We are exempt from the lockdown since April 1, being a manufacturer in the aerospace and defence segments. So we are expected to start work — by the government, and more so our customers who have started calling. They are asking us to file our status with them regarding employees mobilised, capacities restored, and so on. Advisories have been issued to us by various authorities, all saying the same thing — the rules to halt the virus are a seemingly easy set, but they are hard to follow, to enforce. There's also the fatigue, from four weeks of being confined.
We're finding it a challenge to start the factories. A large number of employees went away to their hometowns hours before the commencement of lockdown. They cannot return because the borders between the states are sealed. As regards those employees who belong to Karnataka, they've gone to their native homes in their districts. Movement over long distances is curtailed as well, but it is not impossible. We need to obtain passes from Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police in the districts; and from the Commissioners of Police, and the Industries Department, in Bangalore. They're a harried lot, the government, but they are giving help the best they can. Still, it is proving to be a bit like the days of the License Raj: the police commissioners determine how many passes they will allow us. But they have no way of knowing the minimum number of heads we need to start a reasonable activity. They hand us the least passes they can. We reason. They give us a few more. And so on. We're not upset with them. They need to secure the public good and are fearful of consequences.
And we're afraid, too. We have implemented exaggerated controls on our campuses, but there's the heavy burden of responsibility for the young, for the old, for every single person reporting for work. Above all, there's the daunting question: What if one of our numbers tests positive?
These days I'm out at 4:30 for my walk, and in the first quarter-hour, I encounter only one other, who walks some days, jogs other days. When 5:00 approaches, two more are out, one a jogger, and the other an ultra-high-speed-walker who goes hurling through the street — he won't keep the distance, visual hints be damned. I keep to the very edge of the road, mask in place, and come home confident that I've been safe, that I won't infect others at home and work.
I need fresh air and exercise to stay above depression, to push back anxiety — those Siamese twins that have been clawing at me for ages. But there's the virus out there, I won't argue with your frown, so I am considering leaving home at 4:00 tomorrow onward.
I'm going to miss something after the virus leaves us. This city, beautiful as it was when I set up business here — I'm experiencing it again these days. It is summer, and there are yellow tabebuia and flaming red mayflowers on the trees. They're also lying in sheets on the streets. It's an exquisite sight in summer light. There are also the fallen hongé that give off a soft crunching sound beneath your soles as you step on them, or drive over them, sending up a subtle fragrance even as they die. Nobody pauses to take note. All are racing at highway speeds. Until only weeks ago we were driving in six lanes on two-lane streets, so on today's empty roads, the impulse is to whoosh full speed ahead. The police are out in full strength, but they aren't booking traffic violations. Speed is okay in these times. Rider and pillion both helmetless and zipping? Oh, that's just fine.
The police are only looking at your windshield for the yellow pass printed with red letters, with their insignia on it. They catch a glimpse of it and wave you on. At some posts, there are policewomen. They halt you until they've matched the number on the registration plate with the number declared on the pass. Then they look away, and you can go.
The air is so clean. But I'm not bringing down my windows, it's so damn hot!