On pause

I’ve spent a week writing about all that I’m beginning to like about the anthropause. But there’s a part of our lives which is on hold. The Family and I talked about it yesterday after we got a call from one of our friends: a travel professional. What I miss are the long road trips. You may be crammed into uncomfortable cars for long hours, but there is a romance in these trips to corners of India which are never in the news.

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When you take photos of roads, they look entirely charmless: trucks and buses edging out smaller vehicles in the race to reach their end, while you travel endlessly. But there are the charming stops: the little dhabas and chai stalls, which make up for all the discomfort. Even if the stall makes nothing but chai, sometimes you are surprised by its taste, and sometimes by the conversation you find there. Each stop is a little more added to your life, a little more of India.

This sense of unending miles, a world left to see, that’s what I miss in the anthropause.

It takes a village to assemble a hamburger

Friday mornings are hectic in lock down. The Family and I are in our separate meetings all morning. There is no time to plan and put together a wholesome meal. So we’ve decided to either order out for lunch, or do a quick lunch that only requires assembly. This Friday we had hamburgers and a salad. Later, when I thought about it, the “quick meal” was such a misnomer. There was such a long chain behind even such a simple thing.

The patties were made by a Bohra couple who’ve risen to new business opportunities out of home, and delivered to us by the husband. The bun was a multigrain bun which we ordered from a small Parsi bakery chain (how it has grown over a decade from a stand alone shop in Colaba!) which has been delivering through an internet startup. I’m sure that behind both these objects was a desperately cobbled-together chain of supplies.

The vegetables came from a farmer in Nashik, who, along with many others, have taken to direct marketing after the collapse of the vegetable exchange which powered Mumbai until March. The mustard (oh! the mustard!) was Bengali kasundi delivered by everyone’s least favourite internet behemoth, and probably has been stocked in one of their warehouses for ages. Fortunately, this has long shelf life. Good cheese has not been available in Mumbai for weeks now, so we had to do without it.

Normally we wouldn’t even notice the web of commerce which brings things across the world. But the Anthropause has disrupted so much of our daily lives, that we now think about every meal. One thing is certain, online marketing has bloomed in this new economic ecosystem, and it is no longer only the large aggregators who gain from it.