Locked Down in India

BY RAMA KASHYAP

The news of the deadly virus spreading its tentacles all over the globe started trickling in to Chandigarh from January last year, creating fear amongst the people in the country. The reality hit us really hard when the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24 bringing life to a standstill. It was an exceptionally tough period marked by panic and anxiety, not just in India but all across the world as governments everywhere imposed similar lockdowns.

As millions across the globe faced these coronavirus-induced lockdowns, a massive, shared experience came to being. Holed up in their homes, people took to social media in a big way to burst stress by sharing jokes, memes, witty one-liners and funny videos. Online humour emerged as a kind of collective therapy for humanity, providing respite from the grim situation, albeit temporary.

As people turned to social media for beating the pandemic and lockdown blues, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook came to be flooded with all kinds of jokes-subtle and sarcastic, endearing and wicked. Interesting was the way in which the content of online humour changed as the lockdown inched from one phase to another. Now ‘WFH’ seems normal but initially when work from home was yet to gain momentum, many jokes of the new trend started doing the rounds. 

Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been no dearth of self-styled experts giving unmasked advice on treatment of the virus. All kinds of cures -allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, naturopathy- have been doing the rounds on social media.

“I have just finished my post-doctorate on coronavirus treatment from WhatsApp University.”

Many posts were quirky and slightly snide wordplays. An amusing cartoon read, “Villagers in Punjab are still wondering who the hell is Soshail Distan Singh (Social Distancing)?”Another one, “Xi Jinping’s message to the world: No Ming Ling” was equally interesting. A widely-shared one-liner with pun intended, “Coronavirus won’t last long because it was made in China” In contrast to the dark jokes, there was an endearing one-liner, “Dear God, please reboot 2020. It has a virus.”

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Weeks into the lockdown, a post read, “I have lost all count of days and dates. I don’t know if it is Sunday or Monday, March or April.  There is neither any inflow nor outgo of money. I have risen above materialistic pursuits. Have I attained salvation?”

Lockdowned couples 24×7 for months became the subject of many husband-wife jokes. “I and my wife are working from home. I think we will kill each other before the virus does!” Another crisp one-liner read, “Couples in lockdown are in a dilemma if they MADE for each other MAID for each other.” All hell broke loose in most middle-class homes in India when the domestic help stopped coming. The absence of maids during the lockdown became a subject of many killer jokes, viral memes and deadly puns.

When liquor shops opened, lovers of Bacchus were found standing in long and serpentine queues that became a theme of many WhatsApp jokes as to how they were putting their safety at stake with the noble intention of lifting the economy. There was this cartoon depicting a wife objecting to her husband’s non-stop drinking that stole my heart. The distraught husband was shown pleading he is not stopped as he was an economic warrior consuming liquor to salvage the sinking economy. 

Despite rising Covid cases, when lockdown restrictions began to be eased because of economic compulsions since the month of May, I was astounded to find a witty post in my chat-box brilliantly summing up the scenario. “In a way Corona is like your spouse, initially you try to control, then you realize you can’t. Then you learn to live with it.”

And this is the reality. The pandemic doesn’t seem to be going soon and lockdown is not the solution. What we need is the coping mechanism, Covid appropriate behaviour and mass vaccinations to deal with it.

Best regards from India.

Rama Kashyap is a retired associate professor from MCMDAV College in Chandigarh.