s life is being taken over by social media rising in the morning to retiring at night with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant taking to video interviews telling us at length about how all’s well in amcho Goem, fear not niz Goenkars! It’s just a respiratory infection one hears, just? We’re just a drop in the ocean compared to the heart-wrenching scenarios of Italy or Spain, Iran or the UK. First Chief Minister Sawant announced a one day stay at home and it was a Sunday, everybody indulged him. Then came the second announcement at home for two more days and finally came Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fait accompli 21-day announcement and after that everyone and everything started buzzing…with dire messages of stay at home, stay at home, step out on the streets at your own peril, you may never make it back home again!
What the hell, overnight Panaji became a ghost town and those who ventured out on foot or bicycle or scooter in search of milk, newspapers, vegetables, snacks…returned home disappointed. Of course the ghost situation couldn’t last beyond two or three days for this is India and even in Goa not everybody lives in a rose garden! It’s no big deal for those who live in rose gardens (metaphorically, well-endowed in the creature comforts of life with lots of cash stashed away in property, jewelry, FDs, etc) and could order home most everything they didn’t have by calling up several telephone numbers in their black diary for home delivery. A rose garden friend of mine cooed over the phone, “What do you want sweetie? I’ve got a special person who gets me things and I’ll get your Amul butter for you, just come over on your bike tomorrow morning and collect it from the gate watchman’s cabin…we’re a gated colony and won’t be allowed to come up and see me, you understand why, everybody is being very careful about this corona virus thing. If you find any long beans during your morning ride outs with the local farmers of Caranzalen please pick up some for me….” I told her to go to heaven where I won’t be seen dead or alive!
Still, so it went, the powers that be will do anything to keep their citizens at home, and soon came videos depicting how police were swinging their lathi around here and there, they were joined by Central Police Reserve Force guys — presumably because Goan cops were too lathi happy beating up innocents venturing out in search of milk or eggs or bread or maybe some fish…someone at Camarabhat was selling eggs, go early to get them if you wish.

Queuing up was the story of the game during the days of coronavirus lockdown…longest queues were outside the Taleigao Community Centre where local MLA Babush Monserrate had made arrangements to distribute rations to residents (at reportedly fair rates). Queuing up started as early as 6am a little bird told us, “I came home with my rations of atta, oil, potatoes, onions, biscuits…even soap and eggs by 1pm!”


It took a week for an alternate system of home deliveries to start functioning with any efficiency – yesterday evening for dinner (March 30), when I learned that Swiggy and Zomato were invited to do the honors and were back in action, the hubby triumphantly placed an order for a rava dosa for the hubby ….it arrived albeit a bit warm, but it was eaten happily. I had been telling him that I will cook breakfast and lunch with my heart in it, but coming to dinner please let me indulge in quick-fix meals! How about masala oatmeal or instant MTR masala idli? Or the 3-minute poha cup? Or pancake with maple syrup or honey….I asked sweetly and not so sweetly depending on my swings of coronavirus moods of the moment.
However, once the home delivery of this, that and the other was in place second week running, life became less tiresome at home between the washing, sweeping, mopping up and cooking (because my Nepali-style maid service had disappeared) and there was more grief on the office front too – the small weekly we had kept alive and kicking was rusticated given no staff turn up to office. The newspaper vendors were not picking up copies even if newspapers were published. For us it was a case of if the Times of India didn’t publish, the small scale Goan Observer too would not be published ….so no Goan Observer until the departure of coronavirus. All other newspapers so affected turned themselves into digital avatar and so did we and are trying too…until, until che sera sera.
It the meantime life goes on during the days of coronavirus lockdown . I mean once home delivery of depleted rations like atta, rice, dal, etc, etc, was working okay dokey, it was just a matter of time passing for most. Still for the many several notches down the social ladder who ran out of rations it was taking their chances and venturing out every morning and evening to look for milk to make tea, bread, eggs, vegetables…then I looked for butter, cheese, fruit, in vain for second week running, forget fruit and cheese, what’s that? Memory is short, indeed.
Those who counted themselves as vote banks of various politicians complained to their local MLAs and they listened with sympathy. Soon rations of rice, dal, onions and potatoes, oil, eggs and biscuits and more were being distributed from community vantage places and pre-communicated spots – queue up for everything of course, here, there and everywhere.
Hey, queues were back as freedom to go shopping was restored more or less partially and with masks in place folk ventured out…chemists mercifully also stocked fruit juice tetrapacks and much else. Milk vendor Amitabai under the mango tree next to the firmly shut for 21 days Caculo Mall managed to keep her milk distribution going, along with whichever newspaper was printed (mostly the Herald and The Navhind Times which have their own printing press, Times of India takes its orders from Mumbai and didn’t print, most papers became digital newspapers in a day or two). For a while a rumor was floated that newspapers spread coronavirus but by then skepticism had set it. Damn it, everything was contagious including one’s own hand regardless of how often one washed it all day long and every 20 minutes…what nonsense.
I certainly wasn’t washing my hands every half or even hour. But I wasn’t wooing paranoia either about the wretched virus and washed my hands more often more carefully! Since everyone had taken to wearing these flimsy so called surgical masks while on their various sorties out I too started putting them in place over my mouth except that after adventuring with various pretty and grim masks, I decided a fresh clean hankie did the job of whatever marginal protection one sought best. So it was handkerchiefs zindabad after a week…when stepping out in search of da, da, da…da, da, da.
By second week running I was suffering from déjà vu prime time and revolted about cooking and keeping house clean day in and day out! Indian husbands think they have done their share of domestic work by putting out the kachra bin and that’s it! I tell the hubby I’m marrying an American man in my next life, or better still a man from Finland or one of the Scandinavian countries (in my imagination that men from those countries can make tea, breakfast, lunch, tea-time and dinner for themselves and their wife and children too).
The picking up garbage resumed after a couple of days and I said hello to Fatima who’d become a friend and exchanged notes with her whenever I handed over the bin of garbage every morning or noon…naturally, nobody turned up for work, all fearful of being caught by the virus bhoot. Of course, I considered myself privileged society, for I didn’t run out of various dal, atta or spices to put something to eat on the table at regular intervals…boredom set it, the mind went blank. How long will this coronavirus be in town?
What’s the latest situation? When may we take a deep breathe again? One social media video says do steam inhalation every now again so that the coronavirus in your nostrils and mouth dies, it doesn’t like heat of any kind! It’s like one is staying alive at home on social media alone into the second week of the coronavirus scare…morning, noon and night, pick up the smart phone to see what’s on WhatsApp and Facebook, mercifully I don’t have Twitter or Instagram. More clever than me folk are busy watching Netflix, I’m told and maybe that’s what Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Shah are also doing…having the last laugh at the expense of their praja. Jaise praja, waise sarkar!
You know what I think, my dears. I think it is all these small urban farms of Taleigao and Caranzalem which have come to the rescue of Ponjekars, take a ride down Babush Monserrate’s 60-foot road and they’ll be there beneath shady trees offering you their small produce of gauti bhendi, bumper aubergine, two or three kinds of chili peppers, various greens and of course such smooth ivory white daikon radish, buy, buy up quick before the next customer comes along and offers a bigger price. Thank the lord for urban farming, I’m all for it, please encourage it, promote it, it’s a saving grace and not only during the days of coronavirus.

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