SPATIAL CHRONICLES

ISSUE 3

MARCH 2021

Pandemic Tales

Alefiya Vali is an Interior Designer by profession who has been awarded ‘The Best Student Allrounder award’ by III D in 2017, and a literature enthusiast . She is an avid reader and creative writer who expresses herself through her poetry. A sensitive soul she likes to live every moment to the fullest.

18th April 2020
Dear Diary,

A lot has happened since I last wrote, the world as we knew it is now lost forever. Let me go over everything that has happened over the last couple of weeks beginning with the fact that we are ‘plagued’ literally by the Coronavirus. Secondly, the lockdown, frankly it is awful I am so tired of staying at home… Just the other day the quote on my calendar page read, “The world is your playground…”, “Ha!” I scoffed inwardly, as I paced around the room while speaking to my friend Alisha who was cribbing about the loss of her amazing nightlife and spontaneous outings and making light banter about how the world was going to end. I knew, however, that behind this light exterior of hers was a grim mind, whirling with stress, as she
needed to send money to her old, widowed mom to help put her youngest brother through college. Lately, she had been running low on her savings but her 20% pay cut because of the pandemic made it even worse. Even though I could feel her pain, I had my own share of anxieties, that occupied my mind as I waited with bated breath to hear news of my brother who was stuck in Delhi, and this time “Dilli” literally seemed really “dur”! I sighed as I sipped water, I truly felt a little panicky and a lot more helpless! Maybe the world was about to end but it seemed like there was nothing I could do about it. I shook myself out of my reverie and tried to re-focus on Alisha’s rambling. I could also hear my grandpa telling the newly hired house help that she could not continue working and she must search for some other place to work as he did not know when he would be able to rehire her, however, he offered monetary assistance and some essential foodstuff in order to help her make ends meet till she found another job.” He was another reason for the state of consternation I had been in because he himself was terrified (and he blew it out of proportion) of the pandemic and felt that since he was old, he was more susceptible to the disease. He scouted the news and carefully read every piece on the virus which in turn scared him even more. It was almost as if he thought the bugs were out to get him. After creating a vaccine to control the pandemic maybe the scientists could start working on a cure for unreasonable paranoia!

The doorbell rang and I hurriedly whispered my goodbyes and take cares to Alisha and rushed to open the door. I found my grandpa glaring at me and then realized I had not put on my mask so I rushed back to put it on and opened the door to find the ‘Big Basket’ delivery guy who had come to deliver fruits and veggies which would have to be carefully washed first then kept to dry in the sun in order to kill the virus as that is what my grandmother had learned on the Whatsapp University just last night, along with the recipe of a ‘kadha’ that would absolutely cure the virus hearing of which I just rolled my eyes.

The other day I went to the pharmacy to pick up some medicines for my grandparents & I stepped onto the once hustling bustling street which now seemed empty and haunted like a ghost town, the roads were barricaded as if in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse! I shook off the eerie feeling that descended upon me suddenly and set off on foot as my Activa was not
allowed past the barricades. The street was frequented by many stray dogs who watched and barked at me in utter confusion as if they had seen a ghost! Maybe they too were wondering where the humans had disappeared! Next, I passed a construction site which had gone from being noisy to becoming dull and still, no workers varying bricks around, or their little children running and playing about while the parents worked, the pandemic had hit them hard adding misery to extreme penury, now affording even one square meal had become difficult for them. Also many of them were miles away from their homes. As I moved further I crossed a school abutting the road which would generally be filled with laughing and playing students, autorickshaw-wallahs and street hawkers peddling all kinds of eatables and little toys, but today these usually cheerful places seemed soulless! I sighed. However, the little squirrels and birds on the trees adjacent to the street were definitely cute to watch and unusual but pleasant addition to this new changing urban scenario. Fortunately, the pharmacy was open, so I bought my stuff and paid them using Paytm and trudged back.

I still could not believe that this had been going on for so long, it was just last month when life was completely normal – full of hustle-bustle- and now things seemed to have come to an absolute standstill.he first couple of weeks had been quite fun, sleeping in late, and chilling all day. But now I felt frustrated. It pissed me off no end that all my plans had just fallen through without as much as a warning and suddenly I saw my life spiralling into the darkness of uncertainty. The job I had just bagged, slipped right of my hands, and there was nothing I could do about it. I looked at my mom as she moved around calmly doing her chores and wished I could be more like her and channelize my energy in doing something more constructive while waiting for the good old days. Sorry, my thoughts seem to be all over the place! You see how the pandemic has messed with my head? It is not only human lungs but also, indirectly, our minds that the virus has messed with. So many people seemed so depressed, just a couple of days ago my brother got the news that the caterer father of one of his oldest friends had decided that this new normal was not his thing and buckled under pressure leaving his young son to care for his grieving wife and little girl! News travelled around fast but the rumour mill was faster. One such rumour forced me to get in touch with another dear friend whose job was the sole income that helped her recently retired parents pay their bills.
“Hey, I am busy!” she said like she always did, but this time when I saw her on video call I knew that she was much much more overworked than usual, with her firm making her work longer hours than feasible! It was outrageous I thought! I wished I could help her in some way, but what could I do? I hung up, and finished my chores for the day. Made a new dish (after watching several Youtube tutorials), posted a new video on Tiktok, and finished cleaning the utensils. As I got ready for bed I flipped open my news app and again found it flooded with pessimistic and controversial news stories that were just awful or heart-wrenching like the death of a poor actor which had become an area of avid controversy, a political circus, and had
everyone who wanted to draw attention away from the pitiful state of the country and its dying economy like major politicians and celebs and mainstream news channels fanning the flames of controversy. And as if all this was not enough the trolls hidden behind their screens said the most vicious things and spread the most awful and incorrect rumours. I felt so sad, my heart felt heavy and as I always do when I feel that way I went up to the terrace and scribbled a poem as it always seems to help me relax. The city was a sight to behold from my terrace that night, it seemed to be lit by star-light rather than the usual street-lights as the pollution levels seemed to be at a record low, it calmed me. I wrote,

“I really feel despondent today.
I must be dreaming
Or has the world gone mad
Every opened newspaper,
Every discussion,
every comment on social media,
Frustrates me,
pulls me into an endless loop.
How could this happen?
I think. Or. Can this be right?
Or can it be the other side
That is true?
Narratives seem to be spun,
All around me,
In a world,
Where taking offence is in vogue,
A world where,
Everyone has much to say,
Much to criticise and abuse,
Much to complain about,
Hiding behind screens,
These criminals,
Yes criminals I say,
For they are no work and all play.
Spinning lies like yarn,
No, like a spider’s Web
Entrapping and arresting,
Those few true voices, worth hearing.
Diluting the logical reality,
That these sound minds hope to recreate.
Hiding behind their computers,
I imagine these nameless trolls,
Wiping their hands covered in chips
On their sweatshirts
As they start another ‘work night’.
Oh god! If you are there
If heaven is right.
Tell me what is true, what is false,
So that I may do all that is in my might
To stay true to what should be done
And do what’s right.
I shake myself from the reverie,
All is same,
The world is still a tainted sphere
Covered in lies, by cowards.
There is no saviour coming,
I must rescue me.”

I nodded off while writing this and dreamt of the good old times. I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night with my laptop still on my lap and my body in the weirdest position possible I thought for a minute, “Maybe I just dreamt it up, maybe this never happened”. I next woke up to a pillow on my face- of course, that was my brother! He was back and I was so overjoyed to see him (even if a little annoyed, the fellow thought smothering me was the appropriate way of waking me up!)- and the aroma of hot coffee and mung dal chilas hitting my nostrils, the usually hustling and bustling street was empty though and the only sound I heard was the clock was striking 11.00 am and instantly I knew it was not a dream. It was the new normal and I needed to get used to it, even find silver linings in the clouds, and keep the faith, for as poet Alexander Pope says, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. So trying to cultivate an attitude of gratitude since then, also trying to be my own saviour, after all, god only helps those who help themselves.

Asha

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