The lockdown dilemma: Let economy die or ...?

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Part 18

04.05.2020

7.32 pm

Mumbai, India

One fine morning amidst this lockdown, I woke up restlessly and messaged my mentor - “We won’t be able to kick it off this year, will we?” He said, “No.” I had my fingers crossed, and it didn’t help. Both of us were very excited when we had first stumbled upon the idea - we had never been so sure of a project before. It had huge potential.

The talks with and about investors had begun, and so had the survey from my end. Funding was something I’d never experienced before in my 6 years of being an entrepreneur and I saw it as another big milestone in my career. I had seen many downs and many ups but this was just the up I needed before I turn 30 next year. Then, it happened. 

The declaration of the pandemic and soon after, the lockdown. I had begun the pilot, my whiteboard was filled with numbers and possibilities. The dreams came crashing down as I saw the economy suffering a bit more every day. Soon, the heartbreak from just halting to calling off the project was overpowered by the overwhelming feeling of - what is the world going to look like after this lockdown?

Whatever insights I have from the 6 years of running a company and observing our audience, will they be redundant now? How will the cities change? What will happen to startups? What will happen to my mother’s business or friends’ companies?

Suddenly, the grief of losing my unborn startup seemed inappropriate. People around me, my first connections as we call them, have bigger problems to deal with - like should they stay back in Mumbai since their clients are refusing to pay the retainers or shut shop or how to pay off 1,000 employees without any revenue. 

The government remembered to raise donations to be more prepared for the future that’s yet to happen, but forgot to redistribute those funds to save the economy. I know that running a country during a pandemic like this one is more complex than we as everyday citizens can even begin to imagine.

But I also know a country needs to protect its taxpayers too, to keep the economy going. This is the only reason why I’ve been begging for some transparency about the funds collected. While the country has started opening the lockdown slowly and steadily with men queuing up to buy all the liquor in the world, jobs have been lost, companies have been shut, migrants have become homeless, other people are gearing up to leave cities like Mumbai to save up. 

While I do ask questions, I appreciate the early and extended lockdown. Knowing our people, that’s the one thing that was crucial.

You ask why has India started opening the lockdown? Because we have a serious dilemma now - let the economy die or let our countrymen become extremely cautious and responsible citizens. The latter seems like a wise choice right now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean we’ll grow up overnight. We’d still queue up at places amidst a life-threatening pandemic for some intoxication.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot these days - how the world has been forced to come to ground zero to begin a race of survival of the fittest again. All over again. 

I read celebrity chef Pooja Dhingra’s article day before about shutting her Colaba cafe, it truly broke my heart. She’s right in her article, many of us saw her as a rich kid. In the process, we forgot that she also had investors to answer to and she could’ve chosen a more comfortable life rather than a gruesome one if it weren’t for her ambitions.

This public announcement of her bold entrepreneurial move will inspire many people today because while the government is collecting funds to save people and the economy during the ‘mahamari’, it hasn’t done much yet to save businesses and as entrepreneurs, we have to think 3-4 months ahead of a disaster. 

Do you know what’s sadder? Sadder reality is that the world has stopped but terrorism hasn’t. 5 and more soldiers have lost their lives during this lockdown and we didn’t even get to know while we’re sitting safely in our homes. A commanding officer lost his life in a terror encounter, it’s a true rarity in the army. 

My point is that some citizens of this country are still having to wake up every morning to die for the country - like our health workers and our soldiers. We’re losing their lives every day and they are still asked to take a cut in their salaries to also donate to the PM CARES funds as if their lives at risk were not enough to prove their patriotism towards this country. All this for humans in this country who can’t be trusted with social distancing in a time that has hit a pause button on the world

I know, I know this pandemic is a way more complex problem to find a solution for or even talk about, but every time I think of the 100 things a 100 different people are going through in this country, I wonder why we, as citizens of India deserve the ease of lockdown.

We’re already used to working from home, doing home chores, and getting things delivered to our doorsteps. A few more days of home deliveries sounds like a way better solution to open up the economy I feel because queuing up at liquor stores without social distancing can only lead to two things right now - domestic violence and the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, we don’t deserve the freedom we get in this country. The freedom our soldiers die for every day. 

Day and night, I think about what the world, the country, the cities, the people would look like after the lockdown, and then, things like today happen and I end up hoping for a longer lockdown. 

A lockdown after which the rents in urban cities will be lower, a lockdown after which we’d cherish the little things in life more than luxuries, a lockdown that will teach up how to live a sustainable life, a lockdown that will lead to well-planned cities that’ll be safe, sound, economical and healthy. 

A lockdown that will basically make this world a better place to live in.