It’s been a year. Though the first 7–8 months of blogging were difficult, defining, and yet gratifying, very much like nurturing your own child, the last four months have suffered distraction and distance. In fact, even right now I feel like the way Malala Yousafzai (well-known author of the book ‘I am Malala’) felt on her twelfth birthday, which she spent in Haripur. She was upset and certainly missed a cake, a couple of companions and a celebration. Yet she made a wish and so did I.
Strange and at times, surreal is how I can describe my past few months. Most of you might prefer to concede to having a similar experience. While we were busy enacting our so-called remarkable roles in the absurd theatre of life, a virus ( coronavirus) invaded our domain. It not only challenged our potential but exposed our petulance. It intimidated our very existence as ‘social beings’. Almost overnight, our realities got suspended. Each one was coerced into confining himself in a self-created cocoon. Eventually, the vacuum started getting the better of us and the human world was numbed into nothingness.
Suddenly, my early mornings were no longer rushed and clock-coordinated. Initially, it appeared alluring but soon enough it was replaced by the tedium of added household chores. The discipline of a school-office-work bound routine was losing momentum. However, the institutions were trying hard to keep going by optimizing their virtual presence and creating an activity world bereft of interaction and intimacy. My husband, consciously, and my daughter, reluctantly, were slipping into the ‘new normal’ as I stood gazing. Involved yet often collapsing into oblivion, not letting the past go while being tugged into an inconceivable future.
That which limited the humans (now very much like the caged tiger in the poem ‘A Tiger in the Zoo’ by Leslie Norris), liberated nature and its other species. With almost no human intervention in air, land, and water, nature began to heal and regenerate itself. At least that’s what we surmised from its manifestations. My scanty sky with cottony clouds seemed to be straight out of my daughter’s drawing book. Pastel blue, beautifully bold, and a visual delight. The green and the auburn reinstated their hues as well. Birds and squirrels became regular visitors to my humble hanging porch. We decided to make the most of this acquaintance by mutually entertaining each other. Of course, I was the gainer. For a wealth of their tricks and tracks, I gave them a meager cut of fruits and nuts. Such never-before experiences were slowly becoming an indispensable part of my life. I must say I was lucky though as my unfamiliar friends were ickle and innocuous and not the harrowing ones like the hanuman or the hyena.
One incident needs a special mention here. To gather the generosity of the otherwise unforgiving summer season, I had seated myself next to a big window in my room on a weekday. I had just started taking my online class (I too was fitting into the new language of learning) when a presence thwarted my engagement. Not even at an arm’s length was perched a bird. Big and white. It had sunny yellow talons and round piercing eyes. The beak was too real to avoid and the possibilities, mind-boggling. I might have shifted an inch in brainstorming its nomenclature when the owl flapped its sizeable wings and was one with the sky.
Down below, countless lives were being mercilessly stunned into silence as the pandemic kept causing a pandemonium. The social, political and financial pyramids began getting subverted and the crisis was at large. But then again, every single day, the mayhem, as if, was metamorphosing the misery into something mysteriously similar to hope.
Locked under my roof, I peered into the lives of others. Fortified with the indomitable spirit that characterizes mankind, people were trying out various things to cope with the present times. Music, art, dance, poetry, language classes, baking, gardening and gossip were being explored with gusto and gravity. Simultaneously raging were activities like cleaning and decluttering (certainly inspired by Marie Kondo), binge-watching, becoming master chefs, and of course, resting. Family time too was gaining ground. Things which had hardly featured in our hectic schedules for long were being consciously cherished and championed. Mealtimes, book reading sessions, board game slots, exercising and the like were not individual activities anymore but shared and synchronized.
There were also people, many of them, who were doing wonderful work for the benefit of others. They were reaching out to the elderly, the deprived and the dependent, and lending them a tender voice, a meaningful assurance and some support to lean on. Incongruous, right? Kindness overflowed when closeness collapsed.
In the meanwhile, my teeny family was not always approving of the overlapping of spaces and the lack of others. Nonetheless, we too had our own family plans and programs. Every night after dinner, I would narrate a past incident of my life to my daughter. With rapt attention, she, a chatterbox herself, would listen to the stories. Mostly real, but I admit, sometimes concocted. After all, my mommy image was at stake! At times, I would confess, and on certain days, I would get caught too.
Now days pass by and every now and then, a disaster dictates. But then in the words of the Australian-German writer, Markus Zusak, “Maybe everyone can live beyond what they are capable of…” ( I Am The Messenger). Like Malala, I made my secret wish. She had prayed for peace, and I, for something a little more perennial than that.
By: Promita Banerjee Nag
Photo courtesy: Uddyom
Originally published at https://www.quotidiantales.com on June 5, 2020.