I just wanted to write you a note, since you haven’t heard from me in a while, to let you know I’m okay. Shit is bad here, you’ve no doubt heard how bad things are or are living it so what can I say to add to that?
K thinks it’s dumb, me writing to you: “Are you going to say, ‘Hiiii Substack People, just wanted to let you know I haven’t died yet?’” “Basically, yes,” I say. I have friends who have COVID, some for the second time, I message them every morning, “Hello, just checking in.” We’re all saying, “Please don’t die yet.” I hear from friends around the world, “You guys ok?” (Please don’t die yet.)
But in our very own personal world, we are only locked in. We haven’t left our house in so long we didn’t know that our first floor neighbour had been taken to the hospital or that us, and the people directly below us, were the only people left in the building. I found this out when our downstairs neighbour—a doctor—called me yesterday because she could smell gas. “It’s not from our house,” I assured her, “Have you checked with the other houses?” And she laughed, lightly, grimly, “There’s no one else in the building.”
There was this “we’re in this together” feeling of the first lockdown, which is absent now. Everyone is hunkering down, staying in, but this time no Facebook groups about recipes are popping up, no reading recommendations or movie dates suggested. Instead, all across social media, there’s calls for help, “URGENT SOS PLEASE HELP ME NEED OXYGEN.” It’s like being attacked, you can’t think of anything else, so you doom scroll and retweet when you can, and say angry things about Modi and the government when your rage pushes you to the brink, but mostly you’re holding your breath, let today be the day disaster sidesteps me. Repeat as needed, which is every morning, when I reach for my phone and check my WhatsApp messages first, ok, ok, everyone’s good, everyone’s fine, I can get out of bed now, and make jokes about things for a little while, until boom, once more I am sucked in for the day into articles about how many people are dying and how bad this is and then panic once more.
I’m actually a little surprised when I get my period. Like, “oh, this is still happening?”
Some people are using their time online to help other people. I wish I could be like them. I feel guilty for reading so much, for pretending like the outside world doesn’t exist, and the guiltier I feel, the more I read. I stress-shopped for a bunch of used books off BookChor. I’ve just (re)discovered Louise Penny and adored Willa Cather. I’m snatching books off my shelves that I’ve never managed to read before. I can’t write, putting one word in front of another is hard, and I’ve had to write for work, but I can read, faster than I have before, burrowing like a mole into the pages so no one can get me.
They should call them bookmoles not worms.
There should be a word for the feeling you have watching your friends and family live perfectly normal everyday lives in a country that isn’t India. You’re jealous but you’re also glad for them and you’re also sad for yourself and everyone else here with you. If wishes were teleportation devices, you’d be so far away right now. Then the guilt again.
I wonder if we’ll be able to get registered for the vaccine today or whether the supplies will run out so fast we won’t even see them and should we be getting vaccinated when there are people who need it more but shouldn’t we be getting vaccinated because everyone who does is stronger against this invisible beast?
Please stay home if you can. Please wear a mask. Please open your windows if you have someone else in the house besides the people who live there. If you don’t live in India, learn from us: how a country can get so smug that they declare the pandemic over and do all sorts of foolish and highly irresponsible things and here we are again. If you can get vaccinated, please do. If you’re bored, remember how much worse the alternative is.
I love you all, please stay safe.
I read a bunch on the internet, both pandemic and non-pandemic, which might distract you as they did me, so I’m including them here, but you don’t have to look at them if you don’t have the bandwidth.
How the Kumbh Mela wasn’t supposed to happen at all this year but astrology.
Liberalising vaccine sales may block access to millions of people in India.
Affluent Indians were the COVID superspreaders.
Interview with a cremator.
UK’s COVID deniers.
(Please consider donating to keep journalism like Scroll and The Wire free and able to pay their reporters for all the excellent work they’re doing.)
Excellent essay on chess players in Chennai.
I also liked this, from Fifty Two: the history of India’s LGBT couples.
Related: why the UK is so TERF-y.
Staying with the Hadza tribe.
The problem with designer dogs.
Photo essay: how rideshare apps have changed the lives of Indian women.
These are terrible times, friends, but I hope we’ll all come out of it together.
Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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