We don’t have a paywall for most of our stories on the coronavirus outbreak and its impact. Support us and subscribe here.
When the walls close in, Prathamesh tunes out. He reaches into his pocket for his earphones. This is an autopiloted response to discord in the cramped room he and four others—mother, father, two younger siblings—call home. Prathamesh then grabs his phone and either climbs up to the loft or ambles outside for a stroll.
But outside wasn’t an option in the third week of March. His junior college, in adherence to Maharashtra state government orders for educational institutions, closed on 15 March. The basti or settlement he lives in, along Mumbai’s Western Express Highway, went into a tizzy. There were domestic help and watchmen, tailors and milkmen, fruit and vegetable vendors, all backbones of the highrises around them. And they knew what