Thursday, September 17, 2020

Just Another End Of Day Rant

 One lesson learned from the current pandemic must be: 

If you are idiotic, incompetent and clueless during the initial critical phase (say, the first three to four months...in the current case, from Jan to April 2020), then it is best to be totally idiotic for the rest of the pandemic.


There is no point in talking about what could have been done.


What do we have now? A million active cases any day, with so-called low mortality of 0.1% or so, that is, about 1000 deaths a day. (Yawn!) 


It would actually be more interesting if the mortality rate was defined as the ratio of number of deaths to the number of symptomatic cases (or, the number that required hospitalisation).


Isn’t it time the news stopped covering the pandemic? What’s tomorrow’s news: 100000 new cases, 1000 new deaths?! How boring. If the government wants to put the blame on opposition protests, the numbers will be 150000 and 2000 respectively. As if that’s news!?


Isn’t it time we brought down the coronavirus from its high pedestal?


Why bother to test aggressively and properly in containment zones or in areas with suspected clusters?


If someone comes to a clinic or hospital with symptoms of covid-19, do the RT-PCR test (please, not the antigen test with 30% reliability) and if positive, provide required treatment, hospitalise if required. Period. 


Treat it like any other disease. Treat it like the many lifestyle diseases you probably have. No statistics in the newspaper. If there is a covid death, incinerate and forget; like cases with swine flu, or any poor guy’s death.


As for the public, let them do what they like. If they want to wear masks or wash hands, so be it. Again, like any lifestyle disease, let it be the person’s choice.


That is not news. 


News should be about idiotic politicians and their great deeds; idiotic actors and their actions offstage; a few suicides if interesting and noteworthy; elections of course and please do make it sound as if they matter; some tweets that have gone viral; and, of course, the latest fashionable protest (hashtag bugger MarkZ?).


And, don’t you dare cut out the fake news. Geez! That’s the best part of my day.





Friday, September 4, 2020

Snapshots


The past isn’t what it used to be.

Comrades-in-arms walking along—

A half-truth: I walked, they did not.


The future will be what it won’t be.

In ashes or dementia, the best bets.

Strife and penury, there’s momentum there.


Now, the present isn’t what it is, is it?

The blank space in the triptych—

Without a shadow, without a murmur.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Know The Other Not So Well

One of the paradoxes in life is: if one wants a meaningful relationship with another, one should not know the other well and vice versa.

I am a member of two virtual groups. 


One group I joined about a decade back and only a few members in that group showed any interest in knowing me. A few used to read my stories. When they realised my stories revealed too much about me, most of them stopped reading my stories. With this group, I can speak my mind. I can poke them about god, religion, great leaders and such intimate matters. When I write badly (or rather, when they think so), they ignore my writing.


The other group I joined a few days back. But I have known most of them since childhood, and even kept track of the adulthood sins of a few. After the initial round of pleasant greetings, I assumed the smiling Buddha pose. They talk about ayurveda for cancer treatment. I smile. They talk about making money in such an economy. I smile. That is the problem of knowing each other too well. We know the childhood trauma of most; we know who all are still crazy; we know who used to kill cats; we know who was sexually awakened by Archie’s Betty and Veronica, Archie’s Reggie and Jughead, and George Michael, of course. None of them want to read my stories. They know me enough.


Next time you hear about millions supporting an idiotic great leader, smile. Try to imagine the childhood trauma they must have gone through.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Happy Day


Today morning, in my area, the flag was raised virtually. The flag was real, the masked people raising it could have been real, the rest of us were virtual.


There was a roll call. Intelligence, like old school Principals, lies to keep track of the unfaithful with that. There was a lot of chest-thumping. No one was missing. Not even the dead, we later found out.


But the occasion, like all such, had a glitch. Midway, after the anthem before the huge collective roar along with the greetings of Happy Independence Day, a shrill slurring voice could be heard, “Appy Indurrans Die”. 


Intelligence looked into the affair. Was it a kid, Alexa, Siri? Why is the kid saying Happy Hinderance Day? Whose was it? Blood boiled, sky darkened, crows blessed those who looked up and prayed. Old retired judges looked into the matter. Anti-socials said Bah. The judges sulked, such contempt was new. Bah, the reply. The case was settled fast, before the mob picked up stones, beneath the flag. Yes, it was just a precocious kid. Whose, the mob brayed. A Gopher kid. Oh, the mob dispersed.


Gophers make up the majority in the area. They say that there were only them in the area seventy three years back. The Cossites bought land from them. Couple of Chayavars entered later. A Mommite too. Gophers and Chayavars used to be one and the same. But, evolution happened. One went up, kissing ass the other say, and of course the other went down. Gophers are supposed to be descendants of valiant warriors in battles no one has heard of. Chayavars have gained strength more recently, claiming to have sold chai no one has drunk. As for the Cossites and the Mommites, they too have their sub-classes, the rich, the poor, the fair, the dark, the coastal, the highlander, the evangelicals, the deckhands. 


There are a few as yet unclassified. There’s a flat near my house, four storeys high. The owner is supposed to be a contractor, a trafficker, a person of high social standing. The flat is packed with new lot. Some look like workers, some poor, some thugs, all like us. They have orchids on one balcony and variegated underwear on another. Their kids too piss from balconies. The kids’ parents, like the rest of us, spit and blow their nose from great heights onto those below who walk or exercise or do yoga and surya namaskar.


We, even the so-called commies, are all royalists even though the royals stopped being royals long back. We share vegetables and fruits. We invite each other for weddings and deaths. We share everything we can share.


We have not married each other. We are middle-class and just not good enough for intermixing. In seventy three years, only three aliens have entered these families. One a white, another a royal from up North, the third a priest from somewhere. No one is really sure if they are white, royal or priestly. But aliens who claim to be that are welcome.


We do not share anything we have to share, like water. (Pssst, we have been fighting over leaves too. The maids charge extra for sweeping courtyards with leaves. So, everyone wants trees, but not leaves.) Today, before the flag was raised, a tanker delivered water to the few untouchables. There was tension in the air, waiting for the guttural curses and the unholy expletives that usually followed. Not today.


Today, the flag and the anthem united all. 


After that, we went back to our busy routines. The virtual groups came online. It is still the month of Karkkidakam, the month to read the Ramayana. The Gophers and the Chayavars have their own to help with the reciting, and never the twain shall mix, not even to recite Ramayana. The extended families come next, they have never seemed closer. There’s usually some old goofy uncle who tries to collect money for some fund or the other. Then, the old school and college groups. There’s usually some fight in at least one, some bloated ego clashing with another. The kids and adults try to grab data for online games, discussions and classes, always in that order.


The coronavirus has certainly kept us busy. It’s been long months without touch and smell, it’s been long months with too much virtual contact.


No one is really scared of the virus. But, that’s just not the problem, right? In February and March, even in April, it was a status symbol. Only the upper classes, only those from planes, the virus had such high foreign status. But, now, it comes by foot, damn it. Anyone who catches it is labelled poor and ostracised. Bloody local transmission.


Some politicians are trying all that they can to remove that stigma. Not just the politicians, even others, we hear. When there’s a social or official function one wants to skip or when a mother-in-law threatens to show up or when a month’s paid rest seems so tempting, they have been claiming to be corona positive. They test negative as and when they like. Who’s bothered, it’s on taxpayers’ money.


Ah, before I forget, there was another glitch this morning. 


A man was found dead. The stink got to the neighbours two weeks late. He left a suicide note saying, “Wishing all of you a Happy Independence Day well in advance. Love you all, Indrans.”


The old judges investigated that too and wondered how the kid knew about the death. Indrans looked happy in all the photos on social media. 


The judges also wanted to know how this Indrans had managed to take part in the morning roll call.


They too said Bah, with such contempt.



Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Match



Everyone’s in a rush to get weddings done before the government changes the good ways. Parents can’t believe their luck. Only 20 people are allowed at a wedding. No arduous trips to hand out invitations. No large halls. No messy feasts. For once, marriage or at least the wedding could be bliss. But, 20 is still too large a crowd. 


I had to be involved in one, that too quite actively and in a non-gastronomic capacity. According to our old tribal ways, the uncle has much to do in a god-fatherly way, mumbling incoherently so-you-wannabe-family-now, making offers others can’t refuse.


My nephew did not really want me there. Neither did my sister. That’s how tradition works. People assume there would be displeasure and do the worst.


They tried to complete all pre-wedding formalities via videoconference. Even completed a virtual tour of each other’s houses (as if they would find the skeletons in the closet). 


But, how can you go ahead without meeting even once, some idiot asked, not me that time.


We went to the house of the prospective bride. My nephew, his parents, his sister and the ol’ grumbling godfather.


Everything was done according to the directives of the Health Department. We were seated in the verandah. Their water-sprinklers had been modified to disinfect guests. That started a sneezing fit. The girls’ side moved further inside and shouted greetings. I realised too late that I wouldn’t even be pacified with refreshments. Not even a glass of water. The two socially distanced masked sides discussed how they could get close.


Without much ado, we got to the crucial part of the deal. The boy would meet the girl. The uncles would negotiate. On the girl’s side, there was no ‘uncle’ and her mother would officiate in that capacity, we were told. See, I need not have come, you could have done it, I whispered to my sister. She kicked me.


The boy was told “move to the right side” to meet the girl. The uncle “do the opposite”.


We followed those directions. My nephew stood outside a window of a room on the right side of the house. I stood outside a similar window on the other side. The windows had mosquito netting and were heavily curtained. I spotted a silhouette inside.


Pssst, someone hissed. I looked around. It was just an unfriendly reptilian neighbour with a dog, inspecting the garden. Stay away from the wall, the masked figure growled. Why is the human and not the animal without a mask, I was about to ask.


Oye, a voice called from deep within.


Oye oye, I replied.


I like your mask, she said.


You look wonderful, my Pavlovian response.


Sorry we can’t give you anything to eat or drink, she said.


The lady had me and all my attention with such correct concern. 


Oh this cursed corona, I cried.


It’s going to be such a bore, no...I really wanted a paani-puri counter at the wedding, she said. There was deep anguish in her voice.


Parotta and beef curry too, I suggested.


We traded more of such sweet memories for a while. The deal was almost done.


I wanted to discuss something really serious, she said.


Go ahead, I encouraged.


I am not a virgin, she said.


Thank god, I exclaimed. An immaculate conception would have been tough, I added.


Pardon, she said.


Never mind, I soothed.


I am so glad you have taken it so well...guys can be such hypocrites, she said.


I am no ordinary guy, I thought of saying.


Are you a virgin, she asked,


What, I spluttered.


She repeated the question. 


I gave the textbook answer. It had worked in the past. 


Everyone is a virgin in a new relationship, I said. 


That’s cool, dude, she said.


We returned to less serious talk.


Have you seen Indian Matchmaking, she asked.


Yes, I admitted without guilt.


Who did you like, she asked.


Nadia’s mom, I replied without hesitation.


Man...you are not at all like how you were in the video calls, she hooted with laughter.


I hooted too. Not too sure why.


The meeting was wrapped up. 


My nephew too had a satisfactory meeting with the lady on his side.


During the drive back, my nephew talked about his meeting.


His account: I am so glad I got that opportunity to meet her, even though it had to be like that. She started by mentioning that it looked like a scene from ‘Mathilukal’ (Basheer’s novel and Mammootty’s movie based on the same in which a prisoner in a jail talks to someone on the other side of a wall). In all those video calls, she never spoke like that, mature, understanding, serious, deep. All the time, it had been about food and crap shows, the type Maman (uncle) likes. 


Realisation did not dawn that day or the next. 


Both sides realised about the mixup eventually, well before the wedding. My nephew had moved to his right, not hers. And, we had talked to the wrong ladies.


My nephew thinks Oscar Wilde might be right and that she might become like her mother. I don’t know if the girl thinks that a nephew with such a godfather can’t be that bad. 


Anyway, that’s how such stuff are made in heaven.

Friday, July 31, 2020

A Day With Shokie


It was just another day for Circle Inspector Shokie, nothing extraordinary, the date a meaningless number, the ways of the sun pointless, tired heavy footed darkness dragging dread terror dead, blood a colour, torture another pain, murder a mere classification.


Around midnight, she went to the hills, to a house in a rubber plantation, a father had hacked his wife and three daughters, before killing himself, he had felt slighted, ashamed, his eldest daughter had managed to elope with his tapper’s son, not his debts, not the fast approaching penury, love killed him.


From there, she had gone to the coast, a priest had abused two kids in his care, the people had to be kept away from the kids, the politicians too, they are just homeless kids he took care of she was told, he is a great guy, charitable, powerful, there was a diary with the names of other kids.


She had lunch at at a tea-stall near a school, a bun, a glass of sweet tea, a banana (robusta), her team was in civilian attire, they were just watching, young boys and girls peddling themselves, for drugs, sex, money, attention, the tea-stall owner a known ganja dealer, his help a pimp, the men who controlled them known but untouchable.


She got to her office at half past seven, a sub-inspector apologised for troubling her, a woman has been here all day he said, she won’t go, bring her in, a lady even more tired than Shokie entered, my husband has left me with nothing, he is a successful man in the society, my kids are with an abusive priest, they are forced to do all kinds of things, please help me, two tired women sat in an office, staring at nothing, the sound of dark silence within without with a muffled cry echoing fading.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Rivals



About ten years back, around half past nine at night, Sreekumar received a phone call. He winced when he saw Preethi’s name on the screen.
He picked the call and asked, “What do you want?”
“Sree...?” 
That was not how she sounded this afternoon, he noted. 
“Hello...?” 
“Yeah...?”
“Sorry for troubling you. Could you please come upstairs? Arjun has collapsed.”
Without any hesitation, he replied, “Be with you in a minute.”
He changed quickly from his nightwear, took his wallet, checked it for cash and cards, picked the car keys and the house keys. He went to the TV room and told his wife that a friend had called asking for help. Which female, his wife Devika asked. Will let you know after I decide, he replied. Have fun, she said. Devika, there’s no other woman, he pleaded. She turned her face to the TV. He left locking the front door behind him. He did not wait for the lift. He raced up the three flights of stairs to Preethi’s apartment. He had been there once before, when they were still friendly colleagues.
The front door was open. Preethi’s kids and parents-in-law were crying. Preethi was in the master bedroom. Her husband Arjun was lying on the floor.
“He threw up...collapsed...I couldn’t lift him,” she mumbled. “I cleaned him a little.”
Sreekumar picked a blanket from the bed, wrapped Arjun in it. He lifted the unconscious figure in his arms, raced to the lift with Preethi behind him. She ran back inside to pick her handbag. She consoled the old couple and kids, told them everything would be fine. 
In the lift, Sreekumar said, “Let’s take my car.” He told her to contact the private hospital.
He laid Arjun on the back seat. Told her to hold on tight.
He drove fast. Everything was a blur for an hour. Getting Arjun on the stretcher at the hospital entrance, first the OP, later to an ICU. The young doctors on duty assured them that they were in touch with the senior lot.
Preethi and Sreekumar sat silently in the waiting room adjacent to the ICU. 
They had not been that silent a few hours earlier.
In office, it was the season for promotions and pink slips. The long holidays for Diwali were two days away. As was the custom every year, the firm had culled quite a few before the festival. The promotions would be announced the next day, around evening after the New York office opened. That was a global affair. Tokyo stayed late for it, Mumbai and London joined in, and New York woke up for it. 
At lunchtime, in the canteen, Sreekumar had been with colleagues from Equity and Operations. Conversation had veered around to talk of promotion. The Equity guy joked that Sreekumar would lose to Preethi. Man, it is equal opportunity time and the firm needs a few skirts at higher levels and your division will be chosen for that sacrifice, the guy sniggered. Sreekumar did not respond. He merely smiled. His mind was elsewhere, pondering about uglier domestic affairs.
Preethi’s friend in Fixed Income had overheard that exchange and reported it faithfully to Preethi. Around two, Preethi came to Sreekumar’s office. Standing at the door, making sure the rest of their group heard, she asked him if he had recruited her because he liked her skirt. Sreekumar stared at her blankly. She continued with threats of reporting it to HR. He told her to go ahead. He surprised her by saying fuck off.
It was not their first public confrontation but in the past it had been about work, never about personal failings.
They had been with the firm for about six years. His boss, a godfather to many quants on Wall Street, on his third headhunting trip to India found Sreekumar. He was given the responsibility of building a team in Mumbai. Quant work, even in risk management, was a new field in India then. Sreekumar scouted for local talent in the premier institutions and contacted people he knew. Preethi was his first recruit. He first met Preethi at a conference during their PhD years. They had fought over topological defects and differential geometry. After PhD, he had done couple of years of postdoctoral research before getting a faculty position. Then, due to a mix of academic and matrimonial circumstances, he had made the huge shift to the corporate world. As for Preethi, she had shifted fields soon after her PhD, first to IT, then a MBA, tried to be an entrepreneur in educational software, failed only because she was couple of years too early for that venture. She came for the first interview at the firm soon after her wedding, her hands still decorated and with too many bangles. The big chiefs in Mumbai were not keen on taking females. Sreekumar convinced his boss in New York headquarters that Preethi would be an asset. He was a good mentor. Too good, he would think later. As for Preethi, like most good protégés, she never thought of herself as anyone’s protégé. He fought for Preethi when she was sidelined by some division heads. He got her good projects that utilised her research and management skills. When he was promoted to VP with larger responsibility, she was ready to be his replacement. A year later, she too got promoted to VP. The financial crisis and Sreekumar were together responsible for that. He had trained her well in credit risk, first with derivatives, then on the risk aspects. Post-crisis, there was a lot of attention on credit risk and ratings. Preethi was made the lead on that, and she handled well the pressure from management, auditors and regulators. Sreekumar and Preethi were now fighting for the promotion to Executive Director. They could have made life easier. They had their own niche areas of expertise. He covered more divisions. He was called Professori, respected but aloof. Despite having a huge team to manage, he still managed to provide innovative quantitative and computational methods which even the quants in New York and London grudgingly admired. She was a better manager, referred to as the Tough Bitch and the juniors thought she provided better future prospects. The two clashed quite often. The firm was not complaining, their prize-dogs were adding to the moolah, getting more done, better, quicker.
In the waiting room at the hospital, they remained silent waiting for updates from the doctors. He wanted to ask her, why did you call me. She would have raised an eyebrow, suggesting the answer was obvious.
Around midnight, they were told that Arjun was in a critical state, and hardly stable. The doctors talked about a risky surgical procedure. Neurosurgeon, cardiologist, clots, blocks...the two experts in risk management kept nodding, comprehending little.
Around dawn, the doctors met them again. Arjun was conscious. The doctors told them that one person could enter to see Arjun. Give him strength before the surgery, the doctors advised.
Preethi turned to Sreekumar. “Get Devika here.”
“Devika? My wife? For what?” Sreekumar said.
Preethi looked up, stared at the false ceiling. “Geez, Sree, in which world are you living?” She shook her head. “Oh God.” She called Devika. Sreekumar thought of asking how she had his wife’s number.
She talked softly on the phone, explained the situation with Arjun and told Devika to catch a taxi. 
Devika managed to be with Arjun for a few minutes before he was taken for surgery. 
Around eleven, a doctor told them that the surgery was a success. Devika collapsed with delight. The doctor had to hold her. The other two stood together, mere spectators.
A few minutes after the doctor left the three in the waiting room, Preethi said, “Sree, can you take me home?” She told Devika that she had transferred sufficient funds to the hospital account. Contact me if there’s any need, she added and left. Sreekumar followed her.
Back in the lift of their apartment, Preethi said, “I am going to office.”
“Don’t you have to sleep?” Sreekumar asked.
“Are you going to miss today’s event?” she asked.
“I guess not,” he said with a wry smile. “Ready by two? Let’s go together.”
She nodded.
Their teams had already been notified about their absence. The juniors were surprised to find them back in the office, but not too surprised.
At half past six, they gathered in the biggest video conference hall. Preethi and Sreekumar sat in the front row.
That year, they did not get the promotion to Executive Director.  The firm decided to honour others with larger teams. One woman, one man. It was a politically correct show.
The prize-dogs joined in the pre-Diwali celebrations and much later licked their wounds in private. 
Now, that is just an irrelevant past.
“Wow, it’s been ten years,” Preethi exclaimed.
“As you can see, hair is whiter, teeth and everything else more shaky,” Sreekumar said.
They laughed. They had found each other on social media recently. This is their first video call.
They talked about the coronavirus. She is a MD now, based in New York. He has been enjoying an early retired life in his hometown in forgotten India for ten years. Her kids are in high school. 
“Are you married?” she asked. “Forgive my Capricorn bluntness.”
“Interested?” he asked.
“Been there, done that,” she replied. “You are a Virgo, aren’t you?”
“No, Cancer.”
“Really?”
“Is that good or bad?” he asked.
“We are supposed to be a good match.”
“That bad, huh? When did you get into this horoscope thingy?”
“When my teenagers tried to beat me with that.”
“Still too competitive, I see.”
“You bet.” She laughed. “So, Sree, what have you been up to?”
“It took me ten years to figure out why you called me when Arjun collapsed.”
“Geez...that long? Wear a skirt, you will think better.”
“Done that, been there,” he said.
They laughed.






Sunday, July 12, 2020

Letter from Anon.


My dear Shanthi,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of spirits. I should have written this letter long back. I feel guilty that it took a news item about people in some far off place  exchanging anonymous letters in these tough times to restart our correspondence.

Everyone must be writing similar letters. Yet another strict lockdown. I am stuck at home. It’s been ages since I met friends. I would love to eat out. And, more of such?

Did I sound that gloomy in my letters from hostel? When was that?! Then, didn’t we have dreams to share?

My dreams these days are so much simpler. Let me tell you one. 

In that dream, I am running to the post-office to send a telegram to you. “Hey, it’s me.” Was that my first telegram to you? or was it “How are you?”...weren’t we always a bit too formal?

Now, there are no telegrams. But, I could send this letter to you instead. If they will let me step outside this containment zone. If the post offices are open. If...

This letter is not going to be like my old letters. It won’t go on endlessly for pages. It won’t have details of what I did and read and thought. But, I loved your long replies. Oh, if only we could be kids one more time. I wish I could be the stupid lad who could once again send that disaster of a parcel with food stuff for you. Ha! Were you able to salvage even one item by the time you got it? How I wish I could send my first present to you yet again? Just remind me. Was it “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” or “Love in the Time of Cholera”? How I would love to meet you once again and giggle about the gifts. “It’s all about sex, isn’t it?” Ask me that again. And, this time, I might not change the topic. Not immediately, anyway. Why did we squander away precious time? Do we have any time left?

Why am I writing like this to you? Is that what you are wondering, my friend? Why do I call you Shanthi? Is it because that’s what we all need now...peace? Why have I assumed the persona of some old childhood friend? 

During this period of isolation and persistent worry, I wanted something or someone different to hold close. And, all I could think of is this letter to you.

Didn’t I promise not to go on and on? When you reply, please don’t follow this new rule. Let’s be our old selves.

Till...

Your friend forever,
The one and only
The crazy
Pal

ps. I miss you.




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

War Fatigue


For four months, I wasn’t even a spectator of the war. 

I obeyed the rules, hid in the darkest bunker, nearly blind, totally silent.

I didn’t want to join the fight, no arms for me. 

I waited. 

Waited. 

Today, I have joined the fight.

I can’t kill.

But, I can die. 

Will others die because of me?

Do they care?

I don’t.

Friday, June 5, 2020

From a distance, I pray...

A friend’s note made me wonder about this:

How close have you come to the coronavirus?

Couple of days back, there was news about a criminal in remand custody testing positive for covid-19. The policemen who came near him had to go into quarantine, people who had come near those policemen were also put in quarantine and that includes a National Best Actor award recipient.

The main problem with this criminal was that he was not really forthcoming about his contacts. One, because he is a criminal and he is a honourable man and not a snitch on his associates. Two, because he was drunk and couldn’t remember. Three, because his mental state was not exactly right. It seems he even tried to put his house or his wife and kid on fire. Oh, you know, just the usual neighbourhood chap.

Anyway, I have been checking the list of containment zones and I was quite surprised to find my mother’s village in that list. Chest filled with pride and all that. 

Since you know me, you wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that my roots are in villages which no one has heard of. When the (shuttle) train stops at my paternal village, passengers usually wonder, “Are there people living here?” It even has a spooky name which seems to confirm such doubts. As for my maternal village, trains don’t stop there, not even buses if they had a choice. Once in a while, people hear of it when there’s a mass murder or two. Oh, you urban lot should get to know the real country.

Back to my tale. I called one of my maternal uncles. And I found that my village got into the containment zone list because of that same criminal.

It seems that criminal, in drunken stupor or not, had visited the house right opposite to my uncle’s house, that is, what used to be our hereditary family house or whatever if we were the type to go gaga and call a house that. 

The criminal turns out to be the brother of my uncle’s neighbour.

“Did you meet him?” I asked my uncle, excited, hopeful.

“Of course not,” my uncle retorted, “but, we are still in lockdown because of him.”

“Tchah...” I said. My uncle disconnected the call.

Other than that criminal, the closest I got to the virus is a lawyer in my ghetto in the city who had jumped quarantine and crawled all around. Friendly neighbours immediately notified the police and got the man of the law incarcerated at home. But, I think the lawyer must have visited my barber by then. There’s nothing else to do in my part of town.

And, I have to postpone a haircut for another month or two. The last time I had hair this long, I had black hair and all my teeth, it was sometime way back in the last century.

Please do share how close you have got to that wee bugger, the virus, I mean. Let it be a safe distance, I pray.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Last Song


It has taken some time but I have finally decided to think like others.

First, a detour with one or two points. 

One, I wanted all international travellers, starting from January, locked up for a month. The rest of us could have carried on with normal life if those 1.5 million people had gone into institutional quarantine.

Two, I thought the government would at least act fast from March 1. Residential colleges in North India had already closed by the end of February. If only the first three weeks of March were used to get India and its people here and abroad ready for a two-month lockdown.

Three, back to the present, all we can say now is that India is too complex. And, that economics might be more important than health. A bit of eugenics can be tolerated, I am told. And, who knows, we might even achieve the elusive herd immunity, they say very intelligently. 

It took a long time to reach point three. Without a tremor in my voice, I can say along with others that 10% of the population might get infected (like the great Sweden), that is about 130 million; and, about 3% of that set will die (about 4 million). 

Now, I won’t even think of point four. I think it is about the migrant workers heading home. I think it was about treating them not like some poor idiotic mass. Surely, someone must have asked them, “What will keep you safe and sound in your place of work for three months or so?” Surely, the charity or human/humanity part could have been handled well by the Adanis, Ambanis, Bajajs and the rest of the lot in the Sensex and Nifty. (1 million kept where they are reasonably safe and maybe even half-employed with about Rs 10000 per month; that is, about Rs 3000 crore for three months...surely they can give that even if it is not in electoral bonds.) I hope there will be a plan to avoid such needless (they will be back soon) and harmful mass migration when we have the next emergency.

There are points five, six, seven,etc. We should stop airlifting our people out of other countries during times of crisis. We should not give a damn about so-called Indians who gave up Indian citizenship. We should get used to thousands of deaths. Start by saying that about 4000 die in traffic accidents every year in Kerala alone. Get used to it.

By the way, if you know people who went on foreign trips in February or March, sing a song on a balcony along with them before throwing them from there. Oh, please continue singing.