Looking from the ‘Inside’ out

Quarantine Diary #1

Like the rest of the general population, I’ve been living in quarantine and practicing social distancing for the past so many weeks as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. My routines are all messed up – I have lost count of my daily meals, I wash my hair when I cant remember when was the last time I have washed it… I , by now, know the real value of pajamas, there are tiny dust particles on my foundation and BB cream, I haven’t waxed my legs for long (don’t see an immediate need too), I sleep and wake up at crazy hours, I keep reading inspiring stories of how people are making the best utilization of this time only to tell myself “Ok, I will do this next week”.

So, while sulking and indulging on a packet of Vegan crisps (yes, I have turned Vegan, will tell that story another day), I was remembering the stories I have heard from my grandparents about how days of Indian Independence struggles were or lock down due to Japanese air raids or the India-Bangladesh partition war was, I was thinking when did I experience anything close to “terror” or similar . Tried to think and look back – might not be in exact sequential manner but tried hard to remember when, on a global or national level, I or people of my generation faced something closer to this.

My first experience of a national turmoil was Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination – at that time, little did I have any idea of the severity of the incident and the national storm it had created. For me, it was family gathering around the television whole day with distraught faces, exchanging their own political opinion. For me, nothing changed – except for some disruptions in watching my favorite cartoon shows.

Next, happened the Babri Masjid demolition. Compared to many other parts of India, Bengal was probably relatively peaceful or at least that’s what a primary-school goer like me perceived. However, would never forget the scary scenes over the news. Media coverage was much less compared to today yet the unrest was all over the bulletin updates and newspaper.

Even before a year could pass, India was shaken by the 1993 Bombay bombings which knocked the swagger out of Mumbai, then called Bombay. Newspapers were flooded with disturbing pictures of the aftermath. Sitting on the other part of India, there were speculations of riot and unrest all over India which went on for few months. But for us, the main topic of discussion at school was “How did Divya Bharati die? Was there a conspiracy?”.

Few years passed by, 90’s was fast pacing – there were achievements – World Wide Web ,Dolly- the cloned sheep, cell phones, Amazon and Alibaba, Linux and Java,DVDs…and there were incidents too – terrorism and violence, Kashmir and Assam , crisis and conflicts but again little did it hamper anything  for a school going kid whose primary interests  were Cricket, Bollywood , Scrap books, gel ink pens, Enid Blyton, Mills n Boons,inter-house competitions.

Then came the monsoon of 1997 – August 1997 – the revolutionary, Princess Diana died at a car crash, crashing along millions of hearts and bringing an end to the princess and the paparazzi. The string that attached Princess Diana to the girls of my age at that time was her eternal fashion. With age, I have learnt more about the fearless princess and have formed my own opinion to adore her beyond just fashion. While the world was still mourning the death of Princess Diana, came another big blow and this time it was really big to us – the death of Mother Teresa in September 1997. We sat in front of the national television which was telecasting the daylong ceremony of homage paying while time stood still for many at the news of Mother Teresa’s death.

Years passed by, India by then had leaders like APJ Abdul Kalam and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and with that came India’s success in Pokhran II. By then, our generation had formed the base for understanding politics, conflicts, science and human-created geographical boundaries.  We started participating in school debates,reading Reader’s Digest, started having crushes too . Next year 1999, Kargil war started – newspapers and TV bulletins were flooded with blood boiling news. Our first experience of a war, far from war-zone but gruesome enough to boil blood and make hearts heavy. We, by then, were well aware of LOC without the need of a J.P Dutta movie. With passage of time, Kargil remained a wounded history and we moved on to focus more towards building our future. We moved onto 2000 and had a different bug then – Y2K (perhaps having a bug every decade is a big way of milestone celebration!)

The budding millennial were then dreaming of making it big in the States someday. The replica of Statue of Liberty at most homes not only adorned the living room showcases but was also a constant reminder that United States of America is where power is. But little did anyone realize that on 11th September 2001, the most powerful country in the world was going to get the biggest shock they would never forget. There was terror, scare, fear, loss, crisis everywhere – economics crashed, families shattered, powers questioned, leaving us confused – So, is America not safe too? The same year, India’s parliament was attacked – news again!

Lots happened in between – crisis, conflicts and some celebrations too. Then came Christmas of 2004 – the deadliest natural disaster, Tsunami wiped away towns from the maps with mind-boggling destruction – millions died, lost and shattered in hours. Before this we heard of earthquakes and floods, being catastrophic natural disasters but this was totally different, totally monstrous – probably our first experience of what Mother Nature can do, at this scale. Christmas has never been the same for many since that year.

It was believed that Bombay rose from the ashes of 1993 and became even more powerful by then – Magnificent Mumbai. The ghastly attack in 2008 in various places of Mumbai left the world speechless. Media and internet were relatively advanced by then. As soon as news started pouring in from all sources, terror and helplessness started spreading at light speed. Life didn’t stop – the Taj has restored back its pride and glory, Mumbai has been undaunted and remains the “Mayanagri or City of Dreams”.

By then, we thought we knew who are enemies were and how we can counter terror attacks. After few years, in 2012, the Nirbhaya case gave India shivers that the December cold of Delhi could never give. Candle light marches, protests, rallies, went on for few months, debate over death sentence or not went on for years but still life didn’t stop for us. We, by then, were adult humans engrossed in making our own busy world. Our thoughts were corrected – terror is just not from terrorists who carry arms.

A lot happened after that –great achievements by humankind in the field of science, sports, culture, politics. We have seen new leaders emerge with new visionaries, we have seen social media prosper, digitization in everything from shopping to paying bills to ordering food to finding life partner. We flourished to arise and spread more, artificial intelligence to predict and prepare, land on the moon, find water in Mars till we confined ourselves within the 4 walls to fight the biggest terror in the history we were not prepared for – The Novel Corona Virus.

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