16.04.2020, 11.25 pm
23 days of lockdown, 2919 cases, 100+ deaths later in Mumbai - I’d say, we, the privileged class, are doing fine.
I, as a privileged citizen of Indian, someone who can read, write and have an opinion online and off it (when it’s allowed to go out of course), feel helpless now. Helpless for a multitude of reasons, like for one, my bathroom is flooded for days because I can’t call a plumber. So, I’m simply using my sister’s bathroom now, trying hard to not stress or complain. And this is the kind of privileged problem I feel ashamed to talk about these days, thinking about a majority of my countrymen who have way bigger problems in life to deal with right now. And plumbing, electricity, fitness are the least of their worries. As much as I said in my previous article, that the virus does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, now I beg to differ.
Remember that line from George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'? "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Yes, that's what it's like when we say "All human beings are at risk of infection."The inequality is here to stay, stubbornly this time. And something should be done about this sooner rather than later.
As I sit in front of my laptop comfortably behind my wooden study desk writing this journal entry right now, realizing the privilege we oh-so-cutely complain about, my heart is in Dharavi. Dharavi, a slum situated in over an area of just over 2.1 square kilometres, that’s home to over 7 lakh people. The same home where 26 new coronavirus cases have been found today. Arriving at the largest slum in Asia means a rapid spread of the virus among people, even if there’s a family that’s extra careful about their hygiene. What’s their fault then? That they live in the slum where 25,000 odd people share the same roof over their heads? So then, do they have an option to social distance themselves from each other? No. Do they have toilets just to themselves? No. Are they finding it difficult to survive this lockdown? Hell yes.
Therefore, I have just one very important question today for our prime minister and our government - basically, the authorities in power who have their hands on all the funds and donations collected in the past month. Over $700 million (including the relief funds left from 1948) is with the ‘PM Cares’ fund and more is coming every day. May I, as a citizen of this country, be allowed to ask now, after all the addresses and tweets by Mr Prime Minister - in what direction are the funds going? Have they been released yet? As the days are passing, so is our desperation for some much-needed answers. I’ve been hoping for this answer for a while now. One address to another, to yet another. But, nothing.
Our Chief Minister’s speech, however, gave me some respite but as someone who’s been working actively on fundraising during this time as well, I’m desperate to now know where these funds are getting used. Or more importantly, are they getting used? Last I’d heard, we were supposed to receive self-testing kids by April 15th. What happened to that news?
My point being, to make any difference to the virus, we have to go to the grassroots like every other deep-rooted issue in any society and not seeing any of that happening with the massive funds and time we have, I’m concerned. The fact that we are not explicitly helping people in rural areas and the slums to prevent the spread of the virus in their own communities, it’s not okay.
Hope is the only light I have and we need in our lives right now. And trust me, I’ve waited patiently before putting this question out hoping for someone to read - someone, anyone, who can make a difference.
Getting the slum dwellers to light a diya in their temporary establishments and making migrant workers do some yoga in temporary facilities won’t light up their lives, making them feel cared for right now would.
If you’re reading this today, do start asking the right questions because they almost always go a long way. I swear.
And on this note, I’d like to wish you a peaceful night. Tomorrow will be a new day with better news - we can all manifest this thought now, can’t we?