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Kolkata Under Lockdown

India's fight against Coronavirus

"The Prime Minister called for a ‘Janta Curfew’, asking people to withdraw themselves indoors to help prevent the community spread of the highly contagious and communicable virus."

I always wondered as a child how a city would look like if all its people withdrew themselves from public life. Popular culture always made it look eerie to live in a desolated city. I still remember playing a game called Tom Clancy's The Division back in 10th grade, the plot of which is similar to the current scenario. People with hazmat suits, extremely sparse activity amongst people, roads void of any vehicle, dark skies and sometimes coming across apocalyptic characters.

Today, India went under lockdown to control the spread of COVID19, popularly known as Coronavirus and as some idiots like to call it, "Chinese Virus". While the city was under lockdown, I couldn't resist myself but to head out, take a look and experience the city as it was. I hung the camera across my body, carried a sling bag which of course had a hand sanitizer inside, and cycled through the busiest parts of the city.

I started cycling from Gariahat, through Deshapriya Park, Lake Market, Rashbehari, Chetla, Alipore, Ballygunge, Park Circus, AJC Bose Road, and Howrah Bridge. Kolkata is also known for its nap time, which comes every day from 2 pm to 5 pm. After a sumptuous lunch, people close the shutters and recharge for the evening shift that starts at 5 pm. This nap time is so addictive that I often have to stay on our terrace when my Mom is recharging so that I don’t end up waking her up.

It was different today. The Prime Minister called for a ‘Janta Curfew’, asking people to withdraw themselves indoors to help prevent the community spread of the highly contagious and communicable virus. I can count the number of people and vehicles I saw on the streets of Kolkata today, it was so less. It is great that people are understanding the importance of social distancing at this hour because here in India, if you fail to control the community spread of the virus, things can become unmanageable and a lot many would die. The city was empty, the most unpleasant noise of horns and engines was replaced by the most soothing sound of a variety of birds chirping. The only other time when there was such silence along with the sound of the wind and birds was when I was in Ranthambore National Park back in 2012. I remember looking at Victoria Memorial from our terrace as a child and as I grew up, a thick blanket of smog made it impossible to take a look at the dome of the memorial. Today, when the city was under lockdown, the white marble dome could be seen from the same spot as before. Blue skies, better air, no unnecessary bickering or noise, sparkling streets, it was all in place.

No, Kolkata did not look like a city with gloomy skies nor did it look like an apocalyptic city as lockdowns are usually portrayed in the media. Kolkata was basking in its glory. The city took a breather, a time out for a day. The golden hour was setting in and at this time all one could hear was the sound of applauses and metals clanking from every balcony, from every street corner, from every residential complex as an expression of gratitude for all the service providers.

I did not bang utensils, I did not clap from my balcony but I loved the energy and positivity around me! I would rather take this forum to thank every single doctor, scientist, policemen and women, and everyone working on the frontline by risking their own lives. There is nothing that gives this world more optimism and hope than your service today. I fed my curiosity and ventured out to show all of you what Kolkata in quarantine looks and feels like. It is as beautiful, it is cleaner and it echoes that we care for each other, in spirit and action.

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