end of week 4: lockdown & discrepancies . . .

staying home; enjoying California blood oranges

Two weeks ago, once LA county closed hiking trails, beaches, and parks, my family and I have maintained sanity by walking in our neighborhood. This week has been unusually rainy, but I’ve managed to find 45-minute blocks when the drizzle halted. I’m grateful for streets that are clear of traffic, and where I can maintain distance from neighbors. And inside our home, the three of us, like millions around the globe, have carved out personal workspaces where we’ll work for the foreseeable future; schools will not reopen until the fall 2020. 

Every night when it’s morning in Karachi — since Pakistan is 12 hours ahead of Pacific time — I call my mother, Ammi, in Karachi to check on her health as she recovers from her accident two weeks ago. Karachi and the province of Sindh are under curfew, which is being enforced by the military and the police. Pakistani citizens are accustomed to curfews, but this spring, soldiers and police are blocking streets to protect citizens’ health and not to curtail resistance. 

And in Pakistan, just as in the US where restrictions across the country vary state by state, the Pakistani federal government’s leadership has fallen short. Aside from suspending domestic and international flights till April 11, there is little cohesion around the country. The government of Sindh moved earliest and most decisively to enforce lockdown, with tighter curfews, school closures, and banned religious gatherings while simultaneously organizing rations for those in need, but in Balochistan, police arrested doctors who protested against the lack of personal protective equipment. 

So far, when I call Ammi, I’m happy to hear that she’s recovering well though she’s isolated. When she needs groceries, she sends the driver to purchase goods and has not experienced shortage — yet. She stays busy reading, connecting with friends and family via WhatsApp, and walking in our garden. Meanwhile, this week in Los Angeles County, citizens are being asked to remain home and stay away from grocery stores “due to the large number of people that are currently walking around while asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, but nonetheless infectious.” 

In our southern California condo and in her Karachi town house, my family and my mother are lucky: we have water, food, electricity, wi-fi, and space. But around the globe in congested areas, including India where the Modi government closed state borders, “the lockdown to enforce physical distancing had resulted in the opposite — physical compression on an unthinkable scale,” writes Arundhati Roy in her Financial Times essay, The Pandemic is a Portal. “The main roads might be empty, but the poor are sealed into cramped quarters in slums and shanties.”