The Covid Chronicles : Let's talk about lockdown

12:09 PM

Hello peeps!

How are you all doing, wherever in the world you are. As you all know, India is under tight lockdown, and we just got news this week that it was going to be extended until May 3rd (as of now).

If you live outside India, you might not necessarily be familiar with what our lockdown means. So I decided to write about MY experience in Mumbai. Note that it might be different for other people depending where they live, which is why I specify that not only it is how this is going for Mumbai, but more specifically how it affects me and people in my direct neighbourhood.

I got prompted to write it after reading my other friends across India reported certain difficulties, and blowing up appliances, only to have people living outside India question why it is a HUGE deal in India and that NO we can't just have it fixed or replaced.

So here goes!

In Mumbai, we entered a semi-lock down on March 13, at the time it meant that we could still find non-essential stuff in stores, and maintenance services were still operational, along with Amazon operating at full strength. Which was actually quite a good deal, people were encouraged to stay home and only places where crowd were unavoidable were shut.

A few Covidiots and people disrespecting self-quarantine orders later, that situation changed drastically. We entered a full lock down on March 21st, that was BEFORE the Janta Curfew, and BEFORE the big Modi announcement of a 21 days lockdown. We in Mumbai were put on house arrest before it became a national order, and originally we were supposed to be in until March 31st.
We all know that changed after the National lockdown came into effect, and said lockdown just got extended as I said above.

So what does a tight lockdown mean exactly? When I see my friends in Europe and US still allowed to go for a walk, as long as they respect social distancing norms, and/or can order "non-essential" online (even with a delay), I'm going to tell you frankly :

You have no idea how freaking lucky you are! 

Because here in Mumbai, we can't do those things. The only people allowed to go out for walks are people who own a dog, and we should keep it nice and short, it's not like you can get away with walking your dog for hours and several times a day.
At any rate, I have a Shih Tzu who hates the outdoor, so my outings are just a 10 minutes affair twice a day so that Madam Kiwi gets to wee wee and poo poo. I don't go out my compound, and I do it as early in the morning as possible and late at night to avoid crowd and judgy aunties.

The doggy walk routine has me wash my hands thoroughly before stepping out, push the lift buttons with my elbow, give a wide berth to the security desk in the lobby, while still saying good morning to the poor guy manning the desk and off I go on our doggy business. I pick up the poop in a little baggy, tie it to the leash and off back home we go. This time I need to step in front of the desk, because nobody coming back from outside is allowed in before sanitising their hands with the dispenser provided at the desk. Back home I throw the poop, wash my hands again.

The only other outings permitted for people are those that involve buying groceries and medicines, we are encouraged not to hoard stuff, but also strongly advised not to step out too often (riddle me that!)
Hubby is the one on grocery duty, that way he gets to see the outdoors too (once a week or so).

Grocery shopping is a a pain in the butt

When I read my friends in Europe complain about lack of toilet paper, and disinfectant wipes, I can't help but be puzzled and irritated at the same time. 
Because my reality is far more disturbing. Finding basic food stuff is hard. Not TP, not packaged wipes, no 1st world items....nope FOOD! 
We stocked up on dry staples before the lockdown so we still have flour, lentils, and pasta, but finding vegetables and fruits has been an ordeal for the past month. 

You don't know if there will be stock, you don't know what will be available, you can't be picky about quality either, and in my area the rules of vegetables buying change all the time. 
We have vendors that are scheduled to come once or twice a week, and we get whoever is available. Our society management experienced with various systems over the weeks.

There was the token system, where we had to step out, collect a token with the vendor and let the Building volunteer know (and make sure we were in the WhatsApp group), it was a fairly good system, we could go home and then wait until our token got called via Whatsapp and buy the stuff. 
The problem was that often the vendors struggled to meet the need of everyone and completing all the token orders became challenging. 

Then we had the drop your bag with a list and phone number, and come back to pick up the bag once filled and pay. 
This one didn't work, because we could not see what was available, and half the list would not be available. 

Thy then tried to do a subscription box setup, we would get the combo box price and content, and place an order 2-3 days in advance and then pick up the box. 
We never went for this one, because each box comes with tomato, onion and potato a plenty, and the rest is about 70% of vegetables we never use or spoil real fast. 

Last but not least, we now get to queue in a social distancing way, masks mandatory, and wait until we can get to the stall and buy whatever is there. Yesterday we even got pictures sent of all that was available. 
Since we needed tomatoes and I saw broccoli and eggplants in the pictures I was motivated enough to go. I put on my mask, took my bag and stayed in a queue of 25 people. 1.5 hours later, I got my veggies, made it home, sweaty, dizzy and my face red from wearing my N95 mask, which was soaked in my own sweat. 
I drank plenty of water, went down for a nap in my AC room, woke up an hour later, drank more water, and suddenly started to feel dizzy, and hot. The telltale sign of heat exhaustion, probably from standing in a queue for 1.5 hours breathing back in my own not so fresh breath. 
A few ice packs, a cold shower, a ton of fluid and a homemade electrolyte solution of lemon, salt and water later I felt ok but still exhausted. 

Ordering groceries online has proven to be a pain too. I gave up on Big Basket because I was not getting slots even after 2 weeks. It took me over a week to get a slot on Amazon Prime Now, and by then all that was still available was shampoo and soap. I use Dunzo and Swiggy daily, but there is no guaranty of availability of anything, so you need to check in daily, possibly several times a day and not be too picky about what fruits or veggies you fancy. 
I ran out of kitchen cleaner, and can't find it anywhere, but I scored a Amazon Prime Now slot this morning for cream cheese, and other food basics I was running low of. 

Special diet be damned

As an insulin resistant person, my diet has to be high protein and vegetables and low carbs. Guess what? That can't be done anymore. We live in a carb overload fest reality. 
My low GI breakfast cereals are available nowhere, are deemed un-essential on Amazon, all the good quality bread production has stopped, and I don't do well at all on a dal-roti-sabzi diet, because dal has carbs, roti has too much carbs, and there is no pure proteins to keep my metabolism running. 

The first sign of things being too much for my metabolism to handle is that the dark patches of skin associated with Insulin resistance and diabetes made a comeback on my legs. Even while trying to still eat healthy, my body can't cope. 
Needless to say I order meat in bulk the instant I score a slot, and that it's why I queued 1.5 hours in the sun for broccoli yesterday.
My energy levels are depleted from the inadequate diet, and my whole body is giving less than subtle sign that I should get those leafy salads and lean meat protein back in pronto.

The definition of essential 

The only things considered essential in this lockdown are food items, medicine, pet food, and medical  and veterinarian emergencies. 

Anything else will NOT happen, and even within the food category there is a lot of things that are sketchy. 
Amazon and other online shopping places will only mark big brands as essential : so finding Maggi noodles, Kellogg's, Britannia, and Amul basics is possible, smaller brands started by small businesses  and organic goods isn't. A lot of dairy products I relied on in my diet like fresh paneer, feta, fresh buffalo milk mozzarella aren't available anymore, the only cheese you can find is processed cheese made in large scale industrial plant. Which if you ask me is outrageous considering that there are reports of farmers having to dump their milk, or even let their cows go wild because they can't feed them anymore.

You better pray that no appliances will bail on you this lockdown, because you can't have them fixed, or even buy a new one. I have a friend whose fridge broke at the beginning of lockdown, fortunately she had a smaller one she can still use. Another friend's microwave convection oven burnt, again no possibility of fixing it or replacing it. In my society whatsApp group, there has been countless request for ways to fix water heaters, washing machines, and even water purifiers, and the answer is always the same : can't be fixed. 

In this lockdown, the power plug on which my dishwasher is plugged surged and fried 3 times, the second time I fixed it we got lucky an electrician was doing some big emergency work in the building, but he told us that the repair was fine, and that the only thing needed was to change the entire extension wire and plug box, but that sadly, he could not get those part until after the lockdown was lifted. 
That plug fried again yesterday, causing me to have to cut a significant portion of the faulty power line off and bridge it to a health length of cable I got from an old laptop cable. Once again, very fortunate I know my way around electrical basics. It's still unfathomable that nobody made provision for electrical repairs being essential. 

Maintenance in buildings is close to zero because they fall under non essential, so 2 weeks ago we got a light show of 5 fire department truck and a building evacuation in the building across the street because a lift short circuited and caught fire. Why? Because elevator maintenance is not fighters are. 
There has been a surge in mosquito presence these past few weeks too, because the pest control fumigation service that came once a week got cancelled as it guessed it...non essential. 
The onset of the dengue and malaria peak season is here, but let's only worry about Covid, those are the only sick people that people fear. 

Let's work from home and pray we can continue to do so

We are all encouraged to work from home, but keep praying no internet malfunction, laptop issue, phone issue, and other supplies issue strike you. Because in case it wasn't clear already, none of these fall under essential. So unless you find a way to channel enough energies from potatoes to charge your phone because your charger went kaput, you might be in a big pile of poop. 

Homeschooling as we found is a great consumer of printer paper, and fortunately our school is calling it quit next week, so I won't be faced with the prospect of running out of paper (we are almost out). Because...yup printer paper isn't essential. 

Keeping your kids with anything but Netflix, Hotstar and video game is also not an option if you ran out of paper, crayons and coloring books, because that too isn't essential. And with it goes all the child rearing experts guidelines saying screens are evil and kids should not be exposed to it. 

Getting your kids out of the house while your spouse is on an important call is also out of question, walking dogs is allowed, making sure you keep your kids and yourself sane on a small walk...not so much. 
Fortunately, I have only one kid and our flat is big enough that my husband can get some quiet on business calls. My heart goes to those stuck in a joint family setup during this lockdown, I know some do live in flat of my size with at least one set of parent and multiple kids. 

To put things into perspective...

I belong to the privileged segment of the population, I have a flat, electricity, and we still earn an income, so we CAN observe the lockdown. 
In India, not everybody is that blessed, daily wage workers are hit the hardest, many have started dangerous exodus to their native place because living in a city without an income is a death sentence by default. 
Slum dwellers living in a joint family setting in 300 square feet CAN'T practice social distancing, and I would love the middle and upper middle class to stop getting angry at them for walking in the streets. 
In my area there are a couple of ladies, who from the comfort of their AC-ed fortress will either snap pictures, or call the cops on slum dwellers any chance they get. The cops come, punish them because that is the law, but then what? 
If the upper middle class segment that came back from international travels in March did take self quarantine seriously, we wouldn't now be seeing the virus burn through less privileged neighbourhoods the way it does. Nobody took picture of those well off, self entitled moron or reported them to the police...Just saying. 

I don't mind the lockdown

I seriously don't, but I mind the way it has been implemented. To be fair, I work from home full time, and before we even heard of Covid, and quarantine, I was stepping out just to pick up my daughter in school and once a week to go on errands and lunch out with friends. It's not like I was outdoors or even socialising a whole lot.
Social distancing will have to continue beyond the lockdown, probably for a few months, I just hope that whoever is in charge or rules realise that the best way to keep people home is to ensure that essential goods aren't just food and medicine and that delivery of online goods of all kind should be resumed. If we don't reopen services, the daily wagers will continue to suffer, and it's harder to keep death by starvation away with no income, than it is to keep Covid in check. 

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  1. Anonymous2:04 PM

    This govt has done nothing right since it came to power. Us common people always keep bearing the brunt of its poor planned decisions. The majority of sufferer's are the low income group ppl. And not because of the virus.

    1. Definitely! The virus has been the last straw for the low income bracket class :-(

      I understand the necessity of a lockdown, but this government did not manage anything well, not only did they not think necessities had to extend beyond food, they also screwed up the food supply chain big time.

      I am angered at the fact that right now, we only get access to processed packaged crap, and the money we pay goes in the pocket of big multinational groups instead of helping a local food business.

      I told my husband, once this lockdown is over, I refuse to put money in a big multinational group of any kind if I can avoid it. I don't mind paying a bit more to support a local brand, and my goal is to find a way to support at least 1 small business a day, any business, any small brand.

  2. Phew, you have been through a lot. Take care with your nutrition. I was wondering about you. I heard that Covid cases in Mumbai has increased. New cases have not been reported in Delhi but hotspots remain. Fortunately, there is a small market for vegetables, medicines and milk near or apartment. Almost all essential items are available. People are practicing social distancing with masks.

    Online classes have been a revelation. Whoever thought education could be imparted through a computer. Today the teacher interacted with the students online through an app. Marvels of technology. The only problem is we are running out stationery. Stationery shops are closed and books/copies for the new session cannot be bought from school. Some sort of school connection continues with the online classes which is good.

    I was so dependent on metro that when it stopped suddenly, I was at my wits end how to reach my office in central Delhi from my residence in south west Delhi. Then my scooter came in handy. I have never driven that far, but with little traffic I reach my office earlier than I used to be when metro was operational. With little traffic,the roads look the size of football fields. I guess metro, if at all is operational, in the future might not be safe idea.

    We like other people are enjoying the re runs of popular TV serials. It is a strange experience like some old friend has returned to meet you and you remember through the mist of time, exactly what your little self was doing when that particular episode was aired. The old characters are fast becoming popular with the younger generation on twitter as well, leading to funny memes. As they say old is gold.

    It is a strange but testing time for human existence.

    1. We have a lot of cases in Mumbai, but for the past week the new cases curves is no longer climbing high. All over Maharashtra we usually average 200 new cases a day, there is no longer a steep climb that goes on for days. A few peaks, but nothing as worry some as 2 weeks ago. The state has moved to a cluster containment system. So if a building or area is having cases, they put the whole building or area in containment and declare the surrounding areas a buffer zone.

      A case got confirmed in a building down the street yesterday, so they placed that building under quarantine, and my building and others around me are now in a buffer zone, this means that in theory we are still allowed to go out to buy groceries, but that it's strongly advised to have them delivered instead.

      They also apparently are moving toward systematically testing the immediate family and contacts of people testing positive. From what I read the protocol says that the municipality should conduct a test on family members of a positive case 5 days after the first confirmed case to decrease the chance of false negative. Which is probably why cases are that high in Mumbai, we are testing more.
      The case in my neighbourhood was a Dr who had been in contact with infected patients, they tested him and he was positive even though he had no symptoms.

      Frankly, I think this should be a wake up call for people to be more aware about hygiene, and that when you are sick, any kind of sick, be it a cold or a flu, or anything else, you STAY HOME and get better before going out in the world.
      I also think mask wearing should become a thing. Japan has a mask wearing culture, people wear them if they have a cold, or even allergies as a way not to spread their germs, when Covid 19 hit, they all started wearing masks and that has probably contributed to their relatively low rate of infection.

      If planned properly and made it into a habit, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to wear one in public transports and malls and places you know you'll be in a crowd, and of course remember to wash hands often.
      I've been carrying a bottle of hand sanitiser in my purse for years, and often, also a small pack of wet wipes, and I use those frequently when I'm out an about.

    2. True, washing hands and the use of masks have been the two major takeaways from this crisis. Now, everybody knows how to wash hands and for how long.

      Your search for low glycemic index food set me thinking. I wish to make a humble suggestion, just a suggestion. I think you should try kala chana or black gram. Put it in water the previous night and then eat it next day with some onion, chilly, tomatoes and salt. A wholesome breakfast in the morning. Alternatively, you can buy roasted black gram, or roast it at home, the process is there on youtube. Pound it into flour, mix it with water and salt first thing in the morning and drink it. The flour could be put to other uses also. It has proteins, fibers and minerals to keep you going the whole day and it is an excellent coolant for summer. This is also a very good healthy snack, when the craving strikes you. This food was especially made for scarcity. Traditionally, when there is little to eat, people eat the black gram flour with green chilly and onions, or drink it. Now, ofcourse it is known as super food as traditional foods are making a comeback due to their health benefits.

    3. I HATE kala channa!

      Tried to have it as sprouts, roasted and boiled, hate all versions of it.
      Beside, culturally I can't get my day started on a breakfast that contain pungent components like onions. I think it's the same as asking Indians to feel satiated on a breakfast of fresh fruits and yogurt, it goes against everything they are used to.

      Also I found that I don't particularly digest chana, beans, and pulse too well. Seriously the best way I have found to keep my metabolism and my body happy is : lots of roasted or steamed veggies (or raw in a salad) and meat, eggs, fish or dairy.
      I usually keep grains and pulse of all kind to a minimum because it makes me VERY sluggish, bloated and gassy. Hubby often jokes that I should be turned into a weapon of mass destruction on days I eat too much grains and pulse and THAT BAD.

      Needless to say that the joke of the moment is to deploy me as an anti-corona agent in the city's hotspots...enough said.

    4. Oh, you can use a mixture of ajwain, rock salt and lemon juice, dried in the sun and powdered, for bloating problem. You can also try some yoga for digestion. Digestion has been a problem due to the lockdown. Can't take evening walks after dinner, police informed that taking walks even inside the apartment is not allowed. There goes all kind of mobility.

    5. Ok, what about you STOP trying to offer some kind of Indian remedy to begin with?

      Fact 1 : I am INTOLERANT to ALL carbs, I CAN'T have them in big quantity, even the low GI one

      Fact 2 : I thrive on a meat heavy diet with close to zero grains

      Fact 3 : I never asked for random people who are not my doctor to fix anything

      All in all, this lockdown has made it very inconvenient for people with health issues because a bunch of ignoramus can't even remotely conceive that the traditional dal-roti-sabzi does not work for everyone.
      This means that people like me have been eating less than ideal, and that it won't end until the lockdown is lifted and the supply chain is restored. I still eat as much meat as I can, we go to great length to find it, I also eat a lot of eggs, and for now I can't eat the nutrient rich and varied diet I had before this mess started.

      This blog post was to put into light that all in all this government has screwed up and let down a lot of people across all classes with the management of this lockdown and we are ALL feeling the burnt.

    6. I apologize if I have offended you in any way. I carefully used the phrase “just a humble suggestion”, which means that it is a suggestion not an insistence, that too, with great trepidation. The rest of the thing came out spontaneously in a matter of fact manner with no malafide intentions.

  3. Like everywhere else in the world, the lockdown (partial or full) only has bought all of us some time. It ensures a large number of people will not fall sick at the same time and overwhelm the medical infrastructure. Simply because no one is going out.

    Remember, this virus is not going anywhere. Just as many other viruses are still around.

    Lockdown will be relaxed only partially for a good long time to come, again to ensure that all people don't fall sick at the same time.

    We are going to be truly out of this mess, only after a vaccine is found. And even after that, we have no clue if there will be further mutations of the virus. Already we know there are two variants.

    This world and our lifestyle have well and truly changed. The earlier we accept and adapt, easier for all of us.

    1. Exactly, and I think this is what a lot of people aren't really willing to understand. The virus will NOT go away anytime soon, we have to adjust our reality to live with it.

      I am a bit concerned by the current protocol in India, in Mumbai they are sending every person that test positive to hospital, regardless of the severity of symptoms, this alone can seriously overload an already heavily inadequate health care system.
      The positive case down the street was one of those cases they tested as contact tracing, the guy is asymptomatic but positive, and he got sent to hospital just the same.

      This protocol isn't sustainable in the long run, and is unnecessarily burdening hospitals, who need all the beds and staff they can get to treat more serious cases.
      In Europe, in many coutries, the protocol is to stay home if you test positive but are not in respiratory distress, many cases, are mild enough that patients can stay home, self medicate and keep in touch with their regular GP on the phone and only be transferred to a hospital if the symptoms drastically worsen.

      Unfortunately, the problem in India is that the early days of semi-lockdown in Mumbai have proven that people do not care about following guidelines or think that just because they feel well enough they aren't sick enough to stay home and away from other family members.

      But all in all, I think this whole Covid situation worldwide is due to the fact we have glorified a culture that place productivity and capitalism above health.
      If we treated a cold and a flu or any infection as something that should legitimately put us at home to rest and not just down a million pills and medicines to get back to work quickly, we might have also treated Covid the same and limited the spread. How many of us just pop a few pills the instant we have a sore throat or a mild fever so we can just keep going to school or office?

      Interestingly I read a few articles that showed that countries in Asia that have a face mask culture and tend to try to avoid contaminating other while being sick have had a less out of control spread than countries who don't.
      Europe and US are badly hit because they are at the epicentre of a culture that only values productivity, they also have a negative idea attached to covering the face. I grew up hearing that "bad guys" are the one hiding their face, whcih is interestingly also why there is such an issue around head and face covering of muslim women in Europe.
      The other day a friend of mine shared a Starwars meme featuring Dath Vader, Boba Fett and Kylo Ren saying "Come to the dark side, we have masks and respirators"

      And it stroke me for the first time that, indeed, in Starwars, only the bad guys wear helmets that completely cover their faces, reinforcing that cultural imaging that you only cover your face if you are up to no good.

      Clearly Covid 19 is now challenging this notion big time.

    2. You have made a very valid point, here, regarding the value we attach to 'productivity at any cost' rather than our health.

      If we follow the discipline of being careful when we are ill, and also follow personal hygiene, there shouldn't be a problem.

  4. That does sound frustrating to be stuck indoors and to have everything classified as non-essential. The grocery woes and standing in long lines in the summer heat are also rough.
    I can relate to the dietary woes. I went dairy-free a few months back, and due to the current situation I let myself slip and sometimes eat a snack or meal with a bit of dairy. Well, I paid the price. Eating dairy makes me feel bloated and fatigued (even if it’s lactose free). I went back to my dairy-free diet and feel so much better. I hope you are able to find your favorite foods soon.
    I also have the same problem with dals, they also used to give me migraines since I couldn’t digest them. Imagine being Indian and not eating dal! Or milk, for that matter. I stopped eating all dals a few years back and get my protein from chicken and eggs (I grew up being vegetarian at home, so even though I was used to eating chicken occasionally later in life, it was not a big part of my diet until a few years back). Over the past few months, I've been able to tolerate dal again to my surprise (after stopping dairy) but I still haven't started cooking it on a regular basis.
    Here in CA, we've been fortunate to get deliveries or no-touch pick up for the past month. We've spent crazy amounts of time trying to get a delivery slot but feel that it was worth it to avoid having to brave the stores. We know we might have to go to the store at some point, but are trying to avoid it for as long as possible. The weather is great here too and we've been going for 1.5 to 2 mile neighborhood walks everyday. We cross the street if we see another person approaching and hopefully, this is safe enough. We also spend a lot of time in the backyard so I suppose we are fortunate for all of these things. We have beautiful trails and nature nearby that are open but we are avoiding them because we may not be able to social distance well there. The uncertainty and no end in sight to this is what is on our minds. A part of me doesn’t want to go back to life as it was before. I used to be one of the few germaphobic people who didn’t like germy indoor play spaces, crowded malls, and packed grocery stores. I hope that whatever new normal we figure out, it keeps us far more hygienic as a population and health conscious overall.

    1. We avoid going to the store too, beside our building has been put in a "buffer zone" because there was a confirmed case in another building down the street. The protocol for buffer zone building is to avoid stepping out as much as possible.
      But like everywhere, it's hard to get delivery slots.

      I was telling a friend on Facebook yesterday that I feel like I am winning the lottery everytime I either find a product I need, or get a delivery slot.
      This past week my holy grail is kitchen surface cleaner, we ran out and it has proven to be a pain in the butt to find. Either it's not available, or the places selling it don't have delivery slots.
      On Sunday I got a slot on Amazon Now via their Big Bazaar tie up, it was to be delivered Monday, guess what item in that order got cancelled? Yup the kitchen cleaner, we got all the chocolate hubby wanted, the cookies, my early grey tea, but the kitchen cleaner and the healthy cereals were cancelled.

      I spent 2 hours trying to locate that damned cleaner again yesterday evening, only to finally get it on Amazon Pantry! I won't know until Sunday if we will get it though.

      I've been experimenting with dettol mixed in water, harpic, and dish soap to try to clean my counters, they all can't cut the grease. Yesterday I tried diluting lysol in water to clean it, but the result was as inconclusive as with the others, and I ran out of vinegar so can't even use that (or buy some more)


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