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Everyone is talking about the new normal of life during this global pandemic. Well, in my heritage city, life is back to the old normal and the ‘new’ has been unceremoniously rejected with extreme callousness.

Herds of social animals have become anti-social by having complete disregard for social distancing and safety measures. With the advent of various versions of ‘unlock’ of the lockdown, Amdawadis have erupted from their dormant state of socialising during the lockdown in to an active and lethal volcano.

People are thronging at the chaiwalas, coffee shops, paangallas, panipuri walas, hang-out joints, small-time restaurants… They are visiting each other’s home, having birthday parties and Saturday night parties and going for long drives, day picnics… It’s all coming back to the old normal. Traveling 60 kms every day from Gandhinagar to office and back, I am appalled to see rickshaws, shuttle service vans and cars jam-packed with people and most of them without mask! ‘Social distancing’ has been reduced to a term to be discussed, not to be practiced.

Then I salute the ones who are risking corona head-on. Most of them men and the youth (educated alike), have truly imbibed the dialogue ‘Mard ko kuch nahi hota’ in to their being. They move around coolly either without a mask or a mask which just hangs below their nose or their mouth (that is in case a Police officer pops up). Then there are these real brave men right at the battle front, who proudly proclaim to have some cases of COVID-19 on their apartment floor, but are still coming to work without getting tested. One day I want to make their statues.

Senior citizens and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements. This is a complete piece of bull crap. On my evening walks I have been witness to several septuagenarians and octogenarians holding their advisory committee meetings to discuss how this pandemic is killing people because of their recklessness, how should Modi run the nation, why should Chinese products be banned, what will be Amit Shah eating now-a-days, why Rekha did not catch COVID-19, when should Virat Kohli become a father… And then there are children out there in the parks or cycling together without wearing masks! I salute their parents for being so intelligent and brave.

The beauty is, you cannot even advise these bravehearts or else they will snap at you to mind your own business. That’s what it has literally come to – mind our own business. Take all the safety precautions and pray that one of these morons does not gift you COVID-19 on a platter.

At this juncture, it is imperative to point out that it’s not entirely the fault of my dear Amdawadis. The National, State and Local administration is to be equally blamed for letting the situation out of control. Unlock was meant for the revival of business and it should have been implemented in letter and spirit. Only those going for legit work should have been issued passes, thereby restricting the unwanted, unnecessary personnel and social gatherings. But then a free-for-all pass was given to everyone and no major checks till date have been put in place to restrict these unnecessary gatherings.

Despite the lockdown, when the number of cases was rapidly increasing, administration announced a complete lockdown (including vegetable vendors and grocery shops) of the city by giving just a 12 hours’ notice! What followed was a mad rush by Amdawadis to grapple for the stock of essentials and one could witness hoards of people on the streets with scenes of traffic jam almost everywhere. The very purpose of the complete lockdown was defeated even before it kick-started.

What ensued after the complete lockdown was a pure number game by the administration. Just to prove how the number of cases and death percentage were reducing and how recovery numbers were increasing, daily dose of uncertain numbers were blurted out on various media. Apparently it gave a wrong signal to Amdawadis that the situation is improving, prompting them to be even more casual.

There were few paangallas who were feeding paan right in to the mouth of customers and this irked the municipal corporation and they ordered shut-down of paan gallas. While the business went on as usual for them behind the doors; this shut down too lasted only for 3 days. Their and everyone’s life came back to the old normal. There is a fine of Rs. 1000 for not wearing a mask; but then Amdawadis are smart enough to wear a mask hanging below their mouth, just to up it at the sight of a policeman. If that does not work out, they are clever enough to grease the palms.

Off late, the administration has been talking about herd immunity and making it a role model for the world to emulate. Give me a break please. Recent research showed that only 17 odd% of Amdawadis are immune to COVID-19. Achieving herd immunity so soon and that too in such a large population of 75 Lakhs+ is impossible and even if it happens, it will take loads of time to achieve.

As I pen this article, Ahmedabad has 28, 192 confirmed cases (39% of all cases in Gujarat), 1, 640 deaths (61% of all deaths in Gujarat). While Mumbai and Delhi are worst impacted, Ahmedabad will catch with them soon if this laxity continues.

Imagine developed countries like Italy, Spain and UK giving up on this pandemic at one point of time, there is no reason for us to take this lightly. Unlock should only be allowed for business, essential tasks and shopping, health issues and emergencies. There should be a complete crack-down on social gatherings.

Surprise checks should be initiated in offices to check whether they are adhering to the sanitisation practices, social distancing and if everyone is wearing a mask. Police should become stricter on the roads to ensure people travel with social distancing and even stricter fines should be imposed on those not wearing a mask. I am not saying that this will control the pandemic, but it will at least ensure that people are not infected because of someone’s carelessness.

Affordable vaccine is months away; till then we do not have any choice but to be more sensitive and sensible towards this unseen microscopic enemy.

I wish Amdawad a very speedy recovery.

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