Mail News Service
Jamshedpur, April 24: During a meeting with Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College & Hospital (MGMCH) Superintendent Dr Sanjay Kumar giving his opinion on breaking the COVID chain, observed, “Unless people remain indoors, the chances of breaking the (COVID) chain is remote.”
Taking cue from the MGMCH Super’s advise, Sudama Sahu, a septuagenarian residing at Sidgora rued, “Only if people cared for their and their loved ones lives, leave alone the second strain, COVID itself would have remained an unknown quantity. Yes, people have to venture out for essential requirements like medicines, groceries and vegetables or for getting medical attention. Over and above these necessities, people have no business to step out of their homes. But who will tame such…such…” this correspondent left him alone to grope for appropriate words as he had other moods, opinions and scenarios to catch up with.
The usual rush along the Straight Mile Road from Sidgora to Sakchi roundabout was happily missing but the joy of this sight was short lived as four urchins on two bikes sans masks and helmets made the road a racetrack as they zoomed past the sparse pedestrians and equally scant vehicular traffic in a manner that left everybody gaping, gasping and cursing. Pitying the parents of these juvenile monsters who had pressed and oppressed them into relenting and gifting them with these state-of-the-art killer bikes with money borrowed from banks or other finance institutions, will tantamount to wasting breath in advance for the other thought would be, as Birju Patar the puncture repairer on Bhalubasa bridge stated, “When these kids get killed, will their parents have enough money left for their funeral?” Indeed, Birju’s observation was thought provoking.
Getting an autorickshaw to Sakchi was a difficult proposition as most that came by had three passengers on the rear seat and two cozily attached to the driver on either side. So much for physical distancing, sanitizer, masks and other protocol blah-blah.
Well, walking, apart from swimming, horse riding and snoozing, is said to be a good form of exercise even under a blazing 10 am sun. Walking the distance of a little over or under two kilometers to Sakchi was strenuous but nonetheless good for the heart ticking under pressure of the COVID fear. On the jaunt upto Sakchi, one came across another partner in stress, Jainath Basak of New Baradwari who was, like Shakespeare’s school boy with his satchel moving unwillingly towards, in this case, the Sakchi Bazaar. For starters, Basak Babu sighed. The scribe echoed the sentiment for reasons partially unknown. “Goddamned this COVID menace! People will not listen and move out unnecessarily to breathe in no-longer- fresh air. They will not wear masks and invariably add to market crowds. I too am going to the market but will not go anywhere near crowds. I would not mind returning empty handed. There are sufficient potatoes, rice and lentils to last us a couple of days.” Jainath Basak’s monologue trailed off as he suddenly turned towards Old Baradwari. He said in parting, “The market at Baradwari Maidan is safer. Where are you going?” The last was directed towards this correspondent and he had no time to listen to the reply as he rushed towards his ‘Eureka’ of sudden decision.
Languidly covering the remaining distance, men in Khaki, war fatigues and batons and guns were determinedly on a march trying to get non-essential dealing shops including Chai and Khaini (chewing tobacco) shut. They left the vegetable vendors on the roadside alone, understandably. The poor souls after all had come to sell their farm growths and earn enough to take home some rice and other essentials.
More seriously, the district machinery is trying its level best to bring the dangerously ascending COVID graph down. They continue to urge the people to avoid foraying out of homes unnecessarily, to put on mask, avoid crowds and maintain physical distancing. It is not that people are not concerned about the pandemic; but the point of concern is, many are not abiding by the protocols. Of what use will masks be if people become members of a crowd? Et tu physical distancing? The district and police administration have been spotted on various road points conducting checking. Law breakers are being penalized. But the shrews refuse to be tamed. Once the administration people leave one spot and move on to the next, people are back to their usual ways of bending the law.
However, one has to admit that a larger segment of higher animals are coming round to the dark reality. In general, crowds have become sparse in most market places in the city. The Baradwari vegetable market is comparatively ‘less populated’ with all vendors and most customers wearing masks. The Sakchi chicken and fish markets paint the same scenario. Bistupur Bazaar too has suddenly gone almost barren barring grocery and other bric-a-brac stores. Vegetable sellers are doing business but not of the roaring type.
Kadma Market of course has shifted to Ganesh Puja Maidan and marketers do not mind carrying the vegetable bags an extra mile. But then, prices seldom ensure very heavy bags to be lugged home. Bolai Chatterjee, a former footballer, cricketer and boxer of his time opined under the Kadma sun, “At least, marketing helps me to come out a bit albeit with a mask. Still, a few minutes or an hour outside is good for the mind. God knows if we will be able to emerge out of the shadows of killer corona.”
Bolaida did not ask, “How are you,” because the query would have been redundant.
RB Sahay who retired from his bank service recently seemed happy. He was standing in front of his Sonari residence armed, or rather, ‘nosed up’ with his samosa-shaped mask. He said, “Me and my wife Niru have taken our second vaccine shot and feel better protected. Yet, we are definitely following protocols and using masks, sanitizers, washing our hands with soap and taking all other preventive measures. I advise people to go in for the vaccines and make their conditions safer. This is a community responsibility.” Sahay, also known as Bahiwa, had a cup of tea for each of us brought out by demure Niru that served more than thirst aid. Tea, especially for a journalist is anytime welcome.
At the end of the day, or late evening, one had a reassuring feeling that all was not lost in Jamshedpur. People were few on the roads, markets were tightly shut and the police personnel were alert and on the prowl to nab people who were out on the streets for the heck of it and nothing more. And, by the way, people had their masks on. Well, most of them.