MAY 20, 2020, AHMEDABAD (LOCKDOWN 4.0)
After 57 days (since the lockdown was announced in India on March 25), today early in the morning I ventured out of my home for the first time. The city felt intimidating. I felt like a complete stranger in the city which has been my home for the last 20 years.
Since yesterday, I have been mentally preparing myself to go to the neighbourhood shop to buy certain items. Even essential items for me are luxury for some. As I could not find the shop’s contact number, I looked for it in google. I had made a call to find out about the shop’s timing. The person who picked up the phone told me to come at 6 in the morning. I set my alarm clock before hitting the bed.
In the morning, I got ready, put my homemade cotton mask and ventured out. I felt nervous, unsure. I was happy to meet Santosh bhaiya, my building’s security guard. We exchanged greetings.
As I walked towards the shop, the city felt intimidating. I felt like a complete stranger in the city which has been my home for the last 20 years. Few masked men and women were on the street as it was early in the morning. I could not see contours of any face.
I had to wait for a little while as the owner of the shop had not arrived. He then came on his two-wheeler. ‘Good morning,’ I told him. He said, “Beta, good morning.” He fed grains to the pigeons before opening the shop.
His shop always had shelves full of things. Today, his shop did not fit into what I have always seen. I had never seen empty shelves in his shop. I felt odd, a sense of emptiness. I bought things I wanted, some things were not there. We exchanged money with a sense of caution. Before leaving the shop, I told him to take care of himself. He wished the same to me.
I walked back home with a sense of urgency. The vegetable, fruits vendors were arranging their carts to start another day. The police van was moving around asking everyone to follow official guidelines. Behind masks, everyone looked distant, cold. It was as if I walking through a ghost town.
I reached home, put my clothes and mask in a bucket for washing . I washed my hand with soap for little more than 25 seconds. I then burst into crying. I still don’t know why did I cry. But I just couldn’t stop the tears. I don’t know whether the tears are for the uncertain times we are living in or for the faceless migrant workers walking back home under a brutal sun, some dying on the road, some being run over by a train. Some gracious enough to refuse food because they want someone more hungry to have that food.
Or may be at a deep personal level, I just could not come to terms with that feeling of being a lonely stranger in my own city. My Ahmedabad. Aapnu Amdavad.