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Coming home and staying there in COVID-19 times

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Sweeping, swabbing, cooking, washing and more me time than ever imagined. With large parts of the country shutting down to ward against COVID-19, it is back to the basics and recalibrating life for millions of people, a mere inconvenience for some and a huge challenge for the elderly.

The unprecedented lockdown of cities and towns on Monday disrupted lives all over, for those dependent on domestic helps and finding it difficult to access daily necessities as much as for those denied their daily chats over coffee at their workplaces and addicted to their exercise regimens.

With the threat of coronavirus growing by the day, people began the process of de-socialising and learning how to live in isolation, without even the regular good morning' with the milkman and the newspaper vendor. And maybe, just maybe, a quick chat six feet apart with the friend and neighbour.

The experience was different for different folks, particularly the urban middle classes, but it all fell in the spectrum of adjusting to the new reality of coping with a pandemic that has affected over 340,000 people globally and claimed more than 15,000 lives. India has reported 415 cases and seven fatalities.

In Dipankar Mukherjee's family, the daily domestic chores have been distributed. While the 64-year-old and his 55-year-old wife Sukla are taking turns to do the dishes, the onus of keeping the house clean is on their 22-year-old daughter Bipasha.

Our colony has been under lockdown. The entire area was fumigated. The maids have been asked to not come.Vegetable and fruit vendors have also been told to not enter the locality, the resident of Gurgaon's Maruti Vihar colony told PTI.

Dipankar said he has stocked enough food to last a week, but it is difficult to not go out for his daily morning walks and he is still coming to terms with the disruption of his social life.

I am diabetic and have been advised to walk regularly to keep my blood sugar levels in check. I haven't stepped out since the government asked people over 60 to remain indoors.I have started taking walks on my terrace, but my evening meetings with my friends have completely stopped. That is quite frustrating,he said.

Eighty districts, including Delhi and Mumbai, are under lockdown and train and Metro services have been suspended till March 31 to contain the spread of the disease.

And just about every corner of India is hit.

A cancer patient in his 70s came to Delhi from Kolkata for treatment in January but finds himself virtually stranded in the national capital with no idea of how and when he will get back home. With the Delhi government placing curbs on the movement of people, his family and friends living in Noida and Gurgaon can't meet him at the hospital either.

The problems are many and varied.

Sangita Samantha, a working mother, said it is difficult to balance taking care of her toddler daughter and work.

"My husband and I have demanding jobs. We kept our child at a daycare centre, bu they closed down and it is difficult to work at home with a baby around, especially if the help is not there," the Gurgaon-based 34-year-old said.

Many neighbourhoods are joining hands to help the elderly living away from their children or those on their own.

In some gated communities and other localities, where outsiders have been barred, lists of senior citizens are being prepared so milk and other deliveries are collected from the main gate and delivered to them. And while domestic helps have also been stopped from coming in, discussions are under way on how to make exceptions to help those who can't help themselves.

The younger generation has its own concerns.

Waled Aadnan (28) and Sayan Kundu (30), who share an apartment in south Delhi's Neeti Bagh are managing without their cleaning help.

We have decided to share the cleaning job between the two of us, said Waled, a risk analyst in a Gurgaon-based firm.

I have newfound respect for my maid, added Sayan, a World Bank employee.

Like most people, they too stocked up on some essential groceries, and are relying on online delivery apps.

What is bothering Waled the most, however, is the limited access to the outside world.

I have to figure out a new fitness regime while staying completely inside the house, he said.

The shutting down of automobile repair shops is leading to problems as well.

A city-based journalist left his car with a workshop in Noida following a minor accident, but is wondering how to get it back.

First they were not working because of the Janta curfew, and then the government announced the three-day lockdown in Noida and in Delhi till March 31. Now I don't know how long the workshop will be closed. And I can'tget my car back because the borders are sealed, he said.

As fear and apprehension spread, people said the inconvenience of a lockdown is temporary and worth it.

There is inconvenience, but right now the priority is the safety of our and our loved ones' lives, said Dipankar.

After seeing what happened to Italy where the lockdown was not taken so seriously, I think it is all worth it. Of course, couple that with paid leaves and empathy for those who work for us, Sayan agreed.

To ensure the lockdown is maintained, the centre has warned of legal action a fine of Rs 1,000 or six months jail against those flouting the rules.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, March 23 2020. 17:56 IST