Birdsongs, Roses, & Twitter Antakshari: How India Observes Janata Curfew


Birdsongs, Roses, & Twitter Antakshari: How India Observes Janata Curfew

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Sunday, March 22 is going to be remembered as the first time India, the second-most populated nation on Earth, wore a deserted look. The janata curfew announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been wholeheartedly embraced by most parts of the country, making for some unusual, never-seen-before visuals.

That is Marine Drive, possibly Mumbai’s most iconic road, looking like the set of I Am Legend. And similar scenes are unfolding across the country, like this one, where the human crowd at New Delhi’s Connaught Place have been replaced by an avian one.

In the capital, policemen on duty were handing out roses to everyone with the “janta nahi mera baap kaun hai” attitude – basically those who were defying the curfew. “Please stay at home… please support us,” Delhi Police urged citizens.

Even India’s biggest cities have shut down, and the people sitting at home are coming up with unique ways to cope with their isolation, like Union Minister Smriti Irani, who has kickstarted what might be history’s first-ever game of antakshari on Twitter.

Karan Johar, arguably the most filmy Indian, was quick to join in. Antakshari, he said, is his favourite “time pass” activity.

Lag jaa gale? Really, Karan. Not the most apt song for the moment.

Meanwhile, the expected flurry of memes and jokes also did the rounds.

Others were happy to see how a day without human activity allowed nature room to breathe. Mumbaikars were thrilled that they could hear birds chirping, in Bangalore peacocks took to the roads, if this Twitter user is to be believed.

But predictably, some wanted to make the best of this newfound space.

If there was ever a contest for Most Made-in-India Headline Ever, it would go to “Locals Risk Coronavirus to Play Cricket on Empty Roads Due to Janata Curfew”.