It’s Friday night at a club in Delhi. Singer Nikk performs his hit songs with the cool confidence of a man with 563,000 Insta followers. The place is filled with a host of things young and old, swirling around wherever they find a place. Two days later, 150 of Hyderabad’s young A-listers attend a rave party in a pub (where they are arrested by the police for drug use). Across the country, a businessman from Kolkata is hosting a wedding reception for 350 people. “I no longer have to limit my guests or worry about the police interrupting the party,” he says.
It’s a similar story everywhere. Across urban India, people fill bars, clubs and wedding venues to drink, dance and party. It doesn’t matter that Covid-19 is back, like an unwanted guest. New infections have doubled in India over the past week, with three states accounting for the bulk of new cases. I personally know more than two dozen people with the virus. Those who have had it before say that this round is less severe but still exhausting. Those over 50 complain of crippling fatigue. Hope they all get better soon with no side effects.
I’m more intrigued, however, by those on the loose. People are back in malls to shop and eat with revenge, attend lavish weddings, and fill airports to catch flights around the world. They don’t care about Covid. They just want to live life with renewed vigor, as if to make up for lost time due to the pandemic. They include both old and young people. The older ones, many of whom are over 70, say they are done hiding in their homes. “I’ve lived a full life. If Covid is going to kill me, so be it,” a retired diplomat tells me. The younger ones, meanwhile, act like they’re invincible (“this strain of Covid can’t do any real damage”) and say they just want to have fun.
Isn’t that very different from the tune that everyone sang last year? Haven’t people set out to live more meaningful lives and stay away from reckless spending and socializing? Having discovered that “health is wealth,” didn’t they promise to eat and drink mindfully even when the world returned to normal? Moved by the sad state of the planet, didn’t they take an oath of sustainability and swear to recycle their waste
They stayed true to their word at the start, I know that. Even when restrictions were lifted, people stayed home, put family first and engaged in therapeutic activities such as cooking and gardening. Yes, they shopped around, but it was largely for the kitchen or the rails and tees to replace the ones they had worn holes in. If they traveled, it was to family homes or isolated host families.
So what has changed? Why have the noble resolutions of the past two years been blown away? Is it because most of us are double vaccinated and therefore feel unbeatable? Or have people just decided to take writer Wayne Dyer’s advice and go now because “the future isn’t promised to anyone”? Does anyone have the answer?