The peevish beast known to the adept as the government is shambolic in everyday operations, but ever-alert to opportunities to deprive people of their pleasures. It censors cinema, taxes fuel sinfully to prevent people from gadding about, and punitively taxes substances which excite the pleasure centres. Now, under cover of the coronavirus crisis, it is robbing people of the simplest pleasure — the weekend.
Last month, Ludhiana and cities in Assam experimented with a weekend curfew. Chandigarh is toying with the idea. And Uttar Pradesh has just implemented it — or, to put it bluntly, weaponised it. This booster shot — a tiny lockdown to achieve what the big one could not — has no scientific basis. Neither does the night curfew, since the virus is not believed to freshen up and shake a leg at night or on the weekends. These are just keepalive signals to remind the people that the government is in charge, and in full control.
Poor, deluded government! For weekend lockdowns to exist, weekends must exist. And for weekends to exist, weeks must exist. The pandemic has obliterated these ancient institutions of Babylonian vintage. The days pass in a blur, like the lights of an overnight express hurtling through a locked-down station. A prelapsarian time is dimly remembered, before a turning point marked by the lighting of lamps and the cacophonic clangour of kitchen utensils. Before the janata curfew, weekends existed. Now, to paraphrase the prescient Bard of Avon, life “creeps in this petty pace from day to day,” and will perhaps do so to “the last syllable of recorded time”. The historically special weekend has receded into the vast nothingness of Mahakal, or Deep Time, and the conceit of the weekend curfew only reveals that the peevish beast known as government has lost the plot, and all control.
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