Without a Return Ticket
Life pauses. Does it really?
Life can never stand still. All it does is change gears, take different turns and take us uphill or downhill. And what is uphill for one might be downhill for another. Whatever be it, life goes on in the time of Corona.
Hardly had we been able to shake off the katzenjammer of our muffled voices beginning last December, when we have been plunged into muffler existences. What was thought to be a temporary arrangement in the beginning has now come to be a way of life within a span of fifty days or so.
With hardly a moment’s respite in the past several years, this March was filled with hope for me, my family, friends and my students. The submission of my thesis had been planned before the family began the year-long celebrations of my eldest sibling’s entry into her half century. My final semester students were waiting for their Departmental trip. My friends were promised the pending treats and itineraries. But March marched up to lock down all our plans.
It was a blow which none of us had apprehended, though the neighbouring news were pouring in all the while. Neither could we fully fathom the gravity of the situation when the safety warnings and norms started flashing in gradually. From the virus not being air-borne and hence, us commoners not needing masks, to compulsory protection for all – things are transitioning, and we are trying to understand a fat and protein particle, which itself must not be sure of what it is capable of mutating to, the next moment!
For a crowd-fearer like me, who has been home-sick since infancy, and who will be able to do with being cocooned in my nest for the rest of my life, I am happy to be missing out on the social extravaganzas. What I am sad about are my skipped rendezvouses with my tree friends and the dusky heavenly bodies during my evening walks. A bit of the sky I do manage to catch from the terrace, from the kitchen window and sometimes from the backyard. But how do I reach the Sonaru trees that will soon start showering amber dreams, the Naahor and the Krishna Chura trees all around? These apart, I am not majorly missing out on anything much. The travel bug will keep biting me every now and then and the knowledge that those carefree place trotting days might never happen like before is making me listless.
I seem to be writing in a continuous tense; as I try to portray the “as is”, I’m actually moving to “as will be”. An impending sense of how things are going to be, irrespective of whether there is going to be an extended official lockdown in the months to come or not, seems to be gradually grabbing not only me, but most of us.
Except for momentary phases in normal times of yore, I had been taking life for granted. Each passing day of this physically isolated existence now teaches something new; making me realise my frequent follies and foibles and seems to be giving me chance to reshape my habits. Reshaping myself, that I am doing. And I hope these changes are there to stay as long as I am. The only hope is that my physical reshaping should be temporary. The sweeping and swabbing and a bit of brisk walking do not seem to be making any difference to the accumulating flab. And when indoors, all our appetites seem to be soaring, with the matriarch becoming more benevolent than ever before in ladling out the portions. Earlier she was contented at having our help, relatives and visitors around to receive her helpings. Now she has only the two of us. But then, she has us for the whole day. And that is the biggest positive that I am grateful about in this phase of my life.
Like most others in this phase, I keep losing count of dates and days and I am happy about it. I might as well lose sense of my professional background, had it not been for the academic responsibilities that keep me tied to my set of students. I find myself less strict with the errant ones, unlike before. How I will cope returning to normal work life is unimaginable right now. I will let time take that trouble of figuring out. What is stressing me the most are talks about staying positive, attending webinars and following a set daily pattern. Let us take life in our own strides. There’s no hurry to catch a train or miss the bus to Wuhan. What’s good for one may freak the other out. Except for a bit of the facts, too much news and views around the globe seem to be harming than healing me.
Life is teaching new things from peeling raw jackfruits to tending to the vegetable garden. The most important lesson that these tough times have taught me is the need for self-sufficiency. I should actually be taking back the words “tough times” because I cannot even comprehend how the less fortunate ones are fending. And among the ones who are fortunate in terms of means of survival, there are many whose lives have turned even more hellish with the house inmates increasing their abusive doses these days. Or maybe even when physically apart, the virtual networks are means of bullying missives for many others. Such are the endless facets which keep asking me not to judge how one is trying to cope with this phase. It is telling me to empathise, it’s giving me opportunities to be to be kinder; I don’t know how far I have been able to draw in. It is also telling me to be in love with everything good around me, my old passions, my old nooks and corners, my old world.
Many things that have changed by the standards of the world three months ago, are not going to be the same, at least for quite a long time to come, if not forever. And it may be forever as well, if forever means my lifetime. It is as if my pet adamant line “Moi ji baatere ulaalu aaji, naahu ubhoti” is being proved true. Once this is over, we will realise that it’s over but in a different kind of way, because there’s no return ticket in life. But of course, it will have to be over, simply because nothing can be forever, even if it means that a new virus awaits us at the end of this apocalypse. This phase is the best time to learn to make ourselves more resilient and tougher to fight back and live. We may not realise it but whatever we are doing right now, our future generation is keenly following us, while pretending to be busy in their own worlds.