The real story of social distancing that won’t be televised
On the merry morning of Janata Curfew let me tell you the real tale of social distancing and self isolation. It’s necessary but it stinks.
"Don't be an a*****e, stay home", "break the chain, stay home", "you need to draw the line here, just don't step out". And there I was just trying to extinguish my inner Sita and the strain of rebellion. My eyes are red from staring at screens of various sizes for four straight days. I continuously wonder whether the film of my life is Welcome or it is Shaun of the Dead, my nails have grown because I am not feasting on them anymore and I most definitely think Rajkumar Rao was foreshadowing with Trapped.
How did I get here though?
I was just like any other corporate slave sitting on his desk and doing uninspiring work for bare subsistence. My boss was my dealer and I was the junkie of the highest order for whatever-hormone-anxiety-produces. I would feel like crying every morning and think of killing myself by 8 PM just like any other person. My imaginary girlfriend hadn't cheated on me yet and my landlord forgot to ask for the maintenance money. In short, life was perfect.
Yes, I had gained a couple of kilos and hints of man-boobs, but what else do you expect after four packets of chips and pork momos every weeknight following solitary sessions of getting turnt?
Then came this virus. Yes, like every zombie movie predicted, it came. Her name was Corona. Such a sweet, sweet name for an absolute Dajjal.
I knew that India would need Twinkies one day, just didn't know this soon. First month or two I didn't care in the least except appreciating the dank racist memes and secretly hoping to catch the virus and die.
Though I was sure I wasn't lucky enough to die in a pandemic like Europeans and countries with quality healthcare and standard of life.
Then the cases started getting reported. First, it was Kerala. Of course it was Kerala. Otherwise how else would those clowns make beef a point of political discourse every six months. So I wasn't rattled or anything. It was obvious that they'd contain another of these viruses with their multi-layered healthcare system. They did cure the first batch of COVID-19 patients, so I thought this virus too would give us a miss, kinda like 7-eleven.
But I realised that shit really hit the fan when Gupta Aunty literally elbowed me in the face at the gully grocer to secure the last pack of Dal for her dull child. Then all the stats put out by these click-hungry media outlets started making sense. Suddenly all the people on social media who I usually dismiss as SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) changed their tune from CAA-Kashmir-JNU-Pogrom to the bloody virus. And when they change tune, you can be rest assured that this topic is here to stay.
So my parents of course got super worried or at least pretended to be worried for 3 minutes on the phone. Do the mask, drink hand sanitisier, stop touching yourself and others - all that jazz. Though I dismissed the worries like I do every night, God knew I was worried.
The number of affected people were steadily growing and had crossed 150 by then; and boring people from ICMR were getting air-time. Truly, unprecedented times, I thought to myself. That became reality when I reached the office next morning. I was literally thinking how deep Interstellar is to introduce Murphy's Law to me, when my Satan of a boss just came and announced work from home (with a heavy heart). I couldn't believe it for five straight minutes. The same boss, who could tie me in chains in the office basement to get 14 hours off me, is asking us to work from home? Aaaaaa.
Life without humiliation and anxiety?
The following morning felt like a sweet piece of Amaravati (nothing to do with Jagan or Naidu) delivered with a couple of extra hours in my life. I thought what a great start to self-isolation during the biggest global health crisis in almost a century. I made myself green tea instead of the cocaine cocktail aka coffee and played Porcupine Tree songs. The bright beginning didn't last for long though, as suddenly I was with myself and without the white noise of office politics. I was seeing my room during the day for the first time in months and I didn't like what I was seeing.
When I started working, it felt like I was doing something wrong as there was no dismissive voice constantly putting me down in front of my cigarette-thieves. I suddenly felt I could find life in this quarantine, a life without constant humiliation and anxiety.
Is this the real world, or it's just fantasy?
Day 1 went well. Though out of habit I just kept working till I physically could no more, but I felt productive and liked my work for the first time in years. But then came the night and with night came the news. As soon as I got into the rabbit-hole of news, I felt like I was drowning and there was no bae to watch me.
Everyone was talking about how if there's community transmission in a country like India, the population density alone could trigger a catastrophe. Suddenly there were no communal hashtags trending, Arnab wasn't shouting as much and 'cool' people who had left social media were back. Feeling short of breath, I called my father only to hear a Coronavirus advisory on the phone playing like a nightmare inside a nightmare. Everyone I knew or knew of, or wanted to know had only one thing to talk about - the virus.
Halal in the Dalal street, jhatka to 4 families, life vs livelihood, Shoaib Akhtar's 'Chamgadar' rant and an impending recession worse than the great one. That's all I could think of. The news was only getting bad, and the preaching worse.
Day 2 was my hard-earned week off, so apun 2 baje tak piya (drank till at least 2 in the night, then started thinking of all the exes).
Yes it was just the second day I had already conjured every detail about my 3rd ex who has a daughter named Iltija now.
When I was done stalking her security guard's dog, I fell asleep like a washed out Ricky Gervais in After Life.
Third day was worse, my boss started giving me the anxiety drug alright, but now there was no one beside me to bitch and share the dose. It was like anxiety having violent sex with my latent depression 24 x 7. Netflix too, didn't have any worthy distractions. Time started moving slowly and the tissues ran out.
Next morning, I thought I have had enough of watching TikTok videos and Coronavirus bulletins, kill me if you like but if I have to eat eggs for another meal, I'll revolt. So I slowly climbed down the stairs to find Gupta Aunty giving me the nastiest of looks. I quickly looked at my shorts checking if everything was alright, suddenly I saw she had gone in and turned up the volume of Aaj Tak's "Go Corona" bulletin.
I didn't have the gall to defy Gupta aunty.
Back to my disgusting bed, I could feel the plywood touching my butt and an itching sensation in my throat from all the cigarettes I've chain smoked. At this point I am washing hands every hour as a source of entertainment and wondering what it'd be to live on a completely plant-based diet. One bit of news amused me though, some nutcase had fried coronavirus fritters. I was happy for a microsecond but felt like a hallucination of happiness.
For the Janta Curfew, I have decided to scream at the top of my lungs. I guess that's gratitude well served. Then I'll come back to my bed and sit. After all, recession is coming, we'd have to sit on our beds for a long time now.