Blogging the #Lockdown: 24 March 2020

The #lockdown has begun. Today was really the first official day of the forced lockdown that began in Kolkata at 4 pm yesterday but now is for all of India. The girls are really fine. They are on and off computers and phones with teachers. They are rising to the occasion of organizing and operating the technology. They are having fun and studying. The teachers also seem to be enjoying the teaching, more than any of us had expected.

For me it is mixed. I’m getting work done, and relaxing. I love being home with the children. But I’m also worrying a lot —

Police are stopping, harassing, and beating men on motorcycles. Bijay received a warning trying to get here. Our day guard was also harassed. I prepared letters indicating the importance of their jobs, but I also told Bijay to stay home and I’d call if there were an emergency. Our day guard will not return for now as his landlord said he either stayed home of had to find another place, and someone in his neighborhood may have the virus. Our night guard will stay day and night but sleep during the night in the outside hallway. I need him to manage the water pump and generator when power goes off. The massis/caretakers are here, or at least the ones who could stay here.

Food delivery has been arranged but that will only work if supplies come to this area. We may not be able to get milk. We have a month’s supply of the routine medications for the children and extra antibiotics if needed.

I guess the best words for how I feel are uneasy, a bit afraid because some of our children are medically vulnerable. I’m 77 but in good health, but still I’m vulnerable. I worry about safety as it becomes apparent that we are not guarded as usual and that Bijay is not here. It has been quiet here in recent years but before that were the years of riots and death threats, and the sense of vulnerability of being alone.

Three weeks is a long time. I think of the people living without resources, old people who cannot get out for food — the day workers who will not get paid, all the hawkers, the shops, those hundreds of thousands of people who crowd the streets of Kolkata, bring their goods from the villages — how many of them will die?

I will ask whether the cure is worse than the disease because I’m a physician, trained in numbers and illnesses, and rates, and vulnerability, and all that leads me to question what we are doing. How do we decide what illnesses deserve this level of social and economic destruction? Life is always full of trade-offs and compromises. There will be few deaths from vehicular accidents. These are the thoughts that go through my mind as we move through this crisis. This is how I’ve always been, looking at everything from different angles and perspective and wanting to share my thoughts.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dustyollie
    Mar 25, 2020 @ 06:11:36

    Dear Michelle, I don’t often pray, but I’m praying now for you and the children whose lives you rescued from lifetime suffering, and all those who are helping you and the children, remain untouched by the c-virus. I also pray that the leadership of India shows more wisdom and humanity than ours. love, Dad


  2. Chris
    Mar 25, 2020 @ 20:37:17

    We are all weighing the cure and the disease here. I have been pondering your post ever since I saw it. India has its own uniquely grim calculus. I see this as a calamity for India either way. I don’t believe a lockdown in India can possibly stem the disease, and the consequences of the lockdown are pretty horrific for vast numbers of people. I just can’t see an outcome that doesnt come with huge disruptions and much suffering across India for an extended period of time.


  3. Chris
    Mar 26, 2020 @ 03:21:24

    Yeah, I saw that. Well, you know, people have to make decisions early when things are exponential. You have very little time. Like Chernobyl. I disagree with the premise of the article because I think we have plenty of data about what will happen if little or no lockdown is done (and a lengthy one). It’s the cost/benefit analysis that I’m still not understanding. (I know that sounds harsh). How many lives for how many lives? How much suffering for how much suffering? I personally never foresaw a lockdown in India because it seems utterly infeasible. Surely this cannot go in a good direction. Hungry people get angry and desperate. Etc. Etc. Etc. I don’t think it will work anyway. It feels like torture of a nation to me. But I’m not Modi.


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March 2020
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