It was on the fateful day of May 20 that my father returned after cremating his brother. A person, who was happy and active just one month before the tragedy, now simply existed in the form of ashes that my father held tightly. He silently handed the death certificate to his cousin’s distraught wife. Cause of death – COVID-19.
He had been in the hospital for about a month before the tragic day. The second wave of the pandemic, that has destroyed countless lives, was all set to annihilate yet another household – this time, mine. Tragedy and grief are emotions that we never really understand until we have to deal with them directly. And while we always feel that no loss is powerful enough to touch us, it eventually does. That was the story of my family, very much similar to that of every household in India.
When the disastrous pandemic first came into light in Wuhan, China in late 2019, how many of us, with our busy professional lives, frequent get-togethers with family and friends, would have thought that one day the same virus would enter, and possibly end, our lives? After the lockdown was first announced in India in March 2020, for many of us, it was a mere obstruction to the smooth functioning of our daily lives. Six months at the max, then it’s all going to be over, we said. When the virus set a roller-coaster motion through the daily coronavirus report graphs, reporting more and more number of infections and deaths, our hope quivered.
At the beginning of this bumpy coronavirus ride, we were all hopeful for a better 2021. Just one year. In 2021, we would be back to normal, we said. However, as the second wave choked the air out of our country’s lungs – quite literally – there is still hope, amidst all the destruction, for a better tomorrow. Hold on for a bit longer. Everything will fall back to place post-Covid, we said.
Post-Covid. What does this phrase mean? Is it a hope for a better tomorrow? Well, is there a better tomorrow at all? Each and every one of us is fighting a fierce battle with the hope of being able to see the sun rise the next day. We are all praying for a magical wand to obliterate all signs of the virus from our lives. What I fear is that this isn’t yet another wait for Godot.
I am referring to Samuel Beckett’s famous French play Waiting for Godot, where two individuals kept on waiting for someone named Godot who was never going to show up. In spite of knowing the reality, the two characters decided to wait. The play was a dig on how meaningless life is and how we’re always in an existential crisis.
What is this pandemic if not an existential crisis? We’re literally questioning our existence, putting aside all our dreams of a career or a blissful future. Our aim now is to literally just survive another day, another wave of this virus and the fungus that it has brought along with it. In spite of the hell that we are in today, aren’t we still hoping, rather craving, for a post-pandemic world? A return to the normal, where traffic jams and pollution were things to worry about, and not crowds and sanitation? Have our lives then become a hopeless existence, since Godot is never really going to come?
I don’t know if Godot will come – if the world will ever get back to what it was before 2020. I am as lost in this sea of deaths and tragedies as my fellow Indians are. All I can say is, if waiting for Godot gives us hope, then so be it. If waiting for Godot makes us battle our realities a bit stronger, so be it. It is not the future which should be our point of concern right now, but simply surviving – making our way out of this maze of deaths, sickness and unhappiness.
Ilona Dam is a French Literature student at JNU. Reading and writing are my hobbies and passions, things which keep me sane in this world. Books are my best friends and I prefer to carry them everywhere I go!