VARANASI: Jay Desai*, a 23 year old aspiring filmmaker lives in Kandivali, Mumbai with his family. Born and brought up in the same housing society he shares a bond with all the neighbours and residents. But of late he has been very disturbed with the behaviour of the elders of his neighbourhood and family.

He has seen older residents including his father not following the lockdown guidelines and going outside every day as usual. “I see the residents going out for walks almost every day, on some occasions I have also seen some residents organising evening drinks and snacks session inside their apartments, where they call a few friends and enjoy.

“The situation in Mumbai is quite serious and I feel very agitated when I witness this. I don’t understand why they have been doing this. They feel the media is hyping the whole scenario. Even my father doesn’t understand the seriousness of the problem,” says Desai.

After noticing the irresponsible behaviour of the residents around him, Desai wrote a letter to the society’s secretary. “A lot of people accused me of being irrational for writing the letter; they also felt I was targeting them. I had no such intentions, instead I am just concerned for the family members who are indoors all the time. What if they catch the virus? By breaking the rules you are not just putting your life at risk but also endangering the lives of people surrounding you.

“The Secretary also asked me to not worry as ‘Talking to them is futile’, which now I feel is right,” he sighs.

After discussion and several attempts to educate the elders, Desai has now given up on the residents and made peace with the fact that they have their reasons.

“My uncle says that he has nothing to do indoors and he will go mad if he stays inside all day long. What argument I can make after a statement like this?”

There is much scientific evidence that this coronavirus is especially lethal to elders and people suffering from health issues already. But none of this is stopping the generation before from coming out and having their morning and evening walks.

Isha Paul, a Delhi University final year student went back home, Patna, for Holi and has been there ever since because of the lockdown. She describes how this is not only happening in metro cities but even more vigorously in a city like Patna.

“Everyone is out and there is no sign of social distancing. Two people have been tested positive who were migrant workers. The area I live in has a large population density and the houses are in very close proximity. In one house, three to four people live in one room and even then they come out every evening and sit outside shops and gossip,” she says.

The strict patrolling has not helped the situation either. Paul narrated an incident where a few days back a team of police strictly asked the residents to stay indoors, but the residents came up with a new trick to fool the police.

“They know the time of the patrolling and deliberately stay inside at that time. Once the police van leaves they all come out again. Nothing can stop them, but I must point out that when Ramayana and Mahabharata were on-air they did stay indoors to watch the show. Only a religious drama show can help them stay inside.”

Paul made personal requests to the people and asked them to stay inside, but no one has to date paid any attention to what she says.

“Fake news has made a huge impact on the situation. There is a plethora of fake news circulating in a city like Patna. People feel praying will only help as nature is angry, which might be true, but how will God help when no one is maintaining social distancing or wearing masks?”

Other youngsters are also quite agitated with the behaviour of the parents. The global pandemic has called for a role-reversal in the middle-class Indian family hierarchical tree, and the youth are frustrated by the parents’ irresponsible behaviour.

Sameera Seth*, who lives in Varanasi, has been fighting daily with her father and has now strictly asked him to not come back home if he continues going out to sit with his friends at the corner dhaba.

“I have no other option than to be upfront with him. My grandmother is quite old, what if something happens to her? My father and many are living in denial where they feel it is no big deal, but I know better this time.”

With a sense of frustration in her voice she explains, “They don’t understand how valuable their life is to us, and they have a complex where they feel they have seen the world so they know everything, but what they are not getting is that this is a new world and no one knows what’s coming.”

There is a certain complexity that has existed between the two generations for long now; however, it is not the parents who are disappointed anymore.

Indeed it is difficult for parents as they don’t have many ways to entertain themselves indoors. Desai’s father explains that he has never lived without his friends:

“We as a generation are not pro-texting, we have built human connections and this pandemic has taken away that. How will we survive? We take measures as much as we can but this is not so big yet. Let’s not be so negative. It will not come to our society, I am sure.”

Samiksha Mishra is a freelance journalist with special interest in the everyday not-so-dramatic life of middle class citizens from every city, town, village

* Names changed