What do all the streets in our beloved city have in common? What is the first thing that pops up in your mind when I say Laxmi Road, FC Road, Karve Road, or Law College Road? Yes, you guessed it right. The PEOPLE! Our fellow Punekars! But tied to a desk inside their homes, our friends are nowhere to be found on the previously crowded streets.
Do you guys think that the spirit of the city has been affected since March? Will Pune return to its original glory in due time?
At first, I didn’t realise the changes in the city because I was also one of the many who sat at home through the entire lockdown period. But one evening, I stepped out of the house and went beyond the usual daily errand radius of 2 km. Around 9 pm, an eerie silence engulfed the streets and the switched-off lights were literally telling people to go home as soon as possible. It felt like the clock had already struck 1 am. The silence was scary and numbing. The street that was once so full of energy was now a sight of empty darkness.
Standing out on FC Road, staring at my favourite street shopping destinations or the corner where the momo guy used to stand, all I saw were empty carts. It looked like a scene from a dystopian movie. The few people on the streets had their faces half-covered with masks- a sight unseen until we were hit with a pandemic.
Covid has drastically changed our ways of greeting each other. From hugs to handshakes, everything has been replaced by a friendly nod. Initially this felt weird but has slowly become a part of the new normal.
We are following social distancing at all times. When standing in a shop or buying vegetables or fruits on the street, we did not think twice about crowding one specific spot. But now one sees a neatly formed line with a one-arm distance. Reminds us of the school assembly, doesn’t it?
Earlier, our home departure ritual included collecting keys, wallets, sunglasses, etc. But now two more things have been added to it- a mask and sanitiser bottle. How many of you have forgotten a mask due to old habits, but then rushed back home to grab it? Happens every other day, no?
Whenever you enter a shop, building, mall, or an eatery, being pointed at with a temperature gun and instructed to spray your hands with the sanitiser from the stationed stand are now mandatory rituals.
We as citizens have also gotten used to some of these changes but once in a while, the scene of the new normal suddenly hits us and it feels strange all over again.
Maybe things will go back to the old normal or maybe we’ll have to make peace with things the way they are. Only time will tell. Until then, let’s keep following the rules; even though restrictions have been eased, it does not mean that the threat has vanished. So, stay safe and healthy, Punekars!
Feature image by Moin Bagban