Lockdown Unlocked: Utopia or Dystopia

As the lockdown started, I had been weaving my words to answer the most common question asked on social media – “How are you going to spend the first day after the lockdown is over?” The calendar finally showed the day that I had been waiting for. But the very first moment I untied my blindfold of quarantine, the bubble of my utopia burst at once. The first sunrise after lockdown was in no way like the morning booster you had been waiting for throughout these days.

In these days, nothing has changed much, yet nothing has remained the same anymore.

the image of two puppies sleeping. the photo is taken by The Aboltabol Maa, a Bangladeshi writer wearing safety gears because of the pandemic. She is one of the first Bangladeshi mom bloggers, a Bangladesh based parenting blogger, living in Dhaka.
the newborn puppies I saw at my office premises on my last day at work before lockdown.

It’s been two weeks since my office has resumed operations in full swing. From morning rushes to long commutes – it feels like life has finally stopped hitting the snooze button. The gravels are still scattered hither and thither on the black asphalt roads, the office files gathered dust in these days but still enjoyed a cozy, hands-free staycation inside the file cabinet, the newborn puppies I saw at my office premises on my last day at work before lockdown have grown up like their mom and all of them look the same now. In these days, nothing has changed much, yet nothing has remained the same anymore.

Since the red-spiked monster started expanding its tentacles everywhere, countries around the world implemented strict nationwide lockdown. Bangladesh was no exception. The contamination rate is still surging, yet we have decided to put an end to our caveman chronicles and start the next chapter of the story – “Lockdown Unlocked”. After being cooped up at home for more than three months, when I received the email saying that I would have to join the workplace from the next week, my heart skipped a beat. Instead of feeling elated, I was appalled. Perhaps the fear of catching the virus was not the only reason. In this lockdown period, I cocooned myself inside my den and coming out of it did not seem so ecstatic anymore.

Few house-shifting trucks crossed us which were loaded by not only furniture but also the chipped pieces of someone’s glass house.

The fear caught me the minute I stepped out of the house. My whole body was enveloped in all kinds of protective gears. The city was completely water-washed by monsoon that day. Dhaka sky looked like a wet-on-wet painting on a big canvas. When my car was aquaplaning through the drenched roads, I was looking out my car window seeing the blanket of black clouds that almost touched the pire of Radisson Blu. But the paranoia of stepping out transcended the poetic beauty of Dhaka monsoon. The dream of “Green Dhaka” has turned pale gray underneath the blue masks.

the image of people walking to their workplace. the photo is taken by The Aboltabol Maa, a Bangladeshi writer wearing safety gears because of the pandemic. She is one of the first Bangladeshi mom bloggers, a Bangladesh based parenting blogger, living in Dhaka.
We have not conquered the pandemic, rather we have been vanquished by the harsh reality.

Dhaka didn’t look like my “Praner Shohor (City of Life) ” that day. No kids greeted me with a bouquet of flowers at Banani signal asking if I needed any, no women peeped through my car window with children’s books in their hands. There was a woman who used to sell books at Mohakhali point with a baby in her lap. How much has the baby grown up now? Does she still fall asleep on her mother’s lap in the busy roads of Dhaka? The woman was not there anymore and I could not find out the answers to my questions. There were street beggars but nobody rolled down the car window out of the fear of getting contaminated. Roadside hawkers were not selling junk jewelleries anymore. Instead they started hawking masks and gloves in the busy streets of Dhaka but that didn’t stop the sale of cigerattes. Social distancing has dispelled the liveliness of the “City of Life”, yet it didn’t stop people making beeline for the bus at the counter. Few house-shifting trucks crossed us which were loaded by not only furniture but also the chipped pieces of someone’s glass house.

At the office, I opted for the staircases instead of the elevator. The office clerk now greets everyone with the infrared thermometer instead of refreshments. Employees now enter the office by dipping both their feet in disinfectant solution. Smizing has taken the place of handshake. Fear is tied with every fold of papers inside the khaki office files. Note-taking at the meeting has evolved to Samsung Notes nowadays.

the image sunset in Dhaka. The photo is taken by The aboltabol Maa, a Bangladeshi writer wearing safety gears because of the pandemic. She is one of the first Bangladeshi mom bloggers, a Bangladesh based parenting blogger, living in Dhaka.
Evening tea is never taken in office outfits these days.

Lunch time used to be the happiest hour for me when I would finally manage to check out the push notifications on my mobile. But it has been the most terrifying hour with the masks off. Instead of my coffee mug, a big bottle of sanitizer adorns my table top. Jumping straight on the couch after arriving home sounds like a fairytale now. Evening tea is never taken in office outfits these days.

I have always dreamed that the first thing I would do after the lockdown is – I will fill my lungs with fresh air. But when I tried to breathe through the mask, I reeked of death everywhere. When I tried to write my story of “Lockdown Unlocked”, I realized that we have not conquered the pandemic, rather we have been vanquished by the harsh reality.

With love,

The signature of The Aboltabol Maa, Ava, the royal bengal mom who is one of the first bangladeshi mom blogger. She is a Bangladesh based parenting blogger staying in Dhaka.