Updated: Jul 9
All of us are locked down somewhere in the world.
As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic handcuffs nations and borders, I'm serving my sentence in Melbourne. All this while, I've been receiving and exchanging stories of lockdown with friends from all over. I spoke previously with Mohamed Nasser Hamdan Alzaabi who leads trade promotions for the Ministry of Economy in United Arab Emirates
The COVID-19 Lockdown Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by its members and members of Platinum Circle.
Ritesh Kumar Singh is a business economist with over two decades of work experience in government, private and international organisations. He is currently the CEO of Indonomics Consulting and focuses on India’s macroeconomic and business environment including sectoral policies, sub-national and national political economy, trade and investment, FTAs and WTO issues.
Affluent Society (AS) spoke to him about his experience with the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
AS: What is the lockdown like in India?
I currently live in Doon valley (popularly known as Dehradun) in northern India. Along with nearby Mussoorie, it’s a popular tourist destination with lovely weather and lots of green cover. Local people are friendly and welcoming.
On March 25, when lockdown was first imposed, everything came to a standstill. The fear of getting infected came to dominate everything else. From March 22 when one-day people’s curfew was imposed and rumour started spreading that the government is going to impose a nationwide lockdown, everyone started hoarding essentials. Masks, sanitisers and paracetamol were all either vanished from chemist shops or their prices shot up by 200-300%.
After two and half months, the number of COVID-19 cases is still rising and there is no clarity when the virus will be tamed. On the other hand, residents are bored of being locked inside for such a long time and want to come out as soon as they can. Yet, the fear of getting infected remains and everyone is trying to avoid crowded places. As a result, markets are deserted, and business sentiments remain bleak, and are likely to remain so for at least a couple of months more.
AS: What challenges did you face when the lockdown started?
To be honest, it was relatively easier for me and my family as I’ve been mostly working from home for the last two years. We get groceries home delivered from neighbourhood stores. Thus, it was not an issue. But we tend to rely too much on domestic help especially to take care of our younger son. Post the lockdown, that support was removed.
Soon it came out that hospitals were the major source of getting infection. So we were always worried that my two sons (6 and 1) might not fall sick of anything that required going to hospitals. Almost all of us fell sick of something or the other, one by one. But somehow we are able to avoid going to hospital so far. However, we are still not out of trouble as the number of corona cases is increasing every day while the lockdown is being eased.
I think TRP hungry media is part of the problem. It tends to exaggerate everything bad and COVID19 came handy for the media. That adds to confusion and fear. Yet another challenge is that we are constantly being bombarded with WhatsApp forwards - often unconfirmed news about deaths and devastations as well as prescriptions on how to deal with the virus.
AS: How are you coping with the lockdown?
I have adopted a three-pronged strategy to deal with the corona-induced lockdown: Instead of jogging, I started to do part of household works such as making breakfast, washing the dishes and mopping the floor. Luckily, we don’t watch TV news (the worst of all) and delete WhatsApp forwards without even reading them. Both of us are in jobs that require lots of reading which we did as much as we could. That’s how I and my wife have maintained sanity.
AS: Anything positive came out of staying and working from home?
First it was really stressful to live without outside help for cleaning and cooking. Now I think it’s not a big problem. Besides, self-cooking helps you to cut on oil and fatty ingredients..so good for health. Plus, giving more time to my sons has proved to be quite fun. Moreover, I got a short project to study the impact of COVID19/lockdown on different sectors of Indian economy. In sum, I have been able to make the best out of Covid19 health and economic crisis.
AS: What's happening to return to normalcy?
The local government is trying its best to ease lockdown norms and let normalcy return. However, as the number of corona patients are rising, Dehradun will remain under complete lockdown on weekends. Weekends are usually the days when people go out for shopping and entertainment. That will not happen. Anyways, residents are avoiding all kinds of crowded places. Ours is a small research and advisory firm and most of the employees have been working remotely even before the viral outbreak. I used to spend more than three hours every week-day in commuting when I used to stay in Mumbai, India’s major COVID hotspot. So when I started my own venture, I was very clear that I will encourage working from home. That saves time for employees and helps better work-life balance. Luckily the kind of work we do, that’s possible.
Next up: We speak with Katya Zavialova about her COVID-19 lockdown experience in Singapore.
The COVID-19 Lockdown Series is brought to you by the Partners of Affluent Society including PhillipCapital, an Asian financial house headquartered in Singapore with over 1 million clients worldwide more than USD 35 Billion of assets under custody/management. It offers a full range of services to retail and high net worth individuals, family offices, as well as corporate and institutional customers.