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People 'fighting' wars within four walls, as social distancing keeps the virus at bay

Representative image
By Gajanan Khergamker* 
As India geared up to listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on April 14, anticipating an extension of a 21-day lockdown enforced to combat the Covid-19 threat, 19-year-old Mansi Bhanushali sat with bated breath with her fingers crossed. “Not again… not again… not again,” she muttered below her breath in abject fear, eyes clenched as if to keep away from the inevitability.
And, within moments of the PM’s announcement, as her family got up to return to their routine, all set to repeat their lockdown activities in confinement, Mansi rushed to the bathroom for that moment of privacy to break down in isolation. It was heart-wrenching to stay away from her beau Sanjay, who she had been seeing for over five years since they met at a coaching centre in her locality for SSC.
Ironically, Sanjay lived three blocks away from her ground-floor apartment at Navrangpura in Ahmedabad West and would, inevitably, ‘pass by’ her place to reach the main road.
But not now, not since the lockdown began and not for long, as it would continue, till May 3, probably even beyond. If it were not for the WhatsApp messages, phone calls and Zoom calls through the day, while all the time, dodging her strict parents, brother and a pesky cousin at home, Mansi would have ‘lost it’ by her own admission.
“And now, with the lockdown being extended and with the whole coronavirus thing just not ending, I am scared she may do something drastic or dangerous,” says Sanjay, himself in a lock down, “yet always accessible,” to Mansi as a rule.
The two had made plans to visit Goa over the first long weekend of May 2020, since more than two months, “with friends of course,” and had to drop them following the lockdown extension.
“I was disheartened but Mansi was heartbroken. She was really looking forward to spending time away from her orthodox parents for the first time free and with friends. This extension has really hit her hard.”
Their friends have now been planning on meeting at a common friend’s house – on a terrace large enough to accommodate them all with the social distancing in place too – after the lockdown ends. “But, this time around,” says Sanjay, “we aren’t telling Mansi. If the lockdown continues and the date may have to be shifted further, she won’t be able to handle it.”
Fizan and Dayan
And, while Mansi and Sanjay have been pining for the lockdown to end and meet as usual, Nagpur’s Namrata Gosai too has been waiting with anticipation for things to mend. “It was a love marriage, and everyone knew how Vinod, her husband, was too possessive of Namrata for comfort.
As Namrata resumed work after marriage, much against her in-laws’ wishes, Vinod’s mother added fuel to the fire even cast aspersions on Namrata’s character and ensured Vinod force Namrata to leave her job and work, for good,” says Namrata’s sister Vaidehi also married and living in Mumbai.
Forced to stay at home too, her suspicious-as-ever husband fights endlessly with her over small, inconsequential things...
“Why, her in-laws had issues with her talking to me too regularly. It’s only after the lockdown began that I put my foot down and started to call her daily as a routine,” says Vaidehi. “And, Thank God for that. Namrata reveals to me how she wishes it (the lockdown) ends soon. She has made peace with the fact that she can’t do a job any longer but has another demon to deal with during the lockdown.”
Forced to stay at home too, her suspicious-as-ever husband fights endlessly with her over small, inconsequential things while her mother-in-law, after triggering the situation, keeps away. Frustrated than ever, during the lockdown, Vinod has even started to physically assault her over the smallest of things.
“Now, following the lockdown, it’s clear that they cannot live together and we’re looking for a legal solution to work out a separation between the two. However, owing to the situation now, there’s little we can do but wait it out for things to normalise,” says Vaidehi, worried sick for her sister.
“I even approached a lawyer in Nagpur but he maintained that the issue was a civil one and needed a resolution through court,” she says. So, once the lockdown ends whenever the government may decide, a separation is inevitable for the couple.
And things aren’t exactly hunky-dory if you’re a kid either. Life is as tricky if not worse for four-year-old Fizan, stuck at his home in Colaba, Mumbai. The child attended just a day of school, for the first time in life, before it shut down following the onslaught of Covid-19 and has been closed since.
But that isn’t an issue for Fizan who has been struggling to understand why he is prevented from stepping out of home. He cycles, rides a battery-driven motorcycle with his brother Dayan sitting pillion, plays cricket with his father even football with the rest of his family but all… indoors!
“I want to play,” he says in utter exasperation to his father, meaning to say, “play outdoors.” Businessman father Fahim Khan stuck indoors too during the lockdown, picks him and cajoles him, “Bas, Id ke baad bahar khelenge,” hopeful that the Coronavirus threat will be a thing of the past by the time Id arrives towards May end. “Insha Allah,” quips his brother and insurance consultant Wasim Khan. India has reacted well in time to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic by locking down the nation.
And, while social distancing may well keep the virus at bay, and provide enough time to 'flatten the curve,' millions across the nation are fighting wars of sorts within the four walls of their homes. And, mostly, winning them too!
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*Founder of think tank DraftCraft International, founding editor of news portal The Draft. A version of this story was first published in "The Draft"

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