Being imposed a fine is not so good a thing. In casual occasions when we met friends, we would talk about the arrest of lockdown violators. One professor of History says he wishes never to move out from his house from a bad experience of being held by the police. It had always been my lifestyle to roam the countryside close to my house. But this June, I could not move out and explore the country. For moving out in the evenings also means crossing police checkpoints.
It’s not feasible either to apply for a curfew pass. So I miss the grandeur of the open fields, the overlooking presence of Baruni hills and the blithe of playing children. There are times when I couldn’t just control myself. But the rules, I cannot flout.
The police have been arresting lockdown violators since late March, but inspite of it, there are many who move to and fro. Are they all passholders? There are some who just put on a sticker, “CURFEW PASS” on their vehicle and move .When I asked him, “Do you have that paper issued by the competent authority?”, he just replied, “That is the paper, the pass”, pointing to the sticker. And so he moves.
Being confined at home, under virtual house arrest, makes one resist believing what is happening outside. I hold that,” Seeing is believing”, but I haven’t seen anything to believe for the past three months. For instance, except photos and TV images, we could not see the life inside quarantine centres. Life at these centres is, I think, less than an interesting affair. Boredom will set in with nothing else to do except being connected on the mobile. Is it about two square meals a day and waiting, waiting sometimes for Godot.
Inside the house, there is nothing particular to do. I have exhausted reading all the books I have. Reading is no longer a pleasure, and the worst thing is to watch TV. Because there are no discoveries, no revelation of a truth, just redundant statistics and clichés. But there is one particular thing I enjoy, which is watching the swallows. Some of them have made our porch their nests.
These swallows are never idle, they are always agile. They fly in and out, make new nests and produce baby swallows. Sometimes these baby swallows die, after falling from their nests, before they can fly. They make the summer and herald gaiety.
In the past, my children could not stay long with me. They had to go to their schools, and so we did not have the opportunity to spend much time together. How I had missed their little remarks then, they had not had the chance all these times to share their thoughts. At their schools, they had been kept under rigid rules and so had become afraid of me even. I talked to them and felt sad that I had missed to learn of all their insecurities all these times.
But now, they have changed their characters. With all love and warmth in the family, they feel their importance and volunteered to do small jobs in the family. They had always been wanting to talk but had no leisure for it, but now they do, and they have flowered in their expression. The drudgery of the school work had really made them stooping souls.
It had been a bolt from the blue. After the merrymaking and sporting spirit of Yaoshang, we were suddenly put under lockdown from March 25. It was like a siege in the initial days of April. We were fighting to get our rations, and there had been a time when water was scarce. We felt it was perhaps as intense as the 14-day siege of Kohima during the second world war.
I remember one occasion when I went out to take ration, the police suddenly came with their megaphones, and asked shopkeepers to close shops or face the music. Our shopkeeper closed his shop, and we hid inside the shop. It took a long time for the way to become clear. Those nervous moments had been an experience, because the police at that time arrested and fined shopkeepers and customers.
There had been hardships galore. Our rations had to be replenished and we needed resources which were scanty. During the intense days of the lockdown, even recharging the mobile became a tough affair, if you don’t have the online payment app.
As one colleague put it, complete lockdown means a lathi on the back. Inspite of it, I miss the country, the open fields where the sun blazes, and the vast azure sky which never fails to make my days, even the most gloomy ones, serene. I do miss the excursions into the country.
The writer is a freelance writer and journalist