It’s been made official that Covid is a thing of the past, not brushed under the carpet but without question, certifiably laid to rest, as in given a befitting burial…but seriously?! The economy is a few short steps away from making it to the slaughter-house with inflation—don’t go by the figures churned out by financial experts—touching an all-time high. Only a couple of weeks ago, milk, butter, bread, cheese were a clutchful of rupees less; all vegetables, save the not-so-humble potatoes or onions, costing around a hundred rupees. The less said about lentils, the better. And with online shopping sweeping the world, showrooms casing phones and other gadgets, shuttered down. With Amazon’s Grand Festival Sales, physical purchasing was out of vogue or literally speaking, coffined.
And even if one favoured going to the market, stepping foot in a shop or two, to see if the shoes you fancied, fit as in were comfortable, or the dress’ fabric didn’t make one itch. Or to take in the array of phones while the salesman explains which device suited your requirements, overplaying but of course, on the high-end one, “good to touch, good to go’’. So tangible shopping was quite out of the question. Online shopping came with discounts, deals, value for money, early door offers. And which person would not go in for a discount purchase, leaving the buyer with ready money to buy more. And there are few who would not fall for a buy-two-get-one-free deal?! This ting-a-ling chime or catchline makes one richer besides enkindling the smugness that mindful consumption and binge shopping can go hand-in-hand?! Even your neighbourhood grocer went out of favour since your dals, detergents and daily needs could be, with the multiple click-click-click of the mobile, delivered at your doorstep and that too, at heavily slashed prices.
Check out Grofers, sorry, now befittingly called Blinkit, since one barely blinks, and one’s order arrives. Our Lalas, especially of Defence Colony’s Shiv Store—the shop, where for decades now, me have been a loyal customer — had never entered the word “discount” in their Bahi-Khata Lexicon. Seeing the rolled back prices, at first did not know what hit them, believing the likes of Blinkit were there to cause episodic immobility and simply a passing phase until they got their arithmetic straight, and in the first week of every month, came up with marked-down, whittled-down, cut-to-the-bone prices on most things stocked. To keep the boat afloat.
After all, it was a matter of survival and what’s the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them’’. And then, here no amount of number-crunching adds up, tots up, a reasonable answer—with knock-down-and-drag-out unemployment or jobs with salaries sheared to wages, how is travel and tourism back with a bang?! For over two years, we remained confined to our homes, the neighbourhood resembling a one-pony town, rather a ghost borough where under the Covid Effect, the few birds that winged by lost their chirp, and now…now overnight we are on one back-to-back getaway or the other.
Where with the broken economy come the bank rolls for such excursions?! With the way so many of us are holidaying, over and over again, takes one back to the Pre-Covid days, when even, without any eye-watering salary, one had to think twice over regarding how many days could compatibly go in for gallivanting without breaking the bank. Now it is vacationing, for a good many folks, with a vengeance! How, how, how??? Cannot be a case of borrowing to take long-weekend breaks, since when Covid set in, even the open-handed ones became tight-fisted. A matter of survival again! Then again as on fast track, the masks that were mandatory to the point of being heavily fined, if caught mask-free in the car—even if you do your best, pleadingly explaining, to the cop writing out your 2000 rupees penalty chit with a relish, you had just semi-removed it to take a sip of water.
With the whirr of the hand reserved for whooshing buzzing overhead flies, he dismisses your appeal. (Speaking of the “cop with a relish’’ reminds one, how we sometimes forego keeping side dishes, so as to not intrude on the flavour of the main dish.) Ditto till a couple of months back in certain markets which abounded with women policewallahs…yes, yes everyone knows that markets are flocked, brimming with those of the same gender! And entry banned at hotels, clubs of the India International Centre genre, if you happen to be mask free despite imploring the Guards believing they were Governors that your mask slipped and dropped enroute and you were in the process of fishing out an extra one from your bag, so please bear with maskless me, for a few breathless seconds. But the baton of power turns the wielder stone-deaf, and stone-hearted, as well, right?! And yes, Diwali has come and gone and one, as always, went on an overdrive in cleaning the house, buffing the yesteryear’s brass thalis bestowed on by Nani or Daadi to gleam and glisten. After all, it is the day when the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi Ma comes a visiting, graces your home, showering blessings of prosperity.
The house, of course, needs a good, king-sized lick of paint, but paint must wait, till one has the funds to get into this mammoth exercise; yet since it’s Diwali one takes out the old, over-the-hill silk sarees, the ones worn and overworn by one’s mom, her sisters and yours truly, to create striking, out-of-the-box torans, cushion covers, dining table runners and sofa spreads. And so make the best of the special celebratory day. This while still flipping one’s head upside-down and downside-up for answers to the monochromatic question: how is this Post-Covid Carnival being financed, defying an in-smithereens dog-tired, bone-broken economy?! By this rate, tomorrow Newton’s Law of Gravity, too shall go for a six.
On this befuddled, thrown off-balance note, I throw in the towel, being out on one’s feet, with the flat-out need to make myself invisible, till Sherlock Holmes solves this brain-twisting puzzle.
Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.