The Music of Janta Curfew

Author: Yugal SehgalOriginally published on March 22, 2020

I was lost in a deep evening nap when I heard my mother’s call from the balcony, “Yugu wake up, it has started!” I have never before gotten up as quickly and left my bed as pronto.

Revelation number one.

Next thing I know I’m on the balcony with my phone, almost instinctively recording the whole thing.

Some clapping, some blowing conches (shankh), and some drumming steel plates with spatulas, collectively producing the sound that sounded like liberation, in honor of, and gratitude to, our healthcare warriors serving during these scary and uncertain times of an unprecedented global pandemic.

This whole event was unprecedented in its own right because never before have I ever connected with my neighbors in unison like this, and on top of that, synchronised with them in musical abilities hitherto dormant. Turns out Uncle Sandeep (not his real name) knows how to time the conch with the beats of a plate.

Revelation number two.

The overpowering, and equally empowering, sounds felt somehow reminiscent of history. Perhaps as recently as pre-British India, I assume warriors returning from battle must’ve been welcomed like this. It surely felt like that! But this feeling wasn’t shared by the street dogs because they were outright cowering. Poor things! Extra milk for them tonight.

It lasted a good 7 minutes or so, and ALL of our neighbors participated, even 2 curious little baby girls across the street. Meanwhile, my phone was buzzing with stories from friends of similar episodes from their streets, from different parts of the country. So this was one true (and rare) event of solidarity in the country.

Revelation number three.

An illustration of the scene by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

Equally important was the silence before this that pervaded the greater part of the day, filling the air with the twitter of birds that usually gets repressed by the “normal” daily lives. As musical as it was beautiful, it was also a reminder of what is lost to us in our “modern” lives.

Our negligence of nature and the consequential slaughter of natural life was apparent like never before, because if you think about it, this pandemic (or any pandemic for that matter) finds its roots in natural tampering and/or destruction.

And as advanced as humanity can get, never forget, nature is the ultimate supreme force that, when meddled with, can retaliate with an indiscriminate brutality so strong, it can make humanity’s most formidable weapons look tame. These times are a testament to that.

This day of Janta Curfew was one powerful day for all Indians because it symbolised our togetherness in our (social) distancing, and reminded us that our petty differences become meaningless in face of true solidarity. And that a whole country, when prompted, can produce the greatest music ever produced, that knows no structure, sees no religion, and transcends every containment.

Revelation number four.

Yugal Sehgal writes about life, mindfulness, and people. He lives in India. Follow him and @drawcuments on Instagram.