[Author note: This is not a review, it's a perspective]
I live in a low cost housing society in Mumbai (MHADA). When the ‘hard’ lockdown began in March, we saw a reality no one had ever imagined, up and close. We all have fateful evening etched in our memories like it happened just yesterday, when the announcement came and more than two thousand families in the single complex that I reside in were out on the streets finding any store that would sell them any food provisions (The actual area, not more than a square kilometre, has several such societies/complexes and hundreds of thousands of families). The panic that had set in was unreal. Lines stretched for more than a kilometre and when the regular rice was over, common people were left with no choice but to buy premium rice, three times more expensive. The rumour was that for twenty-one days and more, absolutely nothing would be available. This of course, turned out not to be true but that evening many I live with spent most of the money they had.
Ours was designated the reddest of red zones, all complexes were strictly monitored by law enforcement, with policemen posted under each building. Families of seven, sometimes more, lived in rooms that were no bigger than two-hundred square feet. Where would people have possibly stored all these provisions that they had to buy sporadically? They did eventually allow us to go out, but only for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Women would line up inside the compound waiting for the gates to open and then run, as fast as they could, to the grocery shops only to find that they were closed and the ones that were open had their shutters three-quarters down for fear of being beaten up by law enforcement.
Then came the clanging of vessels and the lighting of diyas. People did that obediently. Indians are survivors, of course. Celebrities worth hundreds and thousands of crores lectured us about not going out, shouting and yelling in ‘frustration-ridden’ vlogs and Insta videos. Did they ever have to go and line up outside kiranas stretching to a kilometre away? Did they have to light kerosene stoves that needed the one thing our genius government deemed not essential I.e Matchboxes? How are people meant to eat when they cannot light their stoves?
A hundred percent of people I know got paid zero rupees for more than six months, and a large majority still aren’t getting paid today. Many citizens from the lowest tiers were and are still burdened with EMIs and payments (these aren’t people with the privilege of savings and disposable incomes). Yes, yes we know how many announcements were made by the government about relaxations, but none of this translated into a reality. The banking system (Read: Government-owned/PSBs) went ahead and let down the most downtrodden of people in some of the worst ways possible. For eg. while citing understaffing as a reason for the few and far between cheques not clearing in, sometimes, five and ten days, penalties continued to be implemented for bounced cheques, further burdening people who already have no money. If we’re expected to understand their understaffing, why hadn’t they waived these penalties?
Even if we leave some of the mental effects of social distancing aside (Plus fake news, hounding of people by the media, etc. which we shouldn’t discount or forgive), we’re still stuck in an unimaginable horror story. Many say the economy is screwed, which might just be the understatement of the century. We’re screwed in so many more ways than we know and one can’t help but see the sad humour in the garbage being fed to us on a daily basis. Today many of the torchbearers of these genius ‘masterstrokes’, and from all backgrounds, barely have a word to say. Forget about trusting our overlords, trust in each other is at an all-time low, so forgive me if I don’t give a f**k about hashtag revolutions.
The Yatin Srivastava and Friends’ single Breathe makes you want to get up and push back. I could write about the guitaring, the vocals and the drumming. I could regale you with yarns about the slickness of it all. But we'll come back to that in a later review, the band has given us the choice to make the track about anything. So just listen to it. Our learning from it, as stated above, is when you’re pushed up against a wall and can’t be pushed any further, you have no option but to push back.