It’s been four weeks since I have stepped out of the one-room kitchen apartment in central Mumbai that I live in. Of course, that is if you ignore the few times I have had to go down to collect some stuff that was being home-delivered.
The building that I stay in is right on the road that goes to one end of the Bandra-Worli Sealink, which connects the island city to its suburbs, and given that, it is normally buzzing with some traffic 24/7. But the traffic has been missing over the last few weeks, as Mumbai remains under a lockdown to control the second wave of Covid.
In the silence that surrounds me, I can hear the birds chirping for once, like I could the same time last year. For some reason, the dogs are barking more than they usually do. May be they are not being fed as well as they usually are, as people continue to stay at home.
The ground behind my apartment isn’t noisy anymore with kids and adults not playing cricket. But the sirens of emergency ambulances dashing across the city can be heard loud and clear, any time of the day.
The good part is there is less traffic on the roads, and they can get to the hospitals much faster.
What I can also hear loud and clear is the buzzing of my phone. The SOS cries on Twitter and Facebook have been going up by the day. People have been asking for help, even begging in some cases, for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and all kinds of medicines.
As more and more cries for help hit social media, the responses seem to be coming down. I guess people are either getting comfortably numb or there is only so much that they can do.
Also, it’s finally hit me that quite a few families living in apartments around me are dysfunctional, perhaps they always were, and have now finally had the time to fight it out and figure it out. Of course, given how close we live to one another, noise travels from one apartment to another.
In all this, the father and son duo, who are my next-door neighbours, continue to play cricket on the verandah, with the father asking the son to bowl just as bowlers bowl in the IPL cricket tournament that is currently on. Who would have thought that IPL would happen during a pandemic and become a moral issue?
But then if capitalism is not a moral issue, what is?
The slumdwellers continue to drag water in buckets placed on a board with wheels, something very peculiar to Mumbai, and very difficult to visualise, unless you have seen it.
The grocery store and vegetable vendor I get my supplies from have become technologically savvy. They now take orders on WhatsApp and accept payments on Google Pay.
And that’s the beauty of capitalism, people adapt to make life easy for others and profitable for themselves. But when they overdo it, it becomes a moral issue.
In one way, everything has changed in the world that I live in. In another, nothing has.
The young guy, living in an apartment below my floor, continues to blast Bruce Springsteen. The Boss is singing Dancing in the Dark.
“Messages keeps gettin’ clearer
Radio’s on and I’m movin’ ‘round my place
I check my look in the mirror
Wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man, I ain’t gettin’ nowhere
I’m just livin’ in a dump like this
There’s somethin’ happenin’ somewhere.”
Each time he gets to singing Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself, I cannot help but wonder why this song hasn’t become an anthem for the times that we live in.
Bored, tired, jaded and hopeless, that’s how I feel right now.
And perhaps so do many others, who are waiting it out.
This piece originally appeared in the Khaleej Times under a different headline.