A globetrotter, T+ L reader Soumitree Ghose is currently confined to his home in New Jersey due to the COVID19 situation. In an exclusive interview with T+L India, he tells us about the lockdown scenario in the city. By Pallavi Phukan
When did you move to New Jersey?
I moved to NJ in May 2014… this was my second stint in the USA after a previous shorter stint back in 2010. I moved here after my European stint at Geneva.
What were your first thoughts when the lockdown was put in motion?
To be honest, the first major awakening happened just before the lockdown when I was completing an official tour and I almost breezed through Newark and Dallas airports. And then the offices started to close down; I was like, wow… this is happening! The nearest I came to this feeling was during the December 1992 curfew (post-Babri masjid issue).
Tell us about the ground reality that you are witnessing there during the lockdown. Are there any challenges that you are facing?
Well, there was a bit of chaos initially when the ‘Great Toilet Paper Panic’ hit us. Cold medicines, vitamins, antiseptic wipes and cleaners — these shelves were and are still empty in most places. Even bread, pasta, chicken, canned meat, etc. are scarce. However, supply chains have recovered after the initial hiccups and most items apart from a rare few (hand sanitizers, face masks, gloves, etc.) are back in stock.
What regulations have been implemented by the government there?
Well as you know, like most things in the US, the lockdown rules are being defined by each state Governors for their individual state. The NJ lockdown rules typically identified essential vs non-essential for the restrictions. Essential personalities like healthcare workers, law enforcement, first responders, media, workers in essential business (like grocery, medicine stores, etc) are exempted from it.
Rest all were advised to stay at home as much as possible. Very restricted movements were allowed between 8 pm to 5 am, which was later extended to 24 hr keep-off roads’ apart from essential reasons like getting food, grocery, medicine, liquor, attending to senior family members who require care, etc.
The essential services that remain open are hospitals, medical stores, liquor stores, courier, car repair, gas stations, banks (limited), etc. Restaurants have had to close all seating; they can stay open only for takeaways.
Are people allowed to step outdoors at a certain time?
Yes, residents can step out for walks, runs, etc. as long as they maintain social distancing and do not congregate. All congregations like parties, festivals, etc. are banned. Some parks in NJ have been shut down following reports of too many people being seen at a particular time.
How are you keeping yourself occupied?
It becomes a drag after some time. With my job role, I travel almost thrice a week, but with work-from-home being the norm of the hour, it does get monotonous. Apart from catering to work, I ensure I video-call my family every day, and even with my friends. I also indulge in occasional banter with my hobby groups; I am part of a sailing group and we have all been talking about future sailing plans. Then, I read often too. Oh, and yes, I started a bit of exercise too.
Where would you like to travel to once this situation settles down?
I would really like to visit Kolkata, my home. Apart from home, every year I normally hit the Caribbeans at least once.