Did it take a virus to bring out the human side in us – which we were losing at a rapid pace as we had begun to distance ourselves emotionally from people more and more while indulging in a virtual world 24×7?
Not noticing the morning breeze that caressed our faces or bothering to listen to the birds in the trees or even to the silence – which if heard, felt and seen would show us a thousand things, right from the soundless blossoming of a flower to the crack of an egg as the life in it comes out with an unsteady step. Or the clouds playing jazz in the sky. Or the rustle of a leaf blown in from somewhere by the wind that dances with carefree abandon on your terrace.
Today, I believe I have all the time in the world to sit, watch and enjoy this incredible plethora of things that have been happening all along all around me and that I have been blind and deaf and indifferent to. Despite the deluge of messages on social media, it is incredible how at the end of the day, you simply do not want any more of it and would rather listen to sounds you never cared for, sights that never mattered.
As I look out and see an empty road, I also see a lone man feeding stray dogs in the sweltering afternoon sun. As I open my WhatsApp, I find an appeal from a friend asking me to donate money to help out health workers and policemen who are out there where the action.
I look at my workaholic husband who seems retired now and has strangely begun to follow the sprouting of a seed and its journey into a plant as it uncoils itself bit by bit, centimetre by centimetre everyday.
I look at my son who doesn’t crib anymore about the football or the cricket matches he is missing. he who has instead taken to watching YouTube and memorising new recipes to try out with his dad. I haven’t been able to see my mother, who is above 70 and lives alone, in the past three weeks – something that has never happened before. I have a bad cough and I do not want to pass it to her.
And yet, I do not find her complaining or hinting that she is bored because none of us takes for granted, this fact, this absolute blessing, that we are safe at least for the moment for the time being – not even my eight-year-old.
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And each one of us individually and alone is reaching out metaphorically. Sitting down as a family to have a meal together, watching Hrishikesh Mukherjee films on Netflix, witnessing a business tycoon slowly yet unmistakably transforming into a responsible father, learning small ways to manage the house; and my mind wanders to my domestic help and how this lockdown would be like some rare gift – that welcome paid vacation which she may never have had or even imagined in her entire life. And how, at this moment, instead of sweating in someone’s kitchen, she is actually having the same kind of fun with her family.
I see my son, all grown up, acting responsible, asking me if I have gargled, drunk enough water, washed my hands with soap that generates more lather (not the other one), getting a paper towel and a sanitiser to clean my laptop and my phone. Sometimes I am a part of the banter and sometimes when all goes quiet, I listen to that which can neither be seen nor heard, not if you do not pay enough attention. And I imagine the sounds that go with the signs of life thriving, asserting itself, affirming its existence, willing to live and exist despite everything. If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear it too since there aren’t many cars out there to distract you.
And then you will hear the Earth breathing, heaving a long held sigh of relief as she feels unburdened, smiling secretly because her long-standing petition has finally been heard. COVID-19, a virus that does not differentiate on religious or ethnic or class grounds, that is not even visible to the naked eye, has undoubtedly resulted in death, destruction, misery and worldwide chaos and lockdown, but it has also taught us a lesson that generations to come will remember – don’t run too fast because you might not be able to stop yourself before you hit the edge of the cliff.
It has taught us that sometimes it’s nice to stop by the woods on a snowy evening and you can excuse yourself for doing it even if you have miles to go. It has reminded us that it is supremely rewarding to simply stand and stare at the marvel all around us – which we neither conceived nor created but were hell bent on destroying.
COVID-19 is perhaps Mother Earth’s way of telling us, ‘Enough is enough. You are grounded indefinitely.’
Dr. Shyaonti Talwar is an academician, researcher and a writer whose areas of interest include art, culture, lifestyle, social inequality, literature, mythology and gender.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty