17th May 2020 – On a lazy afternoon after completing my
household chores which left me physically and mentally
drained and exhausted, I decided to take a nap. As I lied
down and looked at the desk calendar, I realized that more
than two months have passed, I had last attended college.
Time flies so fast.
My middle class life of a college teacher in South Kolkata
needs no documentation. It has always been very simple.
Every day I reach college by 9.55 am and by 10 am I am
inside the classroom devoting myself in teaching students,
answering their unending queries. In between the classes I
correct answer scripts, check dissertations of third year
students, as well as do work allotted to me by my seniors
and college authority. For last two decades, I have never
taken a break in my professional life. I have always
cherished for my retirement days, when the time-clock will
not dictate my regular activities. I will be at ease from
the disciplinary surveillance of CCTV cameras installed at
my workplace. No biometrics to record my physical presence
in the vicinity of my workplace. I look forward for a life
when there would be no unnecessary phone calls at odd hours
of the day from students with volley/ barge of questions
ranging from academic to non-academic issues. I looked
forward for a life where I would not struggle for increasing
API score for professional progression. I would live and
enjoy my retirement life.
Till 14th March 2020, I never ever realized that so soon God
Almighty will listen to my prayers. The Government of West
Bengal in a bid to control the fast spreading COVID 19
within the community, hurriedly declared holiday for all the
educational institutions initially till 15th April 2020,
later on extended till 31st July. The Government of India
announced nationwide lockdown on 24th March 2020. This
nationwide lockdown gave me an opportunity to ‘live’ my
cherished unanticipated future. However, there were moments
of tension and anxiety too.
From my childhood, I have been taught to ‘confront’ a
given situation. Like others, I too was not prepared for
such a pandemic, but had to confront this catastrophe by
wearing mask, practicing self-confinement, and social
distancing. The most immediate thought as I heard the
announcement of the nationwide lockdown was for my aged
family members at home. How will I be able to manage my
mother, an Alzheimer patient; my baromama, an octogenarian,
having a cardiac block; and my aunty bedridden with
geriatric diseases. I had to rush to the nearest ATM and
collect cash for buying essential medicines and vegetables.
As transport system came to a halt, I received phone call
from the ayah centre, apologizing for being unable to
deliver their services any further. I was in complete
doldrums. How would my aunt and my mother manage without
care givers? I started searching for an alternative. A
chance meeting with an attendant of RKM Sarada mission
hospital, while buying medicine served my purpose. She took
me to her home at Tollygunge Road and introduced me to a
middle-aged woman. This woman had to feed a family of four
consisting of two children and a paralytic husband. She was
struggling to make her both ends meet. She was in need of
money andI was in need of care giving services. Our needs
united us. For the first one month we paid Rs.36000/- for
her service towards my mashi and mother. In this context I
would like to mention that I have my full empathy for this
section of population who are poor, underprivileged and
illiterate. But from my experience, I have reached a
conclusion that such people are ‘expert’ in playing
their opportunistic card and exploit and take undue
advantage of situations.
Meanwhile from our local medicine shop, I got an assurance
that essential medicines will be provided to me in short
notice. Even now after four months of confinement at home, a
perennial tension haunts my mind. If any of my family
members suddenly become sick, how will I get an ambulance or
any other transport to take them to nearest hospital? How
will I contact doctors?
During the initial phase of the lockdown, time would appear
to be standstill. Now I have informally chalked a routine
for myself. I get up early, by 5.30 am and go for morning
walk in and around my area, which is followed by morning
meditation, yoga, free-hand exercises and try to. try to
complete all the house chores during the day time. Thrice a
week, I go to Lake market for buying vegetables and flowers.
In the academic world, work from home had been a utopian
concept till March, 2020. However, after the lockdown new
norms govern the academic arena. I conduct online classes
for undergraduate students on zoom and team link app. Study
materials are uploaded at Google classroom, assignments are
corrected and returned online. Whatever time is left, I
concentrate on reading books, writing articles for web
portals, books, and journals. Interaction with friends
through video-conference is the new norm, though at times I
miss their physical presence. I have finally started
balancing my life between the virtual and the real physical
20th May 2020
This day will remain etched in my mind forever. It was a day
when West Bengal confronted two monstrous disasters
simultaneously - COVID 19 pandemic and cyclone Amphan. From
the beginning of the week the meteorological department had
predicted super cyclone approaching Gangetic Bengal, had
predicted that the cyclone will have a landfall in Eastern
India before moving to Bangladesh and that West Bengal and
Odisha will receive heavy rainfall. Local news channels were
showing lakhs of people being evacuated from coastal
A daunting task it was for the administration too, to
conduct large scale evacuation drives by maintaining social
distancing in such turbulent times.
Canopy of dark clouds engulfed the City of Joy by 12 noon on
20th May 2020. From 2 pm onwards it was raining very
heavily. I was tracking the movement of the cyclone at
Around 3 pm it was difficult to stand even near the balcony
of my house. It appeared that the wind will blow off the
entire building. Near my house I could see the trees
shaking. Water was flowing in through the balcony and
windows of my house. Rooms were getting flooded. My mother
and aunt were fast asleep. My uncle and I could feel the
intensity of the wind. We felt helpless and were totally at
Kolkata has witnessed cyclone such as Aila, Bulbul, etc.
earlier but Amphan appeared like a giant monster looking for
prey, its prey being everything human beings have created.
It was scary!
Suddenly the power supply were disconnected.
In the midst of a sea of darkness, I switched on my torch
and tried to lit the candles. But it was all in vain, the
ghastly wind blew off the candle in seconds. Power supply
was resumed after half an hour. Nature's fury was dancing at
our doorstep. We had nothing except prayers in our mind and
patience to withstand the time. We waited with abated
breadth for the cyclone to pass from West Bengal. After five
hours of incessant rains and heavy storms, I could feel that
the intense nature of the wind and rain was receding. At 11
pm in the night, I came out with a torch to close the main
gate of my house. The street lights were switched off. I saw
a monster like thing at my gate, it appeared like a tank had
fallen. Next morning, I found my apprehension to be correct.
The wind was so severe that it had blown a thousand litres
tank from my neighbourhood and the tank had landed on my
gate. I had to seek help from my neighbours to get the huge
The cyclone was over us but the macabre reality was haunting
us now. The ghastly wind had tossed trees, lamp posts were
uprooted and fallen around like cards, trees had fallen all
around, electric and telephone wires scattered all around.
To gauge the scale of destruction I walked from my house to
Lake Market. I have lived in this area for more than three
decades. It was painful to see the familiar roads, by lanes
all bearing the imprint of the ravages caused by Amphan. The
boulevard of Southern Avenue was damaged. So many tree were
One side of the road from Rashbehari Avenue to Gariahat was
blocked. Local people along with police personnel were
trying to remove huge uprooted trees and clear the passage.
Traffic movement was slow and only a side of the road was
being used for two ways movement. A tree had fallen at the
entry point of Janak Road near Lake Mall. Glasses from the
window panes (perhaps of Lake Mall) were scattered at
Parashar Road. My friends whom I could contact living in
different areas of Kolkata, Howrah, etc. had no electricity
and broad band connection. The mobile phone connection was
very weak and calls were dropping frequently. By the time it
was evening, social media was flooded with images of ravages
caused by the cyclone. Horrible sights of roofs blown off
from houses, makeshift houses shattered, homeless people
wandering with vacant looks in their faces and all means of
livelihood completely wiped off for many.
The helpless image of human beings, their sufferings will
continue to haunt us forever. The lived experiences of human
pain, fear, loss and helplessness remains the same for one
and all, the remotest area of rural Bengal and skyscrapper
adorning the city of Kolkata are equally vulnerable.
The COVID 19 pandemic and nature's fury in form of cyclone
Amphan for the umpteenth time has shown us how transient and
insignificant our mortal lives are.
But then, there is a flipside too. I had actually forgotten
to spend time with my family members all this while. This
lockdown phase has helped me to ‘reconnect’ with them
big time, and after perhaps more than a decade, I have
resumed watching television!
Experts’ discussion on COVID 19, the spike in graph charts
showing COVID mortality rates are alarming. The ‘live’
pictures of migrant labourers, their body glistening with
sweat as they walk miles after miles to reach their
destination, pregnant women walking down the national
highways, the hapless face of a mother unable to feed a
grain of morsel to her child, are all very disturbing.
There is no fair distribution of substantive equality in our
society. As a socially responsible conscientious citizen, my
heart goes out for this section of the population.
I do contribute to welfare funds, though I don’t know
whether my hard earned money is being used for capacity
building of underprivileged people.
Amidst the news of deaths of acquaintances, livelihoods of
many being crushed infront of our eyes, people losing jobs
rampantly, humankind waiting helplessly for the ‘normal’
to return while adapting with the ‘new normal’, I feel
that the most certain aspect in the twenty-first century is
UNCERTAINTY and we all have to live with this.
Life in 2020, has truly become stranger than fiction.
I feel indebted towards the almighty for being generous and
kind to me in such a catastrophic situation. I have a roof
above my head, a permanent job with a moderate salary for
which I always would forever remain thankful.
Prayers for those who lost their all and an unending wait
fills our lives at the moment.