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The following are some translated extracts from the speech by PM Narendra Modi which was televised on 19 March 2020.
1. "... Social distancing is very necessary in the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic. If you feel you are okay and nothing will happen to you, it's wrong. By doing this, you are doing injustice to yourself and your loved ones."
2. "I would like, on Sunday, March 22, for us to offer thanks to all such people who are providing essential services in such time. On Sunday at 5pm, let us stand at the doors and balconies of our houses and applaud these people for five minutes — by clapping, banging plates and pans."
Audio clip: Cheryl Jacob
The sounds in the audio may resemble expressions of jubilation - a win in a game perhaps. But these aren't meant to be. Inspired by Italy, the PM of India, Mr N. Modi, in national telecast called upon Indians to bang thalis or utensil or clap for five minutes at 5:00 pm from their balconies, windows or outside their own doors as part of the Janta Curfew on 22 March 2020. The gesture was in part to show appreciation to the first responders. While it may have been meant to be encouraging. Some people burst fire crakcers. In many parts of India, people, in fact, defied the precaution of keeping social distance, and gathered in large numbers to bang thalis or improvise. I found this deeply disturbing. I recorded the audio clip from my residence.
A few questions came to my mind - what do people consider as priority? How do people internalise information and direction? What makes people defy rational advice in a way that threatens other people? India is after all in the third stage of the transmission. How do politicians think and communicate with others? Italy and India are at different stages of the transmission cycle. Expression from balconies in Italy is completelty different given the extent of loss and lockdown but why India? How people interpret leaders? This crowd coming together reminded me of the many times in the past few years where many Indians have united to express support to many polarising policies without reflecting the consequences of their support on the idea of an independent India.
thalis: (pl.) steel plates