Simple things, so complex

An image of my Dadu and Didun (maternal grandparents) engraved in my memory – Didun in the kitchen cooking a special meal for us while Dadu is looking over. When the dish is almost done, she takes out a spoonful from the pot and gives it to Dadu to taste. “A little salt and a dash of sugar maybe,” would be Dadu’s response after savouring the gravy, sometimes rolling it in his tongue like a wine taster. Didun was a great cook. She would delight us every day with some delicacy and she trusted Dadu’s palate who would always get the balance of salt and sugar right, so her grandkids could have the perfect meal. Good food was a big part of all the fun we had at Dadur bari (maternal grandparents’ place). 

Later when I started cooking, I realized that the right balance of salt and sugar was what mattered the most, the other spices just added to it! Like the right amount of water sunlight that a plant needs, something I realized when I started gardening.

Posing with flowers, not mine though

In my early days with plants, I was obsessed with fertilizers. A mali, who taking advantage of my naivety convinced me fertilizers would make my plants lush green and bloom, would come every fortnight to fertilize them. I would overwater the plants as well at times. It’s no surprise most of those plants succumbed to over-fertilization, suffocated by too much attention. But thankfully I didn’t give up gardening. I fired the mali and started reading and talking to people who are into gardening. I am more hands-on now, planting and pruning plants on my own. And I soon realized all that matters is the right amount of water and sunlight.

Periwinkles are thirsty plants that bloom in the sun. Same with the pretty nine o’ clocks, though they don’t care that much for water. But keep these plants in the shade they will droop and stop flowering. Peace lily on the other hand needs light but not sun, needs water but just the right amount, not too much, not too less. And the worst part is that it droops if the water is too much or too little, the edges of the leaves turn brown. So, it takes a while figure whether you are watering in right. I love the more generous jades and the money plants that can survive with or without water for days. Getting the water right is most important, sunlight you figure soon enough and place your plants accordingly – indoor, outdoor, the balcony that gets more sun or the balcony that gets less.

Periwinkles & the surprise lily

Another thing about gardening is the surprise element. Sometimes a bloom delights you when you are least expecting and sometimes like my peace lily, no matter what you do flowers don’t appear. The plant is too young, I was told by a friend. It should bloom next year. I do hope so. 

Often, I feel cooking a great meal or making the garden bloom is like our life. It takes us a while to figure that it’s the simple things that matter the most. We keep attending to the futile excesses, shower our love and attention on the wrong people, focus too much on the frills. Last year I have realized that the wardrobe which I have built so painstakingly is of little use. My shoes are lying listlessly in the closet, and I wish I never spent money on jewellery. My favourite attire is comfortable pyjama, tea shirts and a chappal. All I care about is getting up healthy every morning and knowing that my loved ones are doing well. Well, I do wish I was wiser, but wisdom comes at a price!

Stallion Tales

I have a penchant for betting on the wrong horse. Each time I place a bet, it feels so right. ‘Yes, this is the one for me, he will ride with me to the land of dreams. Together we will build a world so enchanted that all woes will melt away. With the magic of our love, we will face all adversities no matter how tough. We will be there for each other and nothing will matter,’ so I thought when I encountered the young & sprightly horse on my way to the college.

The horse ambled on eagerly for a while. There was so much happiness in his gaze and energy in his gait, quite a stallion he was. I was sure that we were moving towards the happy land, where we would love each other forever. But one day the horse stopped. I pulled his main, but he shook his head and refused to budge. ‘Oh come, the land of happiness is not too far,’ I pleaded with all my love. He looked into my eyes, ‘Oh girl I don’t want to go to the magical realm of happiness with you. I was just enjoying the walk.’ ‘But you seemed so happy, and looked so eager,’ I asked puzzled. ‘I do enjoy your company, but did I ever tell you that I would walk with you to the happy land of ever after?’ asked my dear horse, sounding all confused. ‘I am sorry if I hurt your feelings,’ he said calmly and walked away.

With a heavy heart, I sat on the rampart that defined the path leading to the land of happily ever after, or so I thought. My legs felt like lead, I couldn’t walk for a while. I cried like a little girl who craved for the moon and was denied. ‘But I only wanted to make him so happy, the happiest horse that lived on this planet. Why couldn’t he see that, was my love not good enough?’ I wailed. Finally, I wiped my eyes dry, urged my heavy legs to walk along. ‘We will find the right horse,’ I told my wretched heart.

And sure enough, in the corner of the lane stood a horse nice and strong. He looked at me and smiled happily as if he was waiting for me eagerly. My heart jumped in joy; my feet felt light as a feather as I ran to him. The miseries of lost love were soon forgotten. We walked happily for a while; he would walk away now then but come back to me again. ‘Oh, he’s a free spirit, but he’s my horse nonetheless,’ I nodded happily, turning a deaf ear to all apprehensions.

One day as we walked along, my handsome horse after talking about this and that, told me that he didn’t believe in the realm happiness or happily ever after. I looked at him in daze, as if my worst fears were coming true. ‘But I can walk along with you, but no promises of ever after. Let’s enjoy the walk and leave things uncomplicated,’ he said as he fondly grazed my arm. ‘So be it, being happy in the moment is all that mattered,’ or I told myself. Happy we were for a while. My horse would wander away for days and come back whenever it pleased him, my questions irked him, he would just brush them off.

Distraught by his frequent vanishing act, one day I decided to venture into a different terrain and walk away from him. He was upset, ‘we were doing just fine.’ ‘No, you were doing fine, while I was only pretending to be fine. Too scared of losing you, of being alone, I was clinging on to the shreds of love and affection that you would carelessly toss my way whenever it pleased you. I can’t fool myself any longer, I will take a different path from here on.’

My heart bled, my legs were heavy, but this time I wiped away my tears, held my head high and walked away. ‘I will find my own happy land, I don’t need another horse,’ I told myself. I walked for miles and entered the happy land. The chirping birds and the blooming flower healed my heart. My happy feet pranced again like a little girl. ‘Ah, here I am, and I don’t need a stallion,’ sang my heart as I walked to the coffee shop.

There, at the door of the coffee shop stood a horse, a handsome stallion. He looked at me with eager eyes. ‘Care for a coffee,’ he asked. It’s just a cup of coffee I thought and walked with him to the coffee ship. Soon I was enamoured by his charm and decided to walk along with this fine horse to the land unknown. The horse was hesitant initially, but his gait gained confidence with time. There were hurdles on the way, but together we walked on. ‘I love you so much, like I have never loved anyone before,’ said my horse making my heart flutter with joy. Dizzy with love I rode along, ‘Finally, I find my horse,’ I cried out in joy.

But one day, my handsome stallion shook me off his back and rode away. The sudden fall stunned me, broke my heart into million pieces. Numbed, I sat by the road and stared blankly at my many shattered dreams and promises, and pieces of my once so happy heart. As I pulled myself up and started picking up the fragments, the horse walked back and stood next to me wearing a brooding melancholic look. Angrily I looked at him, picked up the biggest piece of my disappointment and flung it at him. He shuddered and then held my hand gently and said in a sad soft voice, “It’s not just you, I broke my heart too. Amongst these pieces scattered are my dreams, my hopes, my despair, my love for you, and the dark pieces of my fears and uncertainties. Let’s pick up the pieces together and string a tale of love and its many woes. We know not where the road leads us, let’s figure as we walk along!”

Bachelor Girl

Conversation with my neighbour on a lockdown morning:

“Hello, ma’am, ma’am.” I was watering the plants. As I turned, I saw my neighbour from the balcony downstairs waving at me. I don’t really know him though I occasionally see him in the common area.

“I just heard one family on your floor has tested COVID positive. What are you doing?” he asked looking very concerned. “What can I do? I am just staying indoors,” I replied.

“Myself Amit Kumar (name changed). I work for an IT Company. I have tried talking to you earlier also but you stay reserved.” Then after giving me an account of his job and family and asking me what I do he suddenly popped the question, “And marriage?” “I am not married,” I said. “Oh! Nahi hua,” he exclaimed or replied. Though irritated, I just smiled at him and walked in, muttering to myself now you know why I “stay reserved.”

That’s usually how people react when they learn I am not married. It used to irritate the hell out of me earlier, I try not to react anymore. Somehow, there’s something sad about an unmarried girl. No matter how well you’re doing if you are not married there must be something wrong. While an unmarried man or a bachelor is sought after, footloose and fancy-free, the same is not true of his female counterpart. We often hear the term ‘eligible bachelor’. Our own Rahul Gandhi and Salman Khan, well in their 50s, are still ‘eligible bachelors.’

Unmarried women or spinsters on the other hand are pictured as ‘old maids’, sad, lonely women. There’s nothing attractive or desirable about a spinster. While a ‘confirmed bachelor’ is not married by choice and therefore elusive and attractive, a spinster is pictured as a plain woman who couldn’t find herself a husband and therefore to be pitied. Though the likes of Sushmita Sen and Tabu and so many other women we know have defied the perception, most people still find it difficult to believe that women could be unmarried by choice. 

I somehow can’t get this incident that took place quite a few years back out of my head. One of our distant aunts’ visiting handed over a big packet gift-wrapped packet to my married cousin saying, “This is for your home.” Handing over a small packet to me she said, “This is for your half home.” “Why half home?” I protested, “My house is bigger than his.” “But since you are not married it’s half home,” she replied. I was stunned. Sitting before was a woman who works in a good position, has travelled all over and has chosen not to get married, quite a bold decision in those times. Yet she considers my home incomplete because I am not married. “You are not married either,” I finally said. “So, mine is half home as well,” she replied with a smile.

To counter the negative connotations of spinster the term bachelorette was coined to describe women who are single by choice. Later “Bachelorette” was famously or infamously the term used to refer to female contestants on the old The Dating Game TV show and, more recently, The Bachelorette. The term thus became associated with young ‘eligible’ bachelor girls.

While a bachelor continues to be eligible well into their 40s, for bachelorettes or bachelor girls it’s a different story. If you haven’t found your mate by the time you are 30, your ‘eligibility’ seems to wane. I can’t think of a female counterpart for Rhett Butler or Mr Rochester, the rakish middle-aged bachelors who won over the young female protagonists (Scarlett O Hara and Jane Eyre). 

Thankfully, there’s a growing number of people who have started thinking differently. There are so many women now, not just celebrities, who are happily unmarried. 

Fub with friends

One evening as I walked in a little late to meet my girlfriends for a drink, ‘There was so much to do today,’ I complained. ‘I have to do everything on my own (unlike you girls who have husbands),’ “What’s your problem?” came the prompt reply. “You are financially independent. You can do whatever you want without having to bother about a husband or kids,” said my girls looking at me enviously. “Grass is always greener on the other side,” I said smiling back at them happily. 

Being on your own can be challenging at times but it’s certainly very satisfying and liberating. It also doesn’t mean that you have never been in love or will not be in love. It only means you are confident enough to go on with your life the way you please, without bothering about any tag or perception.

Nature, Nurture, Plant Mommy

As I walk in

Plant mommy! Yeah, that’s me. Every morning the lure of these little greens drag me out of the bed. My plants need to be watered before the summer sun scorches them, so even if my bed pulls me back, my feet feel heavy as lead, I get up and pick up the water can. The moment I step out on the balcony and look at the greens, lethargy is forgotten, I feel rejuvenated.

Leaving the bed has been a challenge in the past few months, the second wave of the pandemic has been draining. Constantly struggling with lethargy and lack of inspiration, my plant babies have certainly helped with that. While COVID has struck us hard, nature has been bountiful. My plants look lush green, the colourful blooms of nine o’ clocks and periwinkle (or Nayantara in Bangla sounds more poetic) give me hope amidst all the negativity around. These plants don’t ask for much besides little water and sunlight, and fertilizers occasionally. They propagate easily making me feel like a proud mom who happily watches over her babies growing.

Also, I am lucky to have friends who are plant lovers and happily share their green bounties with me. Whenever I feel low, I visit my friend and neighbour Titas’s garden to pick up a few saplings and cuttings. Jade, periwinkles, different kinds of succulents, I have picked up so many plants from her garden. Sanjay, Sanchita and little Prapti always visit me with a plant – different varieties of money plants, crotons, oregano and what not.

I find the lure of the green irresistible. I have picked quite a few plants from the nursery next to my society as well. Each time I go there to pick up pots or moss sticks, the fellow easily sells a few plants to me. “Yeh dekhiye madam kitna sundar paudha hai. Aap ko theek rate laga denge,” he says with a smile. Unlike many nursery owners, he knows his plants well. This is an indoor plant, this needs sunlight to flower, water this one only once a week, his tips certainly help. Palms, ferns, snake plants, peace lilies, I have picked up many plants from him and most of them worked out well.

My green balcony

These days I am at my happiest when I see these plants grow, flowers bloom. The ample rain that showered over NCR owing to cyclone Tauktae certainly helped. I had just got a few plants from Titas’s garden then and the rain helped them thrive. And what more, my plants have started propagating well. I have started multiplying my ferns and snake plants and sharing these oxygen bombs or happiness bombs with my friends and neighbours.

My City Lost

My quiet neighbourhood is drowned in the sound of vehicles, honking as they pass by
My beautiful lake, around which we built our small houses, is now hidden behind the tall ugly buildings that are cropping up
The stars that smiled at me once on balmy nights glitter faintly, dimmed by the million lights
The tall coconut tree, the green guava tree and so many beetle nuts trees that would surround my childhood home have been chopped for modern concrete buildings
My once huge courtyard with so many flowering plants, my lazy green city scattered with little ponds and water bodies, is now a concrete jungle
I do hear the cuckoo sing at the break of dawn, but as the sun goes up her voice is lost in the hustle bustle of progress

I can still find the small unhappening city of my childhood, my hometown, in the silence of the early mornings, when the night meets the day
In the glistening water of the lake as she peeps out of the tall buildings
In the pristine greenery that still surrounds the outskirts of my hometown
As I look at that them in delight, breathe in the cool freshness, a sudden sadness grips me, a fear lurks behind the peace and the tranquil
Little remains of my childhood home, will they be swept away by the march of progress?
Will my beautiful city live only in my memories, the glittering stars, the quiet lake, the serene green scapes, the price that we pay for development?

Hair Saga, Khopa, Khopar Kata

Gift of the lockdown, pandemic, less frequent visits to salon whatever it maybe, I got my tresses back. My hair just grew and grew well. Soon I started trying different styles of khopa or juda at home. I became obsessed with khopa or bun. I was delighted when I could make a haath khopa. If you are a Bengali, you know what a haath khopa is. Every morning my Mom would wrap her long black hair around her palm and make a simple bun. The bun would come off often and her black tresses tumble down to be made into a bun again.  Much that I admired the process and her long black hair, I didn’t really fancy a khopa, let alone a haath khopa then. I thought it was too commonplace, there was nothing fashionable about it!

But I loved long hair, maybe my mom’s and masi’s thick black hair inspired me to grow my hair. When I was in class 7, I refused to cut my hair. Though my dad thought I was wasting too much time on my hair when I should be studying, I was strongly supported by my dadi and nani.  And soon I had luscious black hair tumbling down my waist and falling on my hips. My crown of hair was my pride for years. When in school I would tie them neatly into two braids. In college and later when I started working, I would tie them into a single plait or sometimes leave them open. I was noticed for my hair, received so many compliments. Whenever I walked into a room someone or the other would comment on my hair. I loved my long black hair, but then it got boring.

Steps it is

In my late 20s, I got tired of my hair, of wearing the same look for years, of not being able to do much with my hair save tie them into a braid or leave them open. I would tie my hair into a bun or haath khopa at home but that I didn’t fancy. Short hair would be so much smarter I thought. I went to a parlour to get a haircut only to be turned back. People long for such long black hair I was told. Forgotten pride for my tresses raised its head and I came back feeling elated for the moment at least. But that lasted only for days. I went to a different parlour this time dragging my sister-in-law along for support. I sat on the chair and asked them to cut my hair before they could say anything. I still remember my sister in law shutting her eyes when they chopped off my tresses and took them back inside. ‘Which style do you fancy?’ the stylist then asked me.

I wanted steps and I wore my hair in steps, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little shorter, for years. Then came COVID and we were locked in. Visit to parlours was not advisable so my hair kept growing, soon they were falling on my back. I realized I had missed my longer hair, though I lost bit of thickness they still look good. Finally, when I could go to the parlour, I asked them to just trim my hair and remove the steps.

Then I started experimenting with khopa, something that I have never done before. It could be because I love wearing saris and khopa looks so classy with a sari. I could see the simplicity and the elegance in mom’s haath khopa. I ordered khopar kata and nets online. Khopar kata, was once a very popular hair accessory that dominated fashion. Brides were given khopar kata in gold and silver when they got married. I urged my mom to check if she had any such traditional kata, but unfortunately, she had none. Her dadi had one I was told, but she doesn’t know where it is anymore.

Fortunately, I could find traditional khopar kata online, though the ones what our dadi and nani had would be far better, I am sure. Finally, I could make a haath khopa that a kata would hold well. It looked good, it was quick and easy.

So, in the lockdown, I rediscovered my love for long hair and found my khopa and khopar kata. Some may find it old fashioned but that’s what I have become over the years – a sari, a bindi and a khopa and I am done, for tradition never goes out of fashion!

When common cold lost its banality and sneeze lost its blessings

Sneeze Bless You Clip Art

I used to come down with a cold often as a child, sometimes even fits of sneezing. I would look at the mom with heavy pleading eyes in the morning hoping that she would look at my plight and allow me to skip school. Unless the cold was accompanied by fever I would be dragged out of bed and packed off to school. “It’s just a common cold,” she would tell me. “Don’t have ice cream and cold water and you will be fine.” So, no ice cream and cold drinks for a week at least, school every day and homework, and gargling at night and taking steam to make things worse.

“Common cold,” I found the term so unfair. It would leave me feeling drowsy and drained and no one would care. I could stay home only if I had a fever. Even mild temperature wasn’t taken too seriously, though I would be kept at home and monitored. In fact, fever or seasonal flu had its own charm. I would enjoy those lethargic, lazy, no school days and all attention that the fever brought along. Till about a year back, taking a break from work to recover from a mild fever or flu was kind of relaxing.

Common cold’s cousin sneeze, sometimes caused by cold, sometimes by dust or allergy, was never feared, always blessed. “Bless you” we would say when someone sneezed. There are various sayings behind why a sneeze drew blessings. Apparently, a sneeze is the closest thing to death. It is said that our heart stops for a fraction of a second when we sneeze, don’t know if this is actually the case. It is also believed that Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed as one of the symptoms of the plague was coughing and sneezing. In hopes that this prayer would protect them from otherwise certain death the custom saying “God bless you” or “bless you” came into being. That sneezing causes someone to expel their soul out of their body is another belief, hence “God bless you” to ward off the devil snatching our soul.

Despite these sayings we never associated sneezing with death or evil, it was rather innocuous save for minor irritations. “Bless you” was just a polite thing to say if we heard someone sneeze.

Enter COVID-19 and sneeze turns deadly, for one sneeze could carry the lethal virus that could infect many. Cold and mild temperature are the most feared symptoms, I wonder whether cold will be considered common ever. Gone are days when you could enjoy the lethargy of mild fever. The moment someone sneezes or coughs they are isolated lest they infect the others. Once low-rung ailments, cold and sneeze have really gone up the ladder. Not sure if they are enjoying the rise or cursing the pandemic like all of us.

Jatropha Red

Image courtesy Plantsguru

My red flowering plant is infested by woolly white plant bugs, woolly aphids (I learnt after googling). I have been trying everything to get rids of these bugs – neem oil, alcohol spray, soap water. They give in to the treatment only to resurface under some leaf or some hidden branch. I have chopped off a few branches as well to rid my plant of the sticky bugs. My red flowering plant in the meanwhile (Jatropha Red it’s called) is trying to bloom despite the bugs. The flowers, a little droopy maybe, some buds I had to get rid of thanks to Mr Aphids, refuse to give in and burn bright red in indignation, in hope.

I sometimes feel like the Jatropha Red, fighting the worms, trying to save my buds, struggling with the exasperation, the gloom and the despair, feelings that seem to haunt me often nowadays. And sometimes I wish I could be like the bug. No matter how hard I try to put it down up pops its woolly head shamelessly under some leaf or some branch, ready to put up a fight. The brazenness of the woolly aphids has only made me more determined. I keep a close watch and attack them the moment I spot their dull white. I spray insecticide, I chop off the infested branch whenever possible and I am getting better of them for sure. They will be gone in no time, I know for certain, and my Jatropha Red will bloom in all its glory. Meanwhile, the red flowers, although droopy, give me hope. No matter how bugged they are, their red drowns the annoying woolly white.

It maybe apt to stretch the metaphor of the bug-infested Jatropha Red to the dire straits that we are in. Badly bugged by the infamous Corona Virus we are struggling to bloom, to fight, to stand tall. So many people we know and love have succumbed to the virus or are caught up in a tough fight. Oxygen cylinders are scarce, hospitals have run out of beds and crematoriums are running overtime and even setting up funeral pyres in the parking lot. Those who may not have been affected physically are trying to deal with the mental anguish that the virus has caused. As we try to support the ones we love, frustrating efforts of procuring an oxygen cylinder or a hospital bed or shelling out thousands to a black marketeer to procure a vial of remdesivir, we struggle to put up a brave face. 

At times we break, the masks of our gallantry crumble, we feel scared, hopelessly sinking into an endless abyss. Some nights we lie awake trying to make sense of all the uncertainty and the bleakness around us. In the morning we pull ourselves out of the bed, the hollow feeling dragging us along. But then hope buds and we look beyond the darkness and the despair. 

But no matter what, elections should happen and so should IPL.  Our political leaders are busy addressing poll rallies or blaming each other for the mess that we are in and our cricketing gods are happily playing IPL.  Our cine divas are busy vacationing and scorching the beach in skimpy bikinis or posing in designer masks. After all, we need to be entertained you see, even on our death bed.  Thank god for a few exceptions like Sonu Sood!

Eventually we conquer the hollow feeling and like Jatropha Red, we bloom despite all the gloom. We stand by each other and help each other out to sail through these very difficult times, probably one of the worst crises that humanity has encountered. And I am sure like the Red Jatropha we will beat the ugly bug.

Things that keep me going…

The purple bloom of Periwinkles brings a smile to my face. These Sada Bahar flowers that bloom through the year are indeed my Nayantara (star of my eyes). The yellow and orange flowers, wild they may be, add happy colours to my days. As I wake up in the morning these little flowers and the green plants in my balcony garden cheer me up. To see them growing and blooming gives hope in these dreary times.

Some plants droop too, the leaves wilt, they revive again and new shoots come out. A flowering plant was infested with insects sometime back. Checking online for the right medicine (neem oil. I also used sanitiser initially) and keeping a close watch and the relief when the plant became insect free and new leaves started coming out. Google is my gardening teacher. I keep browsing for garden tips online. Whenever there’s some problem with a plant I check online for the possible reason and cure. It works sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, the croton that I recently bought is drooping and wilting. I have tried everything but it’s just not responding. I have a feeling that I may be losing it, and that makes me sad.

It all started a few years back when I moved into my own apartment. In rented accommodation, when I needed to shift every other year, the only plant that I had was a Tulsi. My father who had come down to see my new apartment insisted that I should get some plants. So, I got a palm, some other indoor plants and a few succulents. I didn’t know much about gardening then and on the insistence of an overzealous maali, my plants would be fertilized every fortnight. Needless to say, most of them died from over-fertilization and I fired the maali.    

My green corner. The wilting croton missing from the pictute

I started gardening on my own then. I planted easy to grow non-fussy greens like jade, money plant, aloe-vera, periwinkle and palms. I got cuttings from my friends and neighbours, I picked up a few from the nursery. I fared much better this time. My plants seemed to be doing well. Though the crotons that I bought because they reminded me of Agartala didn’t survive the Delhi heat. I got a small 9 o’clock plant from the neighbour that multiplied and bloomed through the summer last year. A friend of mine once said looking at the jades and nine o’clock “Oh, these are besharam plants. They will growing keep growing and multiplying.” And I love them for their shameless arrogance. When we went into a lockdown last year the bright blooms of the nine o’clock kept my spirits up. 

Working from home gave me more time to attend to my greens. I added many more plants in the last one year – peace lily, snake plants, ferns and so many beautiful plants whose name I know not. I spend an hour in the morning with my them and that feels like time well spent. With so much negativity around the soothing green keeps me positive, helps me deal with the moments when I feel low.

I match the décor of my house with my plants – a new rug, cushions that brighten the room add a spark to my day. I was recently asked why I am so particular about the way I keep my house in these semi-lockdown days when hardly anyone’s visiting. I do it because it makes me happy, helps me keep my sanity. For we need to keep our spirits up to beat all the darkness around.

I Want Real

Back to back video calls, webinars, phone ringing constantly, e-mails pouring in. Regular calls with the team to discuss and plan the day for don’t see each other anymore. Scrambling to meet deadlines, virtual office seeping into our evenings and nights…

Calls with friends and family, sometimes on video, for we don’t know when we will meet them for real… COVID-19 pushes us into the bounds of our virtual worlds.

After all the calls and video conferences and deadlines, if we are left with some time, we browse the OTT channels to watch a movie or a series. Or we surf the social media platforms and talk about our life virtual. We can visit the Louvre or Niagara Falls virtually if we like or take a Jungle Safari.

The masked Normal

Yes, virtual, that’s what our life has become. For real is so rare, real needs to be handled with so much care. We don’t need to struggle to hide our feelings anymore for our faces are masked for real. We can’t hug, we can’t kiss, we need to maintain a 6 feet distance or our lives are at risk. Going out for a coffee or drink, taking an impulsive weekend trip are things of the past. The ‘New Normal’ that we once talked about is the ‘NORMAL’ now. Who knows whether the ‘Old Normal’ will ever return?

Yet our optimism or rather our foolhardiness knows no bound. The moment the virus shows some abating we throw all caution to air. Go out unmasked to weddings and parties, election rallies and marches, play Holi and take a dip at the holy Kumbh. Scientific arguments can’t win over idiocy and COVID-19 returns in full glory or rather in fury.

We have lost 2020 to the pandemic and now we seem to be losing 2021 to our callous attitude. Yes, we have all been locked in for too long, these restrictions have frustrated us, the virtual world is getting on our nerves, but if you want Real, get Real! Let’s not nurse any false sense of hope and optimism, only with utmost caution and care can we bring our Real world back, or at least some semblance of Real!