Every family lies, but mine probably lies more than others. When offices in the NCR began to shut as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus, as presumptive head of the clan, I assembled all members into a room to read them the riot act. We’re an educated family, I said, let’s not act like the mindless hordes who spread misinformation over WhatsApp, hoard essential supplies, or cause unnecessary panic. The country, I added philosophically, had enough for our need, but not our greed. And finally, I added, we should see our confinement not as unbearable punishment — which it is, of course — but as an opportunity to renew bonds and refresh relationships. “What crap,” said my son. “Stay out of my face,” my daughter warned him. “I’ve told them to fend for themselves,” my wife was immediately on the phone with her friend Sarla, “I’m not taking care of them.” No one could accuse us of breaching the norms of social distancing.
My daughter-in-law, the family hypochondriac and apothecary, was the first to break the no-hoarding rule, having sent off the cook, her husband as well as the driver to different stores to buy enough “essential” medicines to stock a pharmacy. When I protested, she pointed out that the chemist shops were her source for various unguents, powders and lotions. “If we are to be stuck together,” she said, “I need to look better than everyone else for when we Skype with friends and family.” When this is past, I guarantee there’ll be enough make-up left to start a parlour.
My son, the realist, said we had to be practical and insisted I withdraw and keep cash handy. Unusually for him, he offered to run the errand for me, and then used it to go grocery shopping, filling his car with such “necessities” as cartons of noodles and pasta, tins, packets and jars of processed foods and sauces. We’re well supplied with sausages and cheeses, jams and chocolates. We may find it difficult to swallow the words we hurl at each other, but at least we’ll eat well.
My wife, meanwhile, dispatched minions to stock up on the dal-chawal of our daily needs — coconuts for chutney, sugar for desserts, dry fruits, spices, condiments, enough potatoes and onions to feed an army, rice, flour and oil, lentils and pickles, requiring several trips to the neighbourhood shops and haranguing matches with their owners if they refused to part with the quantities of tissue paper, detergents, soaps, toothpastes and shampoo that she deemed indispensable to our survival. All our cars are tanked up with fuel, though we have nowhere to go; subscriptions for TV and Netflix have been topped up. Someone thought to order an additional internet connection so that entertainment can stream in seamlessly.
Last evening, my daugter noticed there wasn’t sufficient gin in the bar, so we decided on a pit-stop to the liquor store to top up our alcoholic supplies — whisky, vodka, rum, beer and accompaniments such as tonic water, juices, colas, and such fruits as are essential for making cocktails, punches and sangria. There are sufficient chips and nachos, crackers and lavash. We’re as well supplied as we’re likely to be. Now to see how well we survive our incarceration together. Watch this space.