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There's an eerie silence over Delhi

Simran Sodhi
Filed on April 2, 2020 | Last updated on April 2, 2020 at 12.13 am

As India is in a 21-day nationwide lockdown, a billion plus people speak in hushed tones and while social media and the television sets talk non-stop about coronavirus, no one is sure of anything.

It's almost as if all the cars died overnight and birds took over the city. For the last few days, an eerie calm has descended on Delhi - a city that I have seen bustling, overcrowded, mostly angry and forever in a rush city. Streets have been abandoned and a few lone figures that do emerge out stick out as sore points. One wonders what medical emergency or lunacy would induce one to step out these days.

As India is in a 21-day nationwide lockdown, a billion plus people speak in hushed tones and while social media and the television sets talk non-stop about coronavirus, no one is sure of anything. Pharmacies are open as are the grocery shops. But pharmacists refuse home delivery while grocery stores see mostly a crowd in panic, over buying and over-stocking.

Social distancing is a new concept in a city and a country where brushing against another person in crowded markets is not frowned upon and coughs and sneezes in public life never raised any eyebrows on 'etiquette'. I was catching up with a friend over coffee at a cafe a few days ago. The places was brimming with chit chat and then one random sneeze froze all conversations. And while in the end everyone laughed politely and nervously over our new found common fear, it didn't erase the fact that for a billion plus country, this is just a new dynamic.

While the rich and the middle class have huddled inside their homes, the city's daily wage labourers are more likely to die of hunger than the virus. The government has stepped in to provide free meals at shelters but all this is easier said than done. Hospitals, which on any normal days, are inundated with patients struggle with the new fear, lack of ventilators, masks, and protective gears for doctors.
It's been just a week into our 21-day lockdown but fear has ensured most stay indoors. But will that fear result in lives saved or a new way of living, only time will tell.

Simran Sodhi is a senior journalist based in Delhi, India


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