(Names have been changed to maintain privacy)
Marie lives on her own in an apartment complex in Mangalore. She is European, and her entire family continues to live there, but she decided to move to India a few years ago.
The lockdown hasn’t been too difficult for Marie so far. A week ago, the residents’ committee asked everyone not to leave the apartment complex. They promised that all essential commodities will be available at the mini supermarket within the complex. But for the last week the supermarket was out of vegetables whenever she went to check. They finally had some today. A meal full of veggies later, Marie is happy. In general, the complex where she lives is a luxurious place and she is safe there. The residents are alert and proactive. They also take care of each other. Some people in the building have offered to step out to buy medicines for her. Luckily, before the lockdown Marie ensured she had 2 months’ worth of medicines. But even so, it’s a comfort to know whom she can ask for help in case she needs it. Of course, the lock down means she cannot physically meet people, and she can’t go out. She used to go for a walk every day. She also did yoga with a small group in the complex, and sometimes she even went for a swim in the pool. Those things she really misses. Like many people in her apartment complex, a few days before the lockdown was announced Marie paid her maid for the month and asked her not to come. Her maid was quite upset. She knows that Marie is an old woman living on her own and she wanted to help her out, but Marie insisted. Doing yoga alone in her apartment is very difficult. But Marie is forcing herself to keep it up as a way to take care of her own body.
Vegetables have arrived at the complex’s supermarket
It is quite amazing to see how India has not been hit the way Europe has been in only a short time. There are several hypotheses about why this is the case. Most people think the big wave of cases will come anyway. But according to her the authorities are doing very well. Over the last two days Mangalore was in complete lockdown. Only medical stores were allowed to remain open. Now the restrictions have been relaxed a bit and the municipality has shared a list of shops that are allowed to deliver goods. It also distributed a whole list of doctors who can be consulted online. The list has dates and hours and phone numbers you can call. It also has instructions about maximum duration of calls and so on. The municipality is really organising life so that people don’t unnecessarily go to doctors. There’s also an app where you can see how many people in your pin code area are being tracked because they came in contact with someone with Covid-19. From Marie’s neighbourhood there are about a 100 people. She doesn’t know how many positive cases have been found in Mangalore as a whole, she hasn’t checked in the last two days.
Distance is maintained as fresh stock is brought in
Marie sees the lockdown as necessary. It’s also something that’s being done all over the world. But when she reads about daily wage earners and how they are struggling, she feels really sorry. These people are suddenly without any income. With these kinds of realities, a country like India will have great difficulty in implementing the lockdown. But, it is the only way. Several people in her complex travel to or have family members in the Middle East. One family which recently came back from Dubai happened to be on the same flight as someone who tested positive for Covid-19. That family are now home quarantined. The local authorities have put a paper on their door saying that this family must stay indoors. This generated a lot of debate within the building. Someone was very angry that people were being identified like that, while other people said, no no, it is for our own safety. To Marie it is clear that authorities in India are taking the lockdown very seriously and keenly tracking anyone who has come from abroad or in contact with someone who has/had corona. Marie also hears about border control between states. Nearby Kasaragod, which is just across the border with Kerala, is quite badly hit by the virus. At the moment it is possible to go from Karnataka into Kerala, but if you want to go the other way, it is not possible anymore. She read a story of a man who needed to go to the hospital, but he was not allowed to pass and as a result he died on the road. Borders are also closing in Europe. The borders between the Netherlands and Belgium, and between Belgium and France have closed. This is happening in the Schengen area, two weeks ago it was unthinkable.
Marie is a heart patient. Her age also makes her higher at risk. But she is not very bothered about that. She is usually in good health and she isn’t leaving her apartment. Marie is far more stressed about her family in Europe though. It is quite comforting to hear that they are okay. For herself, Marie only misses going out and being able to meet people. But that’s how it is. She counts herself lucky. Marie lives on her pension, which comes from Europe and has not been impacted by this lockdown. So many people in India are suffering because of the current circumstances. How can the government solve it? She really doesn’t think she should be giving any advice on this. If at all Marie is worried about something, it’s about the internet. Imagine if internet would somehow break down. Of course, it won’t happen easily, but she read an article expressing concern that as people across the globe use more internet, the world might be inching up to a problem. She is very dependent on internet for communication with people in Europe and within India as well. She listens to the European radio all the time and reads e-books. If these things were to fall apart, it would really be a problem for her. Her life has not changed too much after the lockdown, because she is used to living alone. But if the technical means to keep in touch were to falter, that would be a big problem. There is no immediate issue yet, but it’s at the back of her mind.
After moving to Mangalore, Marie has been teaching French to occupy herself. Her students are all Indians, and all of them live in the same complex. The French classes are a very good experience. She likes it and has some good students. She teaches the children in one group, and the adults in another. Her students used to come to her house for classes every day. Since the lockdown she has been contemplating taking classes online. She hesitated, but when two of her students asked for online classes, so she had to start! She’s glad she did, it’s been quite an interesting experience. She’s learning a lot of new things in the process, so that’s definitely a positive. Due to the lockdown there is a lot of the communication on WhatsApp groups between people living in the apartment complex. From these conversations she is getting to know people better. Some for the good and some for the worse. Some people are really very annoying and think only of themselves. Marie has the feeling she is learning more about her local community and after all this is over, she is looking forward to meeting people she has learnt to appreciate through this ordeal.