March 18, 2020 8:57:07 pm
MAJOR SINGH, 80, and Buta Singh, 65, are busy playing cards at a common area, also known as ‘Sathh’, in Mehraj, a village turned Nagar Council in Bathinda district. This is the native place of Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. While the COVID-19 outbreak has sent ripples across the country, residents of Mehraj say not much has changed in their lives.
“We do discuss the coronavirus every morning and evening after watching news channels and reading the papers. But our lives are going on as normal. We greet each as before and sit together, play cards,” says Major Singh.
Gurchet Singh, vice-president of the Nagar Council, says, “The potato crop is ready and women from our village as well as other villages are working in the fields. The Council has a population of over 30,000, which includes seven small villages on the outskirts.”
He adds, “We all are aware of this virus, but in villages, most of us don’t really go out. Outsiders who come to meet us are also of nearby areas. A few NRIs who had come about three months back have either gone back or are expected to go by the first week of April, if all goes well. It’s simple math – no outsider is coming and even we have limited movement. So what is the need to fear this virus?”
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Asked if they avoid shaking hands or hugging, most of the villagers gathered at the ‘Sathh’ say no. But some say, “We believe in ‘Sat Sri Akal’.”
Lok Raj, a retired power corporation employee says, “This virus seems to be a weapon of biological warfare created to damage the economies of many countries. We focus on eating healthy food and observing hygiene while cooking and doing other chores of the house. We are interacting with each other as normal.”
On Wednesday morning, there was a religious programme in the village. Almost everyone attended the ‘Sukhmani Sahib path’. “Bhog and other social gatherings are also taking place as usual. In cities, people have a different lifestyle. In villages, we eat simple food, breathe fresh air and everyone knows everyone, so we are aware of everyone’s travel history. Hence, we are not too scared much and are meeting each other as usual,” says Gora Singh Bhainibaga of Bhainibaga village in Mansa district.
“Our life goes on as before. After all, a farmer has to take care of his fields,” he adds.
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