The Lockdown Roti!

From January of the year called 2020 onwards we had been constantly getting reports of the havoc created by the SARS-Cov-2 or the COVID-19 virus in various pockets of China. From February of the same year stray cases were being reported from some parts of India and from the month of March cases were on an unmistakable rise, particularly in the states of Kerala and Maharashtra. We were also hearing about the dangerous spread in several European countries, and we even saw on television how normal ebullient parts of countries like Italy and Spain were looking like ghost cities because of the lockdown. But somehow, at that point of time neither the Indian authorities nor the public took it seriously and perhaps was not aware of the incredibly fast human-to-human transmission that the virus was capable of. Not surprising at all, because even the World Health Organization did not know much at that time. Lockdown was also a novel concept for us and many thought that lockdown was not a realistic measure for a vastly populated country like India where a huge chunk of the population were daily wage earners (in fact, this reality led to the blackest chapter in the Indian lockdown history). So, hardly anybody was surprised when we were headed for Mumbai in Maharashtra by mid-March; we had to go there because of some important personal work.


Things were mostly normal in March 2020 except for the closure of schools and colleges. As we reached the Kolkata airport the activities were as usual except for the fact that it was not crowded as earlier and the flight was half-empty. Wearing of masks was not considered essential at that time, and there was a school of thought that healthy people never needed the masks. Anyway, we were given special seats on the plane with free food without any extra cost. At arrival we found the Mumbai airport exceptionally empty and even eerie, but there was no screening, and quarantine was not even heard of as a preventive measure till then.


Things started unfolding very fast from late March 2020. National Lockdown was announced from the 25th of March, and stay-home became the only option available. Compulsory wearing of masks, hand sanitization, thermal checks and social distancing became the norms. As the months rolled by we were getting concerned about our locked home in Kolkata. As the much-delayed COVID-19 peak finally was reached by mid-September and cases started falling from October onwards we started making plans for the journey back, from the month of November. But thanks to various domestic reasons other than the pandemic the plans were getting postponed again and again. The escalation of cases happening in Kerala from February 2021 which was later picked up by Maharashtra made us act immediately as one more lockdown was staring at us.


Finally, as it happened, we returned exactly after one year. Arriving at our building I was scared to unlock the house, not knowing what to expect or find inside. We had no experience in our lifetime of having a house locked up for one full year and then coming back. However, everything looked in place as we moved around inside the rooms. Except for a layer of dust, which was only normal, there was not much disorder, and there was no sign of fungus taking over. Even the spider webs were noticeable only in the closed window seals.

I entered the kitchen, a crucial place that always needs to be activated at the earliest. Fortunately, everything looked to be in place here too. Of course, all the food items and cereals left behind were all beyond expiry and smelling. With a healthy thought building up within me about making a steaming cup of tea as soon as possible I spotted a hot case neatly placed in a corner of the kitchen slab. As much out of curiosity as out of habit I lifted the lid. And lo! A roti stared back at me!


Good heavens! The roti looked as if it were made only a little while back. It looked perfectly normal, even with the blackish spots or creases that materialize on both sides while cooking it on a hot tawa intact; no blackening otherwise or nets of enveloping fungus. It sort of beckoned at me: one year or not, you can still have me if you want! How that roti got forgotten was something we could never hope to establish.


Well, we had been telling our friends about this wonder, and everyone was heartily surprised, some calling it a miracle. Okay, air could not infiltrate the container, but normally a roti hardens and blackens out in about three to four days, wherever may it be kept. My wife had still been preserving it in its wonder-case, for how long I wouldn’t know! Crux of the matter being that the lockdown or the pandemic had no impact on this robust roti!


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