In economic terms, COVID-19 has hit the daily wage labourer the most. Concerned citizens have many legit questions: What will happen to their wage during the shutdown? Those who work as domestic staff may still get paid leave, but what about those on the street? How will they survive? For the general population above (or way above) poverty line, the general consensus seems to be that the most positive way to look at the quarantine is to use/utilize/enjoy the time that has come unasked for - despite the many inconveniences.
I would like to add an invisible category to the list - the unfortunate ones for whom home is not what it is meant to be.
One would be surprised to know - or acknowledge - how many there are in this category. Like closet homosexuals, they are the closet homeless. They have a roof over their heads, no doubt - and let's be very clear about the privilege of having one - but the roof only covers the head. It can't give security or warmth or a sense of belonging. No corner of it can truly be claimed as one's own; a place that one doesn’t want to return to on weekdays & doesn’t want to stay in on weekends.
During this quarantined period, my heart goes out to:
- Children, unloved and alienated at home, for whom school is the real home, and friends the only family;
- Youngsters for whom campus life means everything;
- Couples who live wholly separate lives while staying together, and for whom even weekends are a nightmare;
- Men and women who go out to work not only to earn a living but to breathe more freely outside the claustrophobic restrictions of their home;
- Homemakers who savour a small window of ‘me-time’ during the day when the housework is done and the children/spouse are yet to return;
- The elderly, who often feel out of place everywhere, both at home and outside; but, when at home, prefer a quiet home infinitely more to a noisy one; (Contrary to popular notion, loneliness is not what bothers them the most - they learn to get used to it sooner or later, some better than others - but the disruption in their routine. They just want peace, and a quarantined household, especially with children in it, can’t give them that.)
- The truly miserable: those who hate both their home and workplace, but in normal circumstances, can at least look upon one as a temporary respite from the other. They will now be denied that oscillation.
I’m sure I’ve missed out some. But even in the case of those, my point remains the same: for far too many people, the outside world makes life at home bearable.
I sincerely hope they have the patience to bear this out…!