Although clad in a mask and a pair of gloves, with so many people around, it was somewhat tough to keep social distance, still Sumaiya walked on
On Monday morning, Sumaiya came out of the cocoon of her flat for the first time since the lockdown was imposed.
One can easily call her apartment a cocoon, as it stands on the same floor with two other flats. The entrance, elevators and staircases block one side of her flat, while the two balconies in the rest are barred by adjacent building. Apparently, Sumaiya gets no sunlight.
Sumaiya decided to step out and get some sunshine after watching the video "How to Strengthen Immunity with Vitamin D to Fight Covid-19" on YouTube, which has recently gone viral on all social media platforms.
As soon as she stepped out, Sumaiya noticed that a huge number of people were offering salah in congregation at the neighbourhood mosque. Sumaiya peeped and noticed that these men gathered together and offered their prayers by maintaining (in)adequate distance. Even though the mosque was locked, some over enthusiastic devotees arranged the congregation themselves in the corridor.
Sumaiya walked past the mosque and saw two beggars on the street, sitting next to each other and talking:
'It's really bad times now; I earned only 47 takas since this morning," exclaimed the first beggar.
"People do not want to offer more than 2 taka. I got only 39 takas, of which most are coins," the other one replied.
As she walked past the duo, Sumaiya looked around and noticed the junction where she used to wait to catch her office bus.
The place was overcrowded with young men, all sitting on bikes, waiting for passengers. These bikers were wearing masks on their chins while their faces and mouths remained uncovered.
She was not sure whether they were ridesharing bikers, but as soon they heard an army jeep approaching, they all left the circle.
Sumaiya escaped the jeep and entered a narrow lane, wearing her mask surreptitiously, so far kept in her palm.
Some other pedestrians followed her to the same lane as the army jeep patrolled in the area. Though it was somewhat tough to keep social distance at that time, Sumaiya somehow managed to keep herself away from others.
Considering the unsafety, Sumaiya decided to return home. She began walking towards home, and soon noticed a small group of people on the street. Few of them were cursing the local councilor.
"We don't even feed such coarse rice to our cocks," a man wearing a lungi and a red shirt, and his chest button open shouted.
"They could have added at least a half kg dal and bottle of cooking oil in the sack," an old man echoed.
"What will we do with only rice and potato?" The man asked.
Sumaiya guessed they were talking about the relief sack from the local commissioner's office. She walked away observing both sides of the road.
To her surprise, she noticed some shops were half-shut; all local restaurants were open and preparing to start selling their iftar delicacies.
She noticed a group of young men on the roadside, talking and smiling at each other, and people buying their daily necessities from the vendors on the roadside without maintaining social distancing.
They were acting as if no outbreak like Covid-19 had occurred.
Engulfed with a kind of despair, Sumaiya returned to her building, and as a part of awareness refrained from touching the lock and rather called out for the security.
'Salauddin Bhai! Salauddin Bhai! Open the gate!'
Finding no response, she pried into a gate-hole and spotted Salauddin Bhai drowsing leaning against a plastic chair, balancing his two legs against the wall.
A surgical mask which almost lost its blue color from several washes was on one of his knees half folded.
Sumaiya continued knocking the gate and began to shriek again, 'Salauddin Bhai! Salauddin Bhai!'
The guard at last got up and rushed to the gate with a hand spray. Although she was sure that this spray had nothing to do with alcohol or other necessary ingredients, she stretched both her hands and rubbed the sprinkled liquid well, and then came on the second floor in her flat.
Sumaiya entered the room and threw herself on the bed, face down. She thought to herself, what is the use of her so much awareness at home disinfecting the handle of the door, cleaning the floor twice a day with Lysol, keeping herself quarantined, and so on.
The writer is Publication Officer at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and National Consultant at UNDP Bangladesh.