My home is my yellow submarine

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As we play a horrible tug of war with a terrible contagion, it may be helpful to visualise yourself trapped inside an iron vessel under fathoms of ocean. And then open your eyes to feel nestled comfortably in your above-water home.

Would it help people stay indoors if they realised that stepping out means drowning?

Imagine being cooped up in a constrained space with around 70-100 people, having only a fixed quantity of food, very few showers, a very small bunk to sleep in, no communication with relatives and friends, and hours and hours of silence without communicating even with the people within this tiny space.

Now, contrast this with people wantonly breaking curfew or jumping quarantine as India enters the start of the second week of the unprecedented 21-day lockdown.

This constrained situation I just asked you to imagine is the interior of an actual submarine, where one has to stay put in one place for a long time, hundreds of feet under water. As arguments abound about the lack of space in Indian households, the need to rush out to buy groceries, while some step out without reason just to check out how the neighbourhood is looking, I spoke to a former Indian submariner.

While the day-to-day lifestyle of a common citizen cannot be compared with that of a trained soldier, Captain Murthy, who has served in various classes of Indian Navy submarines for a quarter of a century, believes that citizens can get through this curfew period rather easily.

 

 

People on land may not be used to this kind of a situation, but it does bear a certain resemblance to the life of a submariner. And what’s more, it isn’t nearly as deprived as the cold deep waters that submarines patrol.

For example, as Capt. Murthy tells me, when a submarine enters an ultra-quiet stage, everyone on board is expected to maintain absolute silence and not talk to each other, because “when you talk, you generate more carbon-di-oxide and carbon monoxide is formed, which is dangerous. Everybody has to keep quiet. Oxygen is low. Because you are shut inside, you have to consume whatever oxygen is there for the next few days”.

Whatever fresh food is available on board is usually used up in the first few days of patrolling. Sometimes, the patrol duration is extended and submariners may have to go without a glimpse of sunlight for more than a month.

Capt. Murthy believes Indians can get through the COVID-19 crisis with just a little bit of discipline: “These are difficult times for each and every one of us across the world, but think of the people who are in submarines, who are patrolling the streets. Today, in our homes, we have proper food. We are able to watch TV, entertain ourselves with music, able to communicate with friends, families, relatives, read books, learn new skills. We should feel lucky about these.”

Life is sometimes all about counting one’s blessings and ploughing them back into the effort to combat potential jeopardy. The last thing we need as we battle a deadly virus is for people to move around willy nilly, arguing with police officers and doctors who are on the front-lines of this fight. “When such authorities are putting their lives on the line for you, why should we not do this little sacrifice of staying indoors?”

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